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Real Runner: Peyton Hoyal

Here we interview Peyton Hoyal. A 2:32 marathoner from Blowing Rock, NC. This was a fun opportunity to pick the brain of a competitive semi-elite athlete! Thanks for taking the time to let us ask you some questions Peyton. Could you tell us a bit about your running background? What was the initial push …

Here we interview Peyton Hoyal. A 2:32 marathoner from Blowing Rock, NC. This was a fun opportunity to pick the brain of a competitive semi-elite athlete! Thanks for taking the time to let us ask you some questions Peyton. Could you tell us a bit about your running background? What was the initial push that started you running?

Peyton: Sure. I started running for fitness towards the latter part of my eight grade year. Coming from a Deep South football town, I had always been a ball player before I discovered I had a talent for distance running during a JROTC PT test. I led our battalion in the mile run off of virtually zero formal training, and a fire was apparently kindled.

In my first two years of high school, I eventually stopped playing football and took up road racing and track. My high school didn’t have a cross country program until my junior year when I approached our school principal (a family friend, fortunately) and proposed the idea. I helped coordinate our team’s training and arose every morning before school to log my base mileage. I went on to set several current school records, which isn’t saying much, but it did land me a scholarship to Berry College in Rome, GA, which was an NAIA distance running powerhouse at the time.

While at Berry, I pursued a degree in English/Secondary Education to become a teacher. Our team was quite talented, but eventually our budget began to lessen and Berry made the decision to join the NCAA D3 ranks for academic reasons. However, before we made the shift I managed to place fifth overall in the Marathon event at the 2009 NAIA Track & Field Championships, earning me All-American status. This remains one of my chief running accomplishments to date. You have mentioned being a rather average high school runner. What have been some of the greatest influences on yourself and your athletics that helped turn you into an All-American?

Peyton: In high school, due to our location in rural Georgia, it was quite easy for me to win even larger regional meets with a 17:00 XC 5K or 4:50 1600m on the track. Therefore, I ran a lot of races in that approximate time range just because I had little competition to push me along on a weekly basis. This led to my performances stagnating a good deal until I went to college, although I was training at a collegiate level by my senior year. A student of the sport from my earliest days as a runner, I read Lydiard, Jack Daniels, Toby Tanser, and every running magazine on the rack during high school. I logged up to 80mls a week as an eighteen year old, knew that my hard work would pay off soon, and just kept my nose to the grindstone until my first season as a collegiate runner at Berry.

Once in college, it still took a little while to reap the benefits of my training due to the normal adjustment period for freshmen, especially student athletes. However, the new guidance of our coach Paul Deaton, the camaraderie of a team of friends, and my usual work ethic eventually paid off with a few break-through seasons that eventually led to my success at NAIA Track Nationals. Specifically, self-discipline, high-mileage, continuous strength-based workouts, and the support of my family and friends helped boost me along in college. After 2009, however, we never had the chance to compete on a national level again due to our school’s commitment to a Division 3 “transition phase”. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had two more shots at a national title in the marathon, that event being unique to the NAIA. Now that you are out of school and on your own schedule, what is your training and racing like?

Peyton: I have a lot more freedom to choose specific races now that I am out of college, and also have much more flexibility in terms of training. In college, the pressure to perform at a high level day in and day out is often extremely high. I remember plenty of scheduled easy runs turning into all-out races in school with everyone’s “alpha male” instincts kicking in way too often. At present, I am setting PR’s almost on a monthly basis by training smarter, letting my work schedule guide what I can feasibly do each week, and practicing a huge modality between my easy and hard training sessions. I do not operate with a set schedule, per say, but my training is geared towards increasing specificity towards goal races, maximizing the aerobic system without logging huge miles, and keeping muscular speed training in the mix year-round to avoid injury. A typical week for me includes 35-40hrs of work, 80-100mls of training, and usually only two key quality sessions that are often very challenging. I usually race once a month, the distance depending on what my goal competition is for a particular cycle. What are some of your goals for the rest of this season, and into the future?

Peyton: This fall, my girlfriend and I are racing the USATF Southeastern Marathon Championships in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on November 11. I am training to run between 2:26-2:28, hopefully earning me a spot on the podium. My future goals are to continually improve across the spectrum of racing distances, win major regional road races, and qualify for the Olympic Marathon Trials before 2020. What is your favorite memory associated with running?

Peyton: I have many fond memories of my college running experience. Everything from a whimsical late-night adventure at Graceland in Memphis, to riotous dinner conversations with my teammates in Berry’s dining hall, to big cross country successes, I look back nostalgically on my days as a collegiate athlete. At present, one of the most charged moments of my running career was coming into the stadium for a final lap at the NAIA Marathon knowing that I would finish fifth in the country that day. The announcer’s voice calling my name, the look of excitement on my coach’s face, and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment were all quite dream-like. That remains a very potent memory, but I hope to best this particular experience in the near future with other successes, both personally and from those that I coach. I bet autumn in North Carolina is beautiful, how are the winters? Do you spend a lot of time indoors during the colder season?

Peyton: Yes, autumn up here is breathtaking. If you close your eyes and invision perfect fall scenery, there are at least ten places nearby that would probably fit the bill. The winters can get pretty treacherous, although last winter was extremely mild with only a few remarkable snow falls. I had to go to the gym maybe twenty times the entire winter to avoid running on icy roads, but otherwise I was able to get outdoors. Snow and cold do not bother me, but the ice can be nerve-wracking. I took a hard spill on some black ice last December, and that was a wake-up call for sure. While many hate running on the treadmill or around an indoor track, I have never really minded it when conditions call for such measures. Better an hour indoors than a week off from running just because you were stubborn. I usually drop my volume a bit and focus more on comprehensive strength and power in the winter anyway, so it doesn’t interfere much with my annual flow of training. What impact do you think running form and shoe design/function have in running and racing?

Peyton: Proper biomechanics, a sound bodily foundation, and great core strength are key factors to injury prevention, but I ardently believe these things can be exponentially improved by wearing shoes that more closely simulate natural barefoot mechanics. The body is an extremely complex and intelligent machine; it intrinsically knows what it “should” do, but we often force it to do what we believe is correct due to outside pressures (like wearing overly structured footwear, using orthotics to correct organic issues, and fearing less protection from the ground). Getting back in touch with the natural motion of our feet, proper running form, and muscular engagement is key to running healthy, efficiently, and faster than you ever have before. SKORA is doing a great job in creating a no-gimmicks, no frills product line that is practical for both the recreational runner and competitive athlete alike. The motto “Run Real” is extremely appropriate for these shoes, as runners will immediately notice upon trying a pair. They will help you revitalize your running body back to a holistic state of balance and strength. You also coach a number of athletes, can you tell us a bit about your coaching methods and how athletes can contact you if they are interesting in your services?

Peyton: Yes, I am head coach of a growing group of competitive runners in the Southeast called Pulse Racing Team. My goal is to expand our membership to nation-wide status over the coming years so that we may compete at large club events, relay-style races, and as individuals at various road and trail races. I take a very individualized approach to the runners I coach, so that even athletes training for the same race distance would receive very different plans based on their particular strengths, available training time, and anticipated goals. Most of my coaching is done online or over the phone, but I strive to give each of my runners undivided attention in proper turn.

My methods are largely derived from Italian coach Renato Canova, where training elements are all built in a progressive way that begin to more closely simulate race conditions as a goal competition approaches. In this methodology, each type of workout evolves over the course of a cycle so that nothing is ever subtracted from the overall scheme. Why remove the very training elements that made you strong and race-fit in the first place? This includes global volume, aerobic/muscular support, and specific sessions alike. Prioritization, not periodization, is pivotal to success, I believe. I also try to coach with a high degree of flexibility, adaptability, and creativity so that each runner can best utilize their particular training environment to produce results. It is often a comprehensive, pains-taking approach, but it has worked well for me and my athletes so far.

Interested runners can go to to learn more about our group. Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Peyton! It is very interesting getting different perspectives from different types of athletes.

Peyton: Thank you! I would like to also say thank you to SKORA Running for providing me shoes to test in recent months. It has been a great pleasure reconnecting my body and mind to the pure act of running. Keep up the great work, and I look forward to Running Real into the future.

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