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CJ Albertson: A 2:10 Pro Marathoner’s Unique Coaching Tips

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, by Fabienne Lang

Photography courtesy of: CJ Albertson / Brooks

Step into CJ Albertson’s shoes. From running 2:10:07 marathons to cross-country coaching Community College students, and from being a family man with two young kids to experimenting with fun training methods, CJ is a man of many talents, as Fabienne Lang discovered.

You may have come across CJ Albertson’s name in the running world. But in case you haven’t, where to begin?

Well, for starters, Brooks Running pro athlete CJ is coming off a fifth-placed finish at the US Olympic Marathon Trials with a time of 2:10:07, capping off a three-month stretch that included FOUR sub-2:12 marathons. If that doesn’t impress you, CJ also lays claim to:

And those are ‘just’ some of his running trophies. 

He is also the Cross-Country and Track Head Coach, and Physical Education / Health teacher at Clovis Community College in his hometown Fresno, California, a family man and father of two young kids under three years old, and a creator of unique training methods. Think chicken coop heat lamps and car saunas. More on that later.

“I have been running since I was 10 years old. From the moment I started I just loved it. I won my first race and won all the races that season. I then ran in High School, at college at Arizona State University, and am now competing professionally for Brooks Running,” CJ modestly explains his draw to long-distance running.


Nothing to be modest about here

Ever wondered what a week in the life of CJ looks like? Brace yourself for a whirlwind of activity and enthusiasm. 

“I wake up, go to team practice, and run a little with the team. Then my teaching schedule kicks in during weekdays. In the afternoon, I’ll go on another run. I then help with the kids’ nighttime routine. Depending on the week, we may have a track or cross-country meet at the weekend,” he sums up. 

Despite his jam-packed schedule, CJ maintains an infectious smile throughout. How does he do it? Well, it's all about his passion for nurturing runners' evolution: “I really enjoy seeing people grow in their development as runners,” he says.

CJ Albertson and his family. Photography courtesy of: CJ Albertson / Brooks

As CJ delves into his coaching philosophy, our ears perk up: “As with any coach, I believe consistency is the biggest part,” he says. “As coaches, we try to get our athletes to be as physically consistent with their training, but I think the harder part is the mental and emotional consistency.”

“It’s accepting you’re going to have days where you’re going to feel motivated and other days when you’re not going to want to run at all. It’s about having this anchor, knowing you will temporarily have these thoughts and telling yourself ‘I believe what I am capable of, I can picture the end of the season, and I keep showing up.’” 

CJ’s coaching prowess clearly works as much for his athletes as it does for his own training. All we have to do is take a peek at his Boston Marathon trophies.

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CJ’s Boston legacy

“I didn’t expect to be leading the Boston Marathon and I definitely didn’t expect to have a two-minute lead,” CJ chuckles, reflecting on his first Boston Marathon in 2021, where he found himself at the forefront of the race for 20 miles. “Most of the time I just felt surprised.”

“I was trying to stay relaxed and have fun with this once-in-a-lifetime moment. CJ explains. “But, at a certain point I got tired and the pack caught me up at the top of Heartbreak Hill.” The hill’s name doesn’t go unnoticed. CJ placed 10th, clocking in at 2:11:44 at his first World Major marathon.

Undeterred, he came back the following year, showcasing his resilience by running alongside the elite pack for 22 miles, finishing as one of the top three American men with a Personal Record of 2:10:23.

As the anticipation builds for this year's Boston Marathon, CJ's training journey has been “interesting,” he explains. As his Strava followers may have noticed, he has been dealing with recurring, little pains in both of his feet. “I’ve also gotten sick and the work semester has been busy. My training has been different,” he chuckles. 

“I’ve done different things. I’ve been on the track more and more. I’ve done speed things. So let’s see how it goes. But I had good fitness coming off the Olympic Trials in early February and had put in a lot of miles before that, so I think I’m in still in decent shape,” he explains. 

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An alternative approach to training

CJ is known for his creative flair when coming up with unique training methods. In the lead-up to the U.S. Marathon Trials, for instance, he used incandescent heat lamps that are typically used in chicken coops to recreate the sensation of heat as he trained on his home treadmill. He added a humidifier to his home getup and off he ran. 

“The bulbs produce a lot of heat and I wanted to be ready for the Team Trials in Florida, in case it was hot and humid on the day,” he says. “I’ve kept doing that since then because it helps with overall fitness.” 

This isn’t his first heat rodeo. “When I was in college preparing for some of my races, I would run with a full sweatsuit and lots of layers in 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (35 to 37.7 degrees Celsius) in the middle of the afternoon to prepare myself.” 

“I would also sit in my car in the middle of the day directly under the sun to simulate a sauna. The car would get to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I also frequently run in the hottest parts of the day, even when it gets to over 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius),” he grins. 

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“But I don’t know how to simulate rain. It probably wouldn’t be very good for my house. I guess if I had sprinklers in my house I could run around them,” he says jokingly. 

Reflecting on these heat sessions, CJ is keen to stress the importance of ensuring his own personal safety. As such, when he was doing them he always made sure that there were people who knew what he was doing and could check on him as required. This kind of personal awareness allows him to continue training on the limits – and producing results.

CJ’s race advice

As for his words of wisdom to his fellow runners at the start line of a race? While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution “races shouldn’t be all that different from training,” he explains. “For the most part, you want your mind to be as blank as possible, to not be thinking about too much. Stay laid back, go through your warmup, get on the line, and then start racing and tune out - let your body do what it does.”

As for CJ’s upcoming race in Boston, a smile breaks onto his face as he thinks about what he’s most looking forward to: “I love the atmosphere. From the moment I show up until race time and even after the race, the whole weekend is a ton of fun, and there's great competition.” 

Join us as we cheer CJ on, closely following his upcoming journey on his Strava account through the storied streets of Boston on April 15th.

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