Taking Back the Crown: CJ Albertson on His New 50k World Record

We catch up with the 50K world record holder CJ Albertson to learn about his race plan, running 120 miles a week, and the difficulty of finding really, really fast pacers.

By on October 13, 2022 | Comments

CJ Albertson has officially run 50 kilometers faster than anyone on earth.

On Saturday October 8, 2022, at the 35th annual Ruth Anderson Memorial Run 50k in San Francisco, American CJ Albertson reset the 50k world record in 2:38:43. He took 90 seconds off the previous record, set by South Africa’s Stephen Mokoka earlier this year. Albertson had previously held the record in 2020, when he ran the distance on the track in a time of 2:42:30.

You can read more about his latest record and the context behind it in our news article.

A few days on, we caught up with him to find out more about his preparation and the day from his perspective.

CJ Albertson on the course at the 2022 Ruth Anderson Memorial Run

CJ Albertson, on the way to setting a new 50k World Record at the Ruth Anderson Memorial Run. Photo: Pen Perez

CJ Albertson 50k World Record Interview

iRunFar: Congratulations! It’s been a few days since you set a new 50k world record. How are you feeling now, both physically and mentally?

CJ Albertson: I feel pretty good. Physically I believe I’m back to normal — no soreness or fatigue. Mentally, I’m back focused on coaching. It should be a good weekend of racing for our teams so I’m excited. 

iRunFar: You held this record before, back in 2020, until it was broken in March 2021. Has taking it back been something that was on your radar for a while? Or when did the plan come about?

Albertson: Yes, I planned to take it back at some point, but I didn’t know when. I didn’t plan this race until about four weeks prior to the event. 

iRunFar: Is there anything that you’ve changed about your training that you think can account for your progress over the last few years?

Albertson: I took a year off after college, and when I started training for the marathon, I pretty much had success right away. I ran 2:17 in my first training block in a race I won by over 20 minutes. Then I’ve had a somewhat normal progression since then. I don’t fully know why; I guess my body just responds well to marathon training.

iRunFar: What does a typical training week look like for you?

Albertson: I run around 120 miles per week with one to two interval workouts. The bulk of the intervals is around 4:40 per mile pace in a typical session. Then I have a 22- to 30-mile long run at around 5:00 to 5:15 pace. Also, all of my training is on Strava. 

iRunFar: Your previous 50k record was set on the track. This route had some hills and a bit of mixed terrain. Were you concerned that the terrain and elevation could slow you down? Do you think it did? Or how did you find the route?

Albertson: I didn’t see the course until about 14 hours before the race. On Strava, people seemed to run fast enough around the loop, so I figured the course would be fine. It probably wasn’t the most ideal course to run as fast as possible, but I don’t think it’s a “slow” course either. Overall, yes, a track would be faster. But obviously, this course worked too, and the weather was great. 

iRunFar: This was a pretty small, regional event to set a world record at. Why did you choose this event for the attempt?

Albertson: Fernando Cabada had mentioned to me he was going to run it. About a month or two later, I looked into it and realized it was only about a three-hour drive and was conveniently eight weeks out from my goal race (Valencia Marathon). In my mind (and I realize this sounds arrogant), I believed I could wake up any day and get the 50k record by a comfortable margin, so I figured “why not?” I emailed the race director and then we had a short time to get it certified and record-eligible. Thankfully the race organizers were willing to help and put in a lot of time to make it happen. 

iRunFar: Why did you decide not to use pacers? Do you think that was a good decision?

Albertson: It wasn’t really a decision, I just didn’t have anybody to pace me. Finding someone to run 20 miles at a 5:00-5:05 pace would’ve taken more planning, and it just didn’t seem likely given the short time frame. And truthfully, I was busy, so I didn’t really think much about the race until a few days before.

Ultimately, it was probably good I didn’t have pacers. I ran the first 4.5-mile loop in a 4:51 pace, which felt comfortable. This gave me a nice buffer and I could somewhat cruise the rest of the way. If I had gone out slower with a pacer, I might have been stressed knowing I couldn’t afford to slow down too much. Also, with the course constantly undulating, it’s better to just run your own rhythm with the flow of the hills.

iRunFar: How did the run go? Were there any major highs and lows on the day?

Albertson: It went well. Usually, there are definitely highs and lows, but for this particular race, there really weren’t. I just kind of ran, and then I finished.

iRunFar: How did you feel at the finish this time, compared to the last time you set the record? Did it feel different the second time around?

Albertson: Setting it the first time was really cool because it was in my hometown, on my high school track, and in front of a bunch of people I knew. This time, immediately after I finished, it didn’t really feel like anything. However, afterward, it seemed like a lot more people acknowledged the world record versus the last time I did it.

For starters, the 50k is actually called a “World Record” now, since it’s ratified by World Athletics. Previously, it was technically referred to as an “All-Time World Best.” On my World Athletics profile, there is an “Honors Summary,” which now says “1 x World Records in career”. I don’t know why, but that in particular feels really cool to see.

iRunFar: What’s next for you?

Albertson: The Valencia Marathon on December 4. 

iRunFar: You had a great run at Boston earlier this year! Is the marathon something you want to focus on more going forward? Will you be trying out for Paris 2024 Olympics?

Albertson: Yes, the marathon is my main focus. I believe I can eventually run well enough that 2:10:23 and 13th place would be considered “poor” rather than “great.” And yes, I do hope to make the Olympic team — that is one of my main career goals.

iRunFar: Thanks so much, and good luck at Valencia!

Call for Comments

Have you seen CJ Albertson in action? Were you as impressed as we are?! Any predictions for how he’ll get on at Valencia?

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is Managing Editor at iRunFar. She’s been working in an editorial capacity for ten years and has been a trail runner for almost as long. Aside from iRunFar, she’s worked as an editor for various educational publishers and written race previews for Apex Running, UK, and RAW Ultra, Ireland. Based in Belfast, Ireland, Sarah is an avid mountain runner and ultrarunner and competes at distances from under 10k to over 100k. When not running, she enjoys reading, socializing, and hanging out with her dog, Angie, and cat, Judy.