A Passion for the Pursuit: Matt Rand Is Ready to Put It on the Line at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials

Runner Matt Rand at 2019 NYRR Staten Island Half

Matt Rand qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the marathon when he ran 2:18:42 at the 2019 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last November. A member of the Central Park Track Club New Balance, Rand is a 2013 graduate of Tufts University, where ran track and cross country. Now 28, he lives and trains in Ozone Park, Queens. Rand is often found at the front of the pack in NYRR races and was recognized last month at NYRR Club Night as an age 25-29 award nominee for 2019.

With the Trials race drawing near, Rand shared his OTQ story, his hopes for February 29 in Atlanta, his training and racing philosophies, and his plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

Congratulations on qualifying for the Trials! How did you choose your qualifying race and how did things play out for you on race day?

My original target race for the fall was Berlin in late September, but I really struggled with the travel and had a horrible race—2:44. So, after that I was eager to give it another shot. I actually signed up for Indy about four hours after crossing the finish line in Berlin.

I knew Indy was a flat, fast course, and I had heard they had a pace group for the [Trials] standard. I recovered relatively quickly after Berlin, got in a couple encouraging workouts, and by race week I felt confident I could break 2:19. My time was a PR by over two minutes.

Was your training for your qualifying race different from your training for previous marathons?

Over the last several years, I’ve learned that succeeding in the marathon is about volume and consistency in training and learning from failures in races and being able to adapt. My 2:18 performance wasn’t the result of one great marathon training cycle, or one special type of workout. It was the result of about four years of high mileage and grinding through workouts and long runs, as well as perfecting race-day strategy. By this fall, I felt confident I had put in the work and had the marathon racing experience to run 2:18—the stars just needed to align on race day. They didn’t in Berlin, but everything played out perfectly in Indy.

In a previous interview, you talk about running to pursue goals rather than achieve them. Has that philosophy continued to guide you?

My passion for running definitely is about the pursuit rather than the results. I just achieved the greatest result of my running career—if my motivation was tied to results, I’d be feeling some complacency right now, but that’s not the case at all. It’s definitely gratifying to achieve a long-term goal, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take my foot off the gas after the Trials—it just means I need new goals to work toward.

Matt Rand running the 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half

What does it mean to you to qualify for the Trials? What do you hope to get out of the experience?

Qualifying for the Olympic Trials is undoubtedly the greatest achievement of my running career. Even just five years ago, I never would have believed I could make it to this level in the marathon. Watching the 2016 trials on TV and reading some articles about the participants are what first put the idea of qualifying on my radar. I could tell how meaningful the race was for so many of the non-professional runners who had qualified. I knew I had a window where my professional and personal life would allow me to train at a high level, so I figured why not give it a shot. I didn’t tell anyone it was a goal back then because my PR was 2:32. I increased my mileage and made running a slightly higher priority in my life starting in spring 2016 and ran a six-minute PR at the Chicago Marathon that fall. Cutting down these last eight minutes took three more years of consistent high mileage, and a few tough learning experiences in marathons, but it was all worth it.

My goal for the Trials is just to get to the starting line healthy and fit, enjoy competing on the biggest stage of my career, and beat as many people as possible.

What will it mean to you to represent CPTC and New York City at the Trials?

I’ve been fortunate to have some fast CPTC teammates push me in races and some of my most important workouts over the years. Even teammates who I don’t see very often have motivated me with their impressive performances on big stages. One person’s success is reflective of the productive and supportive culture of the whole club. I hope to make the team proud in Atlanta.

As far as the NYC-area men at the Trials, Brendan Martin, Mark Leininger, and Chris Bendtsen are guys I’ve been chasing in NYRR races over the years, and they have far more impressive resumes than me, so I’m just glad to be in the same company as them. Hopefully the hilly NYC parks we’re used to training and racing in have prepared us well for the tough course in Atlanta.

Do you have other racing goals for 2020?

I’ve already started thinking about what’s next. That’s just the way I’m wired—I’m not going to stop pushing myself. My 10K PR is 30:09, so hopefully I can go sub-30 this spring. After that, I’d like to break 66 [minutes] in the half-marathon. I’ve been doing some serious underachieving at that distance for a few years now. I’ll close the year with my first TCS New York City Marathon. I figure it’s a good time to do it while I don’t have the OTQ standard hanging over my head. I won’t expect to come close to my PR but will shoot for a competitive placing.

Author: Gordon Bakoulis

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