(2016 Olympic Trials, Los Angeles. Photo by Tim Meigs)
Matt Daniels has had quite the career and is currently putting in his bid for the most versatile trail runner in the United States. Matt was recently selected to be apart of Team USA Mountain running team and will be competing at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy on August 8th. This is Matt’s second appearance on team USA, as he did qualify last year by placing 3rd at the 2016 USA Mountain Running Championships. That team went on to win USA’s first ever gold medal at a World Mountain Running Championships.
Matt’s success isn’t limited to the trails, While attending Adams State he was a Two–Time National Runner up in the Division II Mile, Placed 4th and 5th at the Division II XC Nationals, and helped Adams Win 2 National XC titles. On the track he hold Personal Records of 3:59 in the mile and 13:50 in the 5K.
And he doesn’t limit himself to the Track and Trails either; he has elite status on the roads as well. Matt posted a 1:03:43 Half Marathon which qualified him for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials.
With all of these accolades spread across the board it’s easy to recognize Matt as one of the most versatile runners in the US.
We decided to catch up with Matt to talk a little about his upcoming race at the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships and asked a few questions about the underground side of running, Mountain Running, his future goals, and the way he competes at the professional level.
Q&A With Matt
Nike vomero 12, Nike zoom wildhorse 4
Favorite Post-Run Drink/Meal?
Tart cherry juice and breakfast sand which (toast, ham, pepper jack cheese, avocado, Cholula sauce)
This is a tough one. I have been to all 50 states and Like different things about a lot of them. But right now i’ll have to go with Hawaii. I just moved here to the big island and its been incredible. I have mountains and trails to run on that go to almost 14,000ft just a 1 hour drive from my condo that sits on the water.
What are some of your favorite places to run?
River Legacy Park – in my home town of Arlington, TX
Three sisters park and trail system – in Evergreen, CO
Mana Rd – in Waimea, HI
Last but not least Rock creek trail/road – just outside of Alamosa, CO
Who is your current coach?
What are your ultimate goals for the Road?
Qualify for another Olympic Trials
What are your ultimate goals for the Trails?
Place top 3 at any major ultra and top 3 at ccc or utmb in the future.
What are your ultimate goals for the Track?
I’m starting to transition away from the track and focus more on ultra running but I would still like to break 4 minutes for the mile again at some point hopefully while training for a 100-mile ultra. I want to be the most versatile ultra runner in history.
What would you say is your average weekly mileage about now?
80-100 miles a week. It’s been a little lower recently just because I have been trying to bounce back from the flu and bronchitis that stuck with me for a month!
What is your Favorite running memory (High School)?
Winning the double (2 mile, 1 mile) at Texas Relays
Favorite running memory (College)?
Every National team title we won was an incredible experience and takes the cake over anything individually that I have done. My favorite individual memory was when I broke 4 minutes for the mile. I woke up that morning to a text message from my coach (Damon Martin) that read “today is as good as any Matt”. From that moment at 7am to when I crossed the line I knew it was going to be a special day.
Would you say that it was difficult to transition from Adams State (and having a good team concept) to training primarily alone? Why or Why Not?
Yes. It was and still continues to be a tough transition for me. At Adams state you learn very early to run for something bigger for yourself, and every time I put on that green singlet nothing else in the world mattered. You always wanted to do your best for the program. Adams State has a long history of winning championships and running fast, and you never wanted to be the guy to screw that up or let the team and alumni down.
It was a little more personal for me though. When I got to Adams State in 2011 I was fresh out of the military and in a very dark place in life. Coach Martin gave me a chance and let me on the team even though I was unbelievably out of shape! I felt that I could never let him down, and would always run as hard as I could for him. I owe that man my life. He took a chance with me and helped me find my love for running again.
You’ve mentioned wanting to be able to break the 4 minute barrier again while also being an elite trail guy. How do these two (very different) races effect your training and preparation.
I would like to say it wont affect it very much. I like to always go with an approach to training where I am capable of running fast for 100 miles or fast for a quarter mile. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of natural leg speed, so as long as I’m touching on some of that every week in training (strides, fartlek, short intervals) I should be fine.
When do you plan to run your next Marathon?
Sometime before the trials qualifying window closes for 2020. Not sure if it’ll be this year or next year.
How or Where does having that extra gear (3:59 mile speed) benefit you during Trail races?
Knowing I’m capable of running a sub 4 minute mile always gives me confidence. It’s like being dealt a killer hand in cards and then at the end of the game knowing you have that ace of spades to throw down and seal the deal. Trail races are very unpredictable because there are so many other variables that go into play, so not always is it a good thing to rely on an extra gear or kick. It is important when you get to a flat section and can really open up on someone you know is going to be very good at the technical down hill section following. Having that extra speed helps in operating yourself from guys who have advantages over you on other parts of the course.
How did you qualify for the US team this year(was it a selection or race)?
This year was selection, I believe based off of my performance at the 30K champs and qualifying for WMRC last year.
How did you qualify last year?
For the WMRC qualifying in the USA last year you had to place in the top 6. I was third. For short course there is a qualifying race somewhere and long course is based off of selection or placing 1st in 2 other selected races by the board.
What are the different distances for mountain running, I see this championship is the “long distance”, what are the other varieties?
So mountain running has a WIDE variety of distances and types of races. As far as world championships go you have the world mountain running champs which is usually anywhere between 10K to 10 miles. then you have the world long distance championships which is anywhere from 30K to marathon in distance. This year is 32k. Then if you look outside of the world championships there are races like vertical k’s or sky running and those are typically on steep steep technical trails for all sorts of distances. I would even consider the Hardrock 100 a mountain race because of the elevation and terrain. There is so many different types and distances of races. It isn’t as structured as the road. Some courses are basically: start at point A and run to point B up that mountain and back down (good example of this race is mount marathon in Alaska).
You recently summited a mountain in Hawaii. What mountain was that? How high up? How long did it take you?
I recently summited Mauna Kea. A lot of people don’t realize how much elevation there is on the big island here in Hawaii. The mountain is 13,800 ft. The trail I ran starts at the visitors center around 9,000 ft and climbs fast! its just under 6.5 miles up and you gain almost 5,000ft and then come back down for a total of 12.8 miles. When I ran it the goal was to just get in some elevation training and vert while trying to keep the heart rate below 170. I did the round trip in 2hrs 24 min.
(Maunaa Kea, 13,800ft)
Speaking with you off the record you stated that you wanted to return to the roads and the track? Where and when are you planning to do so?
I made a brief return to the track this past spring to run the schrader mile down in Austin, Texas. That was a great time and I really enjoyed getting back out there and mixing it up with the speedsters. I’m planning on randomly throwing in some track races and road races when my schedule opens up for it.
You are probably the most versatile runners in the US, What made you decide to not focus on one running ‘style’ but develop as an elite who can compete on the Track, Road, and Trails?
When it comes down to it, I love running. I catch a lot of shit from people saying things like “dude you could be a 3:55 guy if you focused on the mile” or “you ran 63:40 for your debut half, you’re a road guy” and at first it really bothered me. But at some point you just have to remember why you run, and for me it’s simply because I enjoy all aspects of it. I love running fast and going lactic, I love running side by side with Meb in a half marathon, I love running up a mountain when every thought in my head is telling me to stop its too much, I love blazing the trails running next to elk and deer and winding through the trees. So why should I pick what to be good at? As long as I’m enjoying it and can have faith in my coaches structure to my training I’ll be good at it all and get the most of out competing and hopefully extend my career.
What is the main goal for team USA August 8th, and who is the main competition?
The goal for the team is always to medal. I believe we can win it this year, though it will be tough. Italy is our main competition and we are running on there home turf. The course is on Giir Di Mont. This is one of the most technical and toughest trail/mountain races in the world and they know how to execute. We have an unbelievable team though and I think we can take them down.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Matt we really enjoyed reading your responses, Good luck to you and Team USA in Europe!
Keep tabs on Matt!