Twin Cities Marathon Spotlight: Jon Peterson & Rob Molke
Sunday’s marathon, put on by Twin Cities in Motion, was the grand finale of a weekend of perfectly executed events. 8551 people completed the marathon with cool temperatures on a beautiful October day. Many were first timers to the distance, including two runners at the front with the elites, team members of Team USA Minnesota, Jon Peterson and Rob Molke.
I had the opportunity to talk to Jon and Rob about the highs and lows of their training, why they decided to move up to the marathon distance, and their goals not only for Sunday, but long term as well.
A Tale of Two Coasts
Jon is originally from California. He attended the University of California Davis where he built an impressive cross country resume. The highlights include being named All-American in cross country, with two appearances at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, and as the Big West Conference Cross Country Champion in 2010. He was named U.C. Davis Cross Country Most Valuable Runner in 2007, and then again for three straight years from 2009 to 2011. All the while leading the Aggies to win the Big West Team Cross Country Championship in 2010.
On the track, Jon was named Big West Athlete of the Year, the 2012 Big West Conference Champion in both the 1500m and 5k, and served as U.C. Davis Cross Country and Track and Field Team Captain for the 2011-2012 season. Jon is also the U.C. Davis record holder in the 5k and 10k
Despite a few hiccups, including a bout of the flu and a hip issue, Jon told me his training had gone well this year and focused on recovery. He also described the volume of work as being easier than his previous training because “5:15 race pace workouts are easier than 5k race pace.”
Rob, the second half of our tenacious duo, comes to Team USA Minnesota from New Jersey through Syracuse University. Rob led the cross country team to three conference titles, a first place at the 2013 ACC Cross Country Championships (where he finished 8th overall), and, later that year, a 10th place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Rob’s track record includes a 2nd place finish in the 10k at the 2012 Big East Championships. He ran a personal best of 28:57 in the 10k at the 2014 Stanford Invitational and 14:00 in the 5k indoors at the 2014 Iowa State Classic.
After college, Rob jumped up to the half marathon right away, knowing that he enjoyed longer distances. He place 16th at the 2014 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, 5th at the 2014 Brooklyn Half Marathon, and 18th at the 2015 USA Half Marathon Championships in a time of 1:03:27, qualifying him for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials.
After an injury riddled 2015 season, Rob has enjoyed an injury free 2016. That’s not to say this season was perfect. He shared a couple of rough races leading into the marathon, but he also described them as positive experiences. Of this year, he says “[I’ve] learned a lot about how to improve as a runner” and “a lot about running to the best of [my] ability for the day while maintaining focus on [my] main goal, the marathon”.
Rob had similar sentiments about training for the marathon. The intensity per workout is lower than his cross country and track days, but the volume per session is higher where the “workouts are meant to be a grind” to simulate the event as much as possible.
Meeting in the Middle
Jon aims to kick off his marathon career with a time around 2:15 to 2:19, taking the first steps towards making the Olympic team. (Male runners need a 2:19 qualifying time to race for an Olympic Team spot.) More importantly, he hopes to cultivate a long, healthy career and grow as a runner and person.
Due to his 2015 season, Rob was more hesitant to put a time goal on his race. He said he kept his focus on recovery and making sure he would get to the starting line healthy. His goal of 2:16 to 2:18 is right in step with Jon’s’ goal, though he says it is more important to him to make sure he runs smart and to the best of his ability for the day. “I want to run to be tough. This is just the start of things,” he said. It’s important to him to start his marathon career with a positive race.
I briefly spoke with Jon after the race, he said “it wasn’t ideal, but not bad” about his 2:20:21 finish. His race strategy was to go out at 5:18 per mile, however he and Rob were feeling good and moved to 5:16 per mile and then as low as 5:13.
Unfortunately, this all too common scenario plays out for elite runners just as it does for the rest of the field. Their paces came back down to earth in the latter half of the race, jumping to 5:30 per mile and eventually 5:40. “When it bit, it bit hard,” Jon said of the second half of the race
<< I was not able to talk to Rob, but am hoping to hear from him. He finished strong, but basically collapsed at the line with a time of 2:22. I thought it best to stay out of the way. Later he was with his family looking better, but I did not want to interrupt that moment.>>
In the Community
Both runners can be found on routes all over the cities with various clubs and teams. They both spoke highly of the running community in the Twin Cities. Being able to run in such a wide variety of locations, with many different people, keeps the running routine fresh and exciting. Rob was especially appreciative of the variety, after being confined to the six mile loop around the perimeter of Central Park in New York.
You can follow Jon, Rob, and Team USA Minnesota on Twitter here:
Stay tuned as we have more results from the 2016 Twin Cities Marathon!