Ian Butler is a 2010 Green Mountain alumni. At Green Mountain, he ran personal bests of 4:44 in the 1,600, 10:09 in the 3,200, and 16:49 in the 5k. This past Saturday Butler ran the sixth-fastest marathon in the country this year at the Marathon Project 2020 - a 2:09:45 clocking. We caught up with Butler following his incredible run.
Q) Let's talk about the elephant in the room - your recent 2:09:45 marathon personal best. That was MASSIVE. You entered the race with a 2:16:26 marathon PR, and a 1:05:40 half-marathon PR. Talk about really going after it - PRing through the half (1:04:28), and holding on for a a huge marathon PR.
I've always been one to roll the dice and set my goal high and to try and run with whoever showed up no matter how the match-up looked on paper. The race was crazy and I was really glad that I didn't have a watch on during it, but I knew that if I just stayed with that front group I would accomplish something big so I tried to just keep positive and relax as much as possible through the first 18 miles.
Q) Was there ever a moment during the race where you felt you could fall off the wagon at any time? (Or did you always feel like you could run sub 2:10?)
I definitely started struggling at around 18 or 19 miles and at this point I told myself you have to just try to pass people and keep the momentum up, but it definitely was amazing to suffer through the final miles to see a 2:09 on the clock when I crossed the finish.
Q) Talk about heading into that final mile, still on pace to break 2:10 - what was going through your mind at that time?
The only thing I had in my mind was catch and pass people, I was really hurting and I just wanted to be done, but to ensure I didn't slow down (I knew it was going to be close when it came to breaking 2:10) I had to try and catch/pass people no matter the gap size, so catch and pass was the only thing on my mind.
Q) What was the goal heading into Sunday's race? (Was there a goal?)
The goal was to go for the sub 2:10 and put myself in the race, I was surprised whenever people told me this wasn't their goal given the layout and overall purpose of the race (getting as many people under 2:10 as possible). The opportunity was perfect and may never come again, being perfectly paced to a time is rare and on a course like the one provided I feel like you just had to roll the dice no matter what your previous personal best was.
Q) What was your lead up to the race like? (Training-wise)
The lead up to the race was great, I think I really found a great balance when it came to controlling my efforts during workouts and recovery. The training I do is pretty simple and Steve Jones and my teammates deserve all the credit for this weekend's performance (I get I did the "hard work") but I was in the place to do what I did because of them and if it weren't for them I wouldn't have achieved what I achieved.
Q) It's been an odd year with COVID taking down many big races, talk about what training has been like. What's it like training without knowing when your next race is? Did you do anything different with the time?
It's definitely been interesting, honestly this year I really didn't train much for a period of a couple months, I didn't know if id get to race and I thought this might be a good time for a natural down period. The training without a race on the calendar is just a lot of going through the motions and this is hard for me to do and stay in touch with (I'm kind of an intense guy with running, despite how often I goof around when it's game time it's game time). The time I wasn't running and taking a break I skateboarded a decent amount and was laying around a lot.
Q) Talk about training with the Steve Jones (Jonesy) group - the Boulder Harriers.
I joined Jonesy after thinking I was done running for good, Deanna Ardrey and Steve Jones really saved my running career, it took a special coach/man like him to get me back in shape, in the game and mentally sharp and aggressive again. The crew over at Boulder Harriers is amazing, I feel like we really have a family and we all support and want the best for each other and when you have a coach as accomplished as Jonesy (he will never bring up his own achievements and is insanely humble) you can't have an ego. The events I go to I always feel motivated and driven to represent the crew well.
Editor's Note: Steve Jones won the 1984 Chicago Marathon in 2:08:05 - a world record at the time. He also won the 1985 London Marathon, 1985 Chicago Marathon, 1988 New York City Marathon, and owns a marathon PR of 2:07:13.
Q) Hobbies - what do you do between the many miles and workouts?
I'm currently in school to get an education degree and be a high school history teacher, but I like watching tv, skateboarding and playing video games in my down time.
Q) Let's talk about progression - as a a high schooler you were a 4:44 (1,600) / 10:09 (3,200) / 16:49 (5k) runner. You went to compete for Western Colorado, where you went on to run 14:46 (indoor 5k) / 29:49 (outdoor 10k). Since then, you've run the fastest marathon by a Western alumni - your 2:09:45. What would you say attributed to such improvement?
Honestly, I have no clue. I think my mentality of compete with the best, and always try and be the best has helped out a lot, along with a bit of a reckless abandonment, but it's still a surprise that I keep progressing, I guess if I were to give any advice on how to progress like I have I would say train controlled and race uncontrolled, train like you have everything to lose and race like you have nothing to lose. The ability to just throw all doubts and rankings to the side is probably a factor. You have to bet on yourself because nobody will do it for you. And who believes in someone who doubts themselves?
Q) Back in the day I featured you once for the Gunnison Country Times - back when one of your biggest accomplishments was a sub-30 10k. Talk about the time between then and now - your ascension to becoming one of the best marathoners in the country. (I believe your recent performance ranks you No. 6 in the US this year.) What's changed since then?
I think I have entered a new pool of competition and that is a factor, but I just always want to be a factor and not a side note, this marathon for example I could have been one of those under 2:10 and in the game or I could have settled and been on the outside looking in and I guess nothing has changed mentally, but I think I have just adjusted to training more and learned a lot about my body and how I should approach workouts, easy days, long runs etc.