Breaking the Wall

July 04, 2020

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Orem,UT,United States

Member Since:

Jan 27, 1986



Goal Type:

Olympic Trials Qualifier

Running Accomplishments:

Best marathon: 2:23:57 (2007, St. George). Won the Top of Utah Marathon twice (2003,2004). Won the USATF LDR circuit in Utah in 2006.

Draper Days 5 K 15:37 (2004)

Did not know this until June 2012, but it turned out that I've been running with spina bifida occulta in L-4 vertebra my entire life, which explains the odd looking form, struggles with the top end speed, and the poor running economy (cannot break 16:00 in 5 K without pushing the VO2 max past 75).  


Short-Term Running Goals:

Qualify for the US Olympic Trials. With the standard of 2:19 on courses with the elevation drop not exceeding 450 feet this is impossible unless I find an uncanny way to compensate for the L-4 defect with my muscles. But I believe in miracles.

Long-Term Running Goals:

2:08 in the marathon. Become a world-class marathoner. This is impossible unless I find a way to fill the hole in L-4 and make it act healthy either by growing the bone or by inserting something artificial that is as good as the bone without breaking anything important around it. Science does not know how to do that yet, so it will take a miracle. But I believe in miracles.


I was born in 1973. Grew up in Moscow, Russia. Started running in 1984 and so far have never missed more than 3 consecutive days. Joined the LDS Church in 1992, and came to Provo, Utah in 1993 to attend BYU. Served an LDS mission from 1994-96 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Got married soon after I got back. My wife Sarah and I are parents of eleven children: Benjamin, Jenny, Julia, Joseph, Jacob, William, Stephen, Matthew,  Mary,  Bella.  and Leigha. We home school our children.

I am a software engineer/computer programmer/hacker whatever you want to call it, and I am currently working for RedX. Aside from the Fast Running Blog, I have another project to create a device that is a good friend for a fast runner. I called it Fast Running Friend.

Favorite Quote:

...if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie


Favorite Blogs:

Miles:This week: 0.00 Month: 291.02 Year: 1935.71
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Neon Crocs 3 Lifetime Miles: 805.63
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Kids ran on their own. Benjamin did 8, Jenny 4, Julia 3, Jacob 1, Joseph 2, William 1. I did a long run - 20 miles. After running the first 5 I realized I really did not want to go any further at any pace.But yet I knew that if I dug deeper I would find another 5 easy miles followed by 10 hard ones. And I did - I ran my first 10 uphill in 1:15:07, and then came back in 58:56. It was a struggle to do alone, but whenever I slipped to 6:00 pace, I always found another gear that took me back up to 5:50 no matter how late into the run it was, and no matter the terrain. That is a good sign.

I did however feel that I need to get more sleep, so I took care of that right after breakfast. It felt good to take a nap.

I realized not too long ago that I could not name a single sub-2:07 marathoner that did not have some kind of religion in his life. I understand why. Up to a certain point of speed you can run the marathon off your natural talent and conditioning. But there comes a time when you cannot progress any further unless you use your faith. I have been there. When I ran my best marathon I approached the start with trepidation because I knew I would be sprinting from the gun. Yes, to some 5:29 pace is a jog, especially on the St. George course, but to me it is very close to sprinting. I have a good excuse - I have only about two-thirds of the L-4 vertebra. Regardless, it was a scary experience, a step into the dark.

Now, there are people you have a healthy spine and other subsystems, and who can condition themselves to be able to go much faster than that without having to visit that zone. But I believe the limit is around 2:10-2:12 for the most talented, well-trained, well-nourished, and well-rested. To go faster, therefore, even the most fit will have to step into the dark, and move their legs by faith. Where does that faith come from? You need to believe that your running has some kind of a higher purpose. You need to more than believe, you need to know. And that knowledge naturally comes when you have faith in God, and God to you is more than a fictional character or concept, but somebody who sent you here, and somebody who will meet you when you are done with this life.

Green Crocs 5 Miles: 20.00
Night Sleep Time: 7.00Nap Time: 1.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
From Sasha Pachev on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 13:23:10 from


Lance Armstrong is only a 2:46 guy - drugged. From what I recall, his comment on marathon training was that it was too hard :-) Find a sub-2:07 marathoner that is a declared atheist. The Soviet Union and the East Germany have tried to produce one for years using the level of sophistication that we would consider unthinkable - government sponsored athlete rearing programs, top scientists involved in drug production and testing, anything and everything thrown at winning Olympic gold and setting world records. They have made some progress - the most notable being that Marita Koch's 400 meter record still stands today, and Tatyana Kazankina's 1500 meter record stood for a long time. My coach said only half-jokingly that they should have done a hormone test on her - she would have come out a man after all the drug manipulations. She did manage to have a baby, though, although from what I understand it took a sophisticated team of doctors to make it happen.

But with all those tricks, they never produced a sub-2:07 guy. Ryan Hall has proved, though, that a white guy can go that fast.

I am wondering if the reason is that they never could give the guy something to run for that was sufficiently high to take a step into that zone.

From Rob Murphy on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 13:29:53 from

Now I feel bad that I deleted my comment.

From Fritz on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 14:07:15 from

I feel bad too.

From Jake K on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 14:24:52 from

Why is anyone still talking about Lance? :-)

Somewhat tangential, but this got me thinking "how many athletes have broken 2:07 who aren't from Kenya or Ethiopia?"

The answer... not many!!

This is staggering:

From RileyCook on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 14:53:44 from


From Fritz on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 14:59:25 from

And 2.4% of Kenyans do not have a religion. Uh oh. Maybe it is possible that a non religious person could run a sub 2:07 marathon afterall.


Christian 82.5% (Protestant 47.4%, Catholic 23.3%, other 11.8%), Muslim 11.1%, Traditionalists 1.6%, other 1.7%, none 2.4%, unspecified 0.7% (2009 census)

From Lulu Walls on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 15:01:00 from

Wow! And what is really staggering is that all 225 believe in God! I wonder if they all believe in the same God or if some Gods provide faster legs than other Gods.

From Lulu Walls on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 15:03:10 from

Duh Fritz! Those 2.4% of Kenyans without religion are not the 2:07 marathoners, they are more like 4:50 marathoners. Seriously, use your noggin'!

From Bam on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 15:11:57 from

Sasha, you strike me as being a decent and genuine man. I suspect that you believe what you've posted to be the truth. And before I make my point, I just want to make it 100% clear that I'm not attacking you, your beliefs, or what you've just posted. But I 'know' you are wrong.

From RileyCook on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 15:26:32 from

Speaking of using your noggin, that list is the top marks of all-time, not the top athletes at the distance for all-time, hence there are several duplicates and the actual number is somewhat closer to 125 not 225.

Assuming ethiopians have similar statistics in regards to religion (2.4% w/o religion), odds are that roughly three people on that list are not religious (2.4% of 125).

So, I'd say Sasha found quite the correlation between religion and sub-2:07 marathoners. That can't be denied. The correlation is strongly present. He never stated it had to be in a certain religion, just that they were religious.

But it is up to debate whether the variable of being religious causes the correlation or if it's just happenstance. That can't really be proved without further study. Sasha would argue there is causation and others (I'm guessing you Lulu from your sarcastic replies) would argue otherwise. And each is entitled to their opinion (in my opinion) without being attacked directly or passive-aggressively through sarcasm.

Obviously it's not impossible to run sub-2:07 without being religious and I don't think Sasha was implying that. At least I hope not. I read it as him stating the difficulty of reaching that milestone without being religious (or in other words one who often exercises faith).

From Lulu Walls on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 15:53:26 from

You are right he wasn't implying that, I think he was quite clearly stating that.

How else would you interpret this, "To go faster, therefore, even the most fit will have to step into the dark, and move their legs by faith. Where does that faith come from? You need to believe that your running has some kind of a higher purpose. You need to more than believe, you need to know."?

I didn't mean to suggest that there wasn't a correlation between religion and fast marathon times because clearly there is. But correlation does in no way assume causation by definition. Elementary stats.

From RileyCook on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:05:42 from

Exactly, elementary stats. Which is why I stated exactly that. Did you finish reading my comment? Or do you just automatically go into attack mode? You come off as intolerant of other people's opinions.

In the above quote you copied and pasted of Sasha's the word religious doesn't even show up. So how is that clearly stating that one has to be religious to break 2:07 and it's impossible to otherwise? He used the words faith and higher purpose. Those words can be used to describe things other than religion or God, right? I mean athiests can believe in higher purposes that aren't related to God or religion.

Sasha can clear up his own comments, but I didn't interpret it the same way you did. If he does believe that it's absolutely impossible to break 2:07 without being religious then I disagree with him. If he's saying that it's merely much more difficult, then he has an valid argument and I'd have to ponder more on the issue before deciding if I agree with him or not.

From Fritz on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:10:15 from

Religion is correlated with everything because most people are religious. So should we blame and/or attribute every good and bad thing in the world to religion? I wouldn't.

From Fritz on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:12:32 from


Sasha said this, "I realized not too long ago that I could not name a single sub-2:07 marathoner that did not have some kind of religion in his life."

Interpret it as you want.

From Lulu Walls on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:14:02 from

And one more thing Riley/Sasha, I do apologize if my passive agressive comments came off as offensive. My intentions were more of a light hearted disagreement so I am sorry if they came off as attacking.

This blog has been a fun, supportive, happy place for me so I will refrain from getting involved in these converations in the future. I just don't really understand why there have been so many superiority type threads lately, but maybe they have always been here and I haven't noticed. I don't quite underatand what there is to gain from these posts except to attack us non-believers or public school kids...

But hey, at least I apologize if I offend :)

From Bam on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:31:31 from

I think we have to be careful here not to spill over into a fight where the subtext incites a tear-up about religion v atheism/my God is better than your God and all that clichéd flummery.

Step back and read what Sasha has posted. It’s interesting. Basically, I think he’s saying that if you want to break through the 2:10 barrier, something mystical/spiritual ‘needs’ to transcend the physical. I’m not buying that, but I like it as an interesting starting point for discussion.

So, let’s say I’m gunning for 2:06:30; I’ve chosen myself, not for my talent when it comes to the marathon, rather because I ‘know,’ with the same spirit as any believer, that there is no God in any way shape or form.

If I had the ability to run 2:07 and all the necessary and contingent conditions were ripe for me to run 2:07, would I stand the same chance as a runner who matched me in all aspects except he believed in some sort of God/cause? Yes. Of course. I have the same chance; if not a better chance. We both need to dig deep and find something that transcends the apparent physical conditioning. He goes to his God/beliefs. I go to myself. He is, in fact, disadvantaged.

Why is he disadvataged?

I'm off to bed; see if you can work it out - it's pretty simple...:)

From Ben VanBeekum on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:35:20 from

Well said Sasha!

From RileyCook on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:39:56 from

Oh this certainly isn't a forum I would use to promote religion or athiesism (or politics for that matter). Which is why I haven't stated my opinion on this subject in this thread.

I know you likely think I have, but I've merely mentioned that Sasha found a correlation that is up for debate and also how I intrepreted what I read.

I only commented on it because every time Sasha posts something like this without fail people begin attacking his views. You can disagree with someone without being intolerant of their views and I don't think that happens on here (my opinion). Actually Bam did a good job of disagreeing without being intolerant of Sasha's view...nice work.

But apology accepted and also extended on my end.

Fritz: I'll go with the strict, literal interpretation: Unless he can name all 125, which I actually wouldn't put past him, I don't think he was saying one doesn't exist, but rather that he couldn't name one. In fact he wrote "I could not name a single..."

From Jake K on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 16:43:47 from

Man that's a lot of comment replys in the old inbox. I can only name like four famous runners off the top of my head anyways. Dean Karnazes, Bill Rodgers, Caballo Blanco, and Fritz. Not sure if any of them have broken 2:07.

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 17:43:33 from

Riley's explanation of my comments is correct, that is what I meant. While I do not exclude the possibility of a professed atheist going under 2:07, I have not seen it yet, and I do not think it is a mere coincidence. I have not run 2:07, but I have gotten comparably close to my all out mile in the marathon as those guys get to theirs, and I know how scary that is when you know the wall like you know the palm of your hand, but you also know what you are supposed to do to run the time you are fit to run.

Bam - before I became religious or even knew anything about God, I always felt there was some purpose to my running that I could not quite understand. People asked me why I ran, I did not have an answer, but I knew it would be wrong to stop even though it hurt, I was not progressing, and it even stunted my growth when I overtrained at the age of 13. It was that knowledge that there was something beyond me that made it easier for me to believe in God later.

That sense of purpose was increased and clarified to the point where I could actually answer the question of why I ran when I became a believer.

I would recommend that you keep training and get to the point where your marathon feels like a sprint and you are concerned about hitting mile 1 on pace, and if you have not slept enough you will not. You do not have to be a 2:07 guy - this can be experienced at lower speeds. Then perhaps what I said might make sense.

From Fritz on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 18:19:27 from

I definitely need to stop commenting on these posts because I am obviously not a good interpreter. This is becoming harder than reading comprehension on the LSAT.

From notoldjustolder on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 19:05:45 from

When you "stunted" your growth at age 13, were you running more than your 13 yr old son?

For whatever it is worth, I would say that running fast is 90% genetics. You once commented to me on the blog that with the right training I could be a sub 2:20 guy. For a moment I wanted to believe, but then I woke up to reality. Heck I am not even a sub 3:00 guy....yet...

Anyways, there are more important things to worry about. Right?

Running is an addiction, a habit, a way of life.

From Sasha Pachev on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 19:10:39 from

When my growth was stunned I was running 60 miles a week in doubles, and was doing speed four times a week off poor nutrition. This made me afraid of high mileage for the next ten years or so, and that was part of the reason the progress stopped.

From RileyCook on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 21:00:30 from

Fritz: "This is becoming harder than reading comprehension on the LSAT."

Now, that's funny!

From Holt on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 21:13:02 from

My favorite comment was Jake's. Nice one! But after his Ironman/Ironboy I have to throw Clyde onto the list of famous runners. And I train with him... so that's something!

From Rob Murphy on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 21:51:11 from

This is why I deleted my original comment. I feared if could lead to such a discussion like the home-schooling thread a week ago. Alas, Sasha caught my comment and responded to it within minutes of my posting it.

That being said, I use this blog for a lot of things. Frankly, I get bored just writing about running and I enjoy sharing thoughts about other topics that interest me.It has become a bit like an online journal for me.

I suspect Sasha, who strikes me as a thoughtful person, feels the same way. Although I often disagree with him, his blog is one I check regularly because he often has something interesting to say.

But I never venture into religion because it usually divides people. There are a lot of people on this blog who are of a certain faith that I don't share. Because I value their friendship, I am reluctant to "go there".

We should all think of this blog as something that unites us through our shared passion for running. Because of this blog I actually have a Mormon friend now. I've lived in Utah for eleven years and have enjoyed friendly and cordial relations with most of the LDS people I know, but it always stops just short of true friendship. The great cultural divide here you know? But because of this blog my family has become very close with Steve Anderson and his family and for that I am very grateful.

Our common humanity and our shared obsession can transcend our ideologies.

From steve ash on Mon, May 06, 2013 at 21:58:27 from

I couldn't have said it better Rob. The divisive nature of these past strings has made me really sad and disappointed..

From Bam on Tue, May 07, 2013 at 04:50:21 from

Sasha, it appears that I too misunderstood the thrust of your point – apologies for that.

The reason I responded to your post had nothing to do with religion and bigotry and fear of you espousing your faith - I don't give two hoots if you believe in the Easter Bunny; I was intrigued by what I (mis)understood to be the thrust of your point. I am now, however, more intrigued with your 'clarification'.

So, if I understand the thrust of your point it’s that sometime ago you ran a marathon that was comparable to the elite guys – not in terms of overall time, but you got comparably close to your all out mile in the marathon as the top end elites – do you mean you ran at a comparable mile pace to elites for 1 mile or from start to finish? This is what intrigues me – I await your clarification…

I think, if I'm not mistaken, you also believe that in order to achieve this ‘step into the ‘dark’, which I take to mean courage to go for it, one needs to call upon faith, in some way shape or form. But you also stated that, ‘While I do not exclude the possibility of a professed atheist going under 2:07, I have not seen it yet, and I do not think it is a mere coincidence.’

So this leaves me confused. Can an atheist go under 2:07 or not? Of course they can and of course they have. So that we can get on with the more interesting aspect of your point, I’ll just end the atheist debate once and for all. Case in point: Sammy Wanjiru was an atheist and he’s arguably the greatest marathon runner of all time.

(Edit) Just so there's no confusion, Sammy Wanjiru did believe in a God but he 'moved away from' his God. He both believed and didn't believe when he ran.

Does this make him a full blown professed athiest - I'm not sure. So, maybe I haven't ended the athiest sub 2:07 debate:)

From Sasha Pachev on Tue, May 07, 2013 at 15:16:46 from


You made a great point. You cannot become friends with somebody without making at least some effort to understand what makes him tick. Never be afraid to discuss religion with an LDS person. It is against our religion to get offended in any circumstance, and particularly when somebody wants to talk about our religion positively or negatively. Now I admit this is the standard we fall short of, if we did not at the very least our domestic violence and divorce rate would be zero, and it is unfortunately not, but nevertheless it is a standard, and you can expect a committed Latter-Day Saint to take it seriously. So feel free to share your opinions about anything including religion with your LDS friends without any fear. If they get offended, refer them to their doctrine. 3 Nephi 11:29-30, D & C 64:8-10, and numerous talks in General Conference on missionary work.

Bam - my numbers. Best 800 meters on the track 2:12 done with specific middle distance preparation at the age of 18 after 7 years of running experience which included a lot of middle-distance racing. Best marathon on a course like London would need to be estimated. St. George 2:23:57, Top Of Utah 2:27:46, best record-eligible 2:30:32 (St. Jude) but I rarely race at sea-level, and have never run on a really good course that was record-eligible. Doing competitive comparisons I think we can estimate around 2:26-2:27 on a London/Chicago type of course. This gives 0.790 - 0.795 ratio of marathon speed to 800 speed, or in other words, I race the marathon at about 79% of my top 800 speed. For Ryan Hall, best 800 1:51, London best performance of 2:06:17, the same ratio comes out to 0.7726, or in other words he races the marathon at around 77% of his 800 meter speed. So you see why I do not hesitate to tell a 2:05 800 guy that he can crack 2:20 in the marathon.

Did you watch the 2008 Olympic marathon? Do you remember Sammy Wanjiru kneeling down and praying first and only then celebrating? When he ran that gutsy race he was a firm believer or at least he acted like one. I did not realize that he acknowledged that he had moved away from God later, even though his actions obviously indicated it. It is a tragic story that reminds me the fall of King David in the Old Testament.

From Bam on Tue, May 07, 2013 at 15:58:17 from

Thanks for that Sasha - very interesting. I was just looking at your Running Accomplishments and noticed your 5k time too.

Most people with your sort of 5k times would be running 2:35(ish) on a London type course - that's taking your 5k pr to be 16(ish) rather than the 15:37. There's no doubting that your marathon pr's are excellent, considering your 5k speed and your 800m speed. To run 7/8 mins(ish) faster than the norm is extraordinary, especially given that the odds are/were stacked against you.

I'm not going to dispute your claims/ideas/reasoning for being able to run what is indubitably, beyond the realms of the norm. Kudos.

On Sammy Boy - Oh yes, I saw him praying and I've seen him praying a good few times but that's a whole other story.

I'll keep an open mind.

I have thought quite a bit today about the whole professed athiest thing. When athletes win sporting competitions they often pray or tell the commentators that they thank God etc. I suppose the athiests should develop some sort of way of giving thanks to nothing:)

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