Sage Canaday And His Quest For His Third Olympic Marathon Trials

A discussion about Sage Canaday’s attempt at an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier at the 2015 Boston Marathon.

By on April 17, 2015 | Comments

AJWs TaproomOn Monday in Boston, along with thousands of others, Boulder, Colorado’s Sage Canaday will toe the line at the 119th Boston Marathon. It will be his second attempt in six weeks to earn a spot at the United States Olympic Marathon Trials taking place in Los Angeles in February 2016.

One of the unique components of Sage’s circumstance is that he has been running competitively at the marathon distance for eight years. Then, three years ago he dipped his toes into trail ultras and has enjoyed great success up to the 100k distance. Through it all he’s stayed true to his roots and is heading out to Boston on Monday to go for his qualifier.

Canaday’s goal is to run a 2:18 in Boston on Monday, giving him a “B” standard qualifier and making him eligible for the Trials.

I caught up with Sage earlier this week to get his thoughts on the race and his aspirations beyond:

iRunFar: How are you feeling going into this year’s Boston Marathon?

Sage Canaday: I’m nervous. I ran Boston once as a post-collegiate and had a pretty spectacular blow-up. I don’t think it was the downhills on the course or my pace/strategy that messed me up, but rather overtraining. (My coaches had me run an average of 130 miles a week pretty hard for two months straight going into it!) Since I’m going for a time (sub-2:18:00) I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed for good weather as New England can be very fickle this time of year and there’s a chance we’ll have a headwind the whole way.

Coming off of trail ultras in the 50k- to 50-mile range (with some pretty extreme Skyrunning races) marathon race pace on a road now feels like a sprint. It’s kind of scary. I just hope I can hold things together at Boston and sneak under the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying time.

iRunFar: Was the LA Marathon in February a disappointment, a launching pad, or both?

Canaday: L.A. was a disappointment. Obviously I would’ve liked to get my Trials qualifier out of the way there as it would’ve freed up my racing schedule for the rest of the year. After analyzing the results and taking into account the difficulty of the course (hilly) as well as the weather (hot), I don’t feel bad about the effort or result. Guys like Max King ran about three minutes off their personal best in the marathon at L.A. and I was also about three minutes off my personal best as well. (I ran 2:20:02 and my best is 2:16:52.) So everyone was consistently a bit slow!

The six weeks between L.A. and Boston haven’t been ideal, but I’d like to think of L.A. now as a good indicator of my fitness. Racing L.A. let me know that my speed wasn’t quite up to the task of clipping off 5:15-per-mile pace.

iRunFar: How has your three years of running trail ultras prepared you for Monday?

Canaday: Ultras and ultramarathon training have made consuming gels and fluids a lot easier while on the run! I feel like my stomach is tougher and I can burn fat better as well. The last 10k at L.A. was a bit more steady and even paced and I think the strength from doing 30-mile long runs training for ultras has helped with that.

Mentally, it’s easy to break down a two-hour-or-so race when you’re used to racing for six hours or more!

iRunFar: With an eye on the Big Picture, what are your goals beyond the Olympic Trials?

Canaday: I’m a mountain-ultra-trail runner. I’m not a pro marathoner. Just qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon is my Olympics as far as road running goes. I know I’m not going to pop a sub-2:10 at this point in my career and even have a shot at making the U.S. Olympic Team. If I can qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials though, I would try to like to keep my road-marathon streak going into 2020 though as I’ve qualified for the 2008 and 2012 Trials.

However, my main future focus will be on mountain-ultra-trail Running. I’d like to mix it up at every distance (well, up to 100 miles) and on every surface. For me MUT running is about a celebration of diversity. I want to experience a wide variety of courses and events from techy Skyrunning races and 100 milers in the mountains, to buttery, smooth singletrack, to road ultras and track ultras in the 50k to 100-mile distance range. Maybe throw in another shorter mountain race like Mount Washington or Pikes Peak again in there as well.


In a subsequent phone conversation with Sage on Wednesday, it is clear to me that he has realistic expectations going into Boston. Balancing training for long trail ultras with fast road runs has proven to be a challenge but one which Sage has embraced. He truly is a “renaissance man” when it comes to training and racing as he seeks both short, fast races and long, technical ones. Additionally, I sense a calm confidence in Sage not just about his upcoming marathon but about running in general. It is a refreshing perspective and one which I believe will keep him in the sport for the long term. Good luck, Sage!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado. Joe’s Premium American Pilsner is a refreshing take on a difficult variety. Many pilsners I’ve sampled tend to taste a bit ‘watered down’ and lacking in body. Joe’s on the other hand is subtly robust. You can taste the hops but not overwhelmingly so and the carbonation, often a challenge in pilasters, is balanced quite well.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you think Sage will reach his Trials qualifier goal next week in Boston?
  • What other trail and ultrarunners are giving the Boston Marathon a shot this year?
  • Are you running Boston? What are your goals?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.