Breaking the Wall

February 27, 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: 155.37 Year: 492.80
Saucony Type A Lifetime Miles: 627.15
Bare Feet Lifetime Miles: 446.12
Nike Double Stroller Lifetime Miles: 124.59
Navy Crocs 2 Lifetime Miles: 1576.28
Neon Crocs 1 Lifetime Miles: 1353.22
Easy MilesMarathon Pace MilesThreshold MilesVO2 Max MilesTotal Distance

A.M. Benjamin got back his ACT scores from Oct 26th test. He made an improvement from 33 to 35. The breakdown was English - 36, Math - 35, Reading - 36, Science - 34. According to ACT report for 2013 there were only 90 students out of 34,514 that took the test that scored either 35 or 36 (76 for 35, 14 for 36) in the state of Utah. So this puts him in the top 0.26%. 

Given that the subject of education is on a lot of people's minds nowadays, I would like to write a paragraph or two on how he got there. I believe in terms of natural aptitude he maybe is in the top 26%, but not in the top of 0.26%. When he was 9 or 10 he failed an IQ test for a special school for gifted kids. We laughed about it when he got 4 on Calculus BC at the age of 13, we laughed harder when he came back with 5 on Calculus BC and 4s on the other three AP tests, and now we are laughing even harder. So how does he do it. Some principles:

  • Learning is centered in the home.
  • Physical exercise with a challenge to overcome is a constant factor in his life.
  • Spiritual education is important - he prays and studies the scriptures every day.
  • Remove what I call "dumb stuff" - video games, low-IQ movies and TV shows, unintelligent texting and social media interactions, etc.
  • He spends only 3 hours a day or so studying but he studies what is essential with the idea that he is to remember this for life as opposed to memorizing a set of disconnected facts and practicing mostly irrelevant skills to be quickly forgotten immediately after the test.
  • We do not believe in artificial limits. 5 year old can be introduced to trigonometry. 8 years old is not too young to learn about differentiation and integration.
  • Challenge and result based approach as opposed to process-based approach. The idea is that you throw a reasonable challenge that cannot be met without some possessing some fundamental knowledge. You let the student experience the frustration of trying to meet the challenge without posessing the necessary skills and knowledge. Then you teach him the skills and knowledge.
  • Self-reliance. I do not know how many times I have told my kids to look it up online. Make the kid struggle and figure it out for at least 15 minutes before you tell him how to do it.

I believe the above principles properly implemented have the ability to mass-produce Benjamin's results. But enough educational philosophy and on to the workout.

The plan was to run our 3 mile tempo course from Nunn's Park to the mouth of the Provo Canyon. Benjamin was quite excited from his score report, so I knew that a sub-5:00 opening mile was in the cards. I warned him against it, but nevertheless still managed to see sub-5;00 pace in the wrong spot. That did not prevent Benjamin from running a decent time, though.

The plan was for him to run 3 miles in 15:30, and for me to make it to 2 miles. Benjamin perfectly executed the first mile running it in 5:07 - that mile should be done a little faster because it has more downhill than the other two. I was still in contact and even contemplating running all 3 with him, or at least making it to 2.5 in contact until he starts his grind. However, my plans were out of the window after the next 300 meters which he did in 54 - 4:48 pace. He knew he needed to up the effort in the second mile to keep the pace, but overdid it lacking the experience with his new level of fitness.

I was quite happy that I was still in contact. He eased off a little after that for the next 300 meters running it in 58 then turned up the heat again hitting an uphill 200 in 38. We ended up with 2:30 for the next 0.5 - 5:00 average done unevenly with some uphill involved. I was able to hang on for another 200 meters before losing contact. Benjamin hit a split of 10:13 at 2 miles (5:06 in mile 2), I finished in 10:16.8, briskly jogged a quarter to recover without stopping my watch, and then started running around 5:30 pace to the 3 mile mark finishing in 16:08.  Benjamin paid for his surges in the second mile with a 5:12 last mile, but that still gave him 15:25 for 3 - a new PR for that course by 17 seconds, and a 29 second improvement since pre-Utah-Valley-Half period this year.

So using a direct pro-rated projection, his UVM half fitness assuming the same endurace as earlier this year comes out to 1:13:03. In reality, adjusting for an increase in endurance judging by his ability to hold pace and be comfortable at the end of longer tempo runs - probably around 1:11:30. I'd say on track for 1:08 next summer.

I ran total of 12, Benjamin 10.6, Jenny 4, Julia 3, Joseph 3, Jacob 2, William 1. William asked me this morning for some violin music. I found a 50 minute YouTube video of a Bach violin concerto. He watched all of it sitting still the entire time completely glued to the monitor. He might have some musical inclinations. He really likes the slow-motion video of Gebreselassie racing Tergat in the Olympic 10000 meter race in 2000 with violin music in the background. 

Green Crocs 6 Miles: 12.00
Night Sleep Time: 8.00Nap Time: 0.00Total Sleep Time: 8.00
From jtshad on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 18:24:33 from

Congratulations to Benjamin. He is quite the young man, athlete, scholar, etc. You should be very proud of him.

From Superfly on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 19:25:01 from

Congrats to Benjamin. That's very good!

From Jake K on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 19:52:32 from

Very impressive... both the test scores, and how Benjamin is kicking your butt on time trials now! :-)

I like a lot of your bullet points, especially about using studying time wisely / focused.

From Holt on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 20:12:50 from

Wow... You should have heard my runner's responses to their various test scores - some excited, some sad (but nothing near Benjamin's score). They could all use a little practice in your educational thoughts.

By the way... I have been trying to incorporate some of those ideas (and those we talked about this summer) a bit more this year. It is met with mixed success/struggles as is often the case when you push against the established norm.

From seeaprilrun on Tue, Nov 12, 2013 at 21:46:58 from

Wow. Incredible. Awesome ACT scores. Good for you and Good for him! I also like the part about focusing on essential things and not extraneous busy work. Texting and social media are...a bad word I'm not gonna use on this blog. I 100% believe the challenge of overcoming obstacles on his own has a massive part to do with it, and a lot of that comes from an inner drive. He clearly has an internal motivation, something we all wish to see in our children. As parents we walk that fine line, knowing when to step back and let our kids make mistakes and when to intervene. Genetics verus environment, the age old debate. I stumbled in hungover to my ACT, scored a 31, not something I am particularly proud of or promote by any means, but I had one vested parent who thought I could do anything and made me believe that, and one parent who could care less. Two is preferable for sure, but even one parent or role model can make all the difference in any kid, your solid home environment is showing pretty amazing results, and shows the power of loving parents that are vested in their children. Stories like this inspire me to keep focused and true to my child, and work to find that line where they can be inspired but disciplined, and motivated from the inside out. Well done Benjamin! I hope you are swelling with pride!

From allie on Sat, Nov 16, 2013 at 20:13:37 from

very impressive results for benjamin -- congratulations to him. clearly your approach is working for him.

another +1 for your point about studying with purpose and focusing on learning something for life.

From Sasha Pachev on Sat, Nov 30, 2013 at 08:49:20 from

Thanks, guys. April - I think ACT preparation is much simpler than what they make it out to be. Just get your kids a book with ACT sample tests and have them try it out. Then go through the concepts they did not understand. Repeat the process several times. They will eventually get it. The key is to approach the matter with faith. To quote our blogger Dave Taylor, "a human can do it, I am a human, therefore I can do it!"

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