This is the first installment in what will become an ongoing series of interviews with different Trails and Tarmac athletes. We coach runners from all over the world training for all types of races. What we know as coaches is that there is so much to learn from each and every runner we work with. We will let our runners tell their stories in their own words and I think we’ll all come away with motivation, new ideas, and an appreciation for every type of running under the sun.

In episode #1 we talk with Jacob Robert. He lives in Michigan with his fiance near Detroit. He’s run races from 5k through the 100 miler while training with Trails and Tarmac with fervor and focus for both the long and the short. We thought he’d be the perfect athlete to start our interview series with. Shoot us an email ( or message on Instagram to let us know what you think and what you might like to see from these interviews in the future.

You have been working with Trails and Tarmac for over 2.5 years now. What are some key things you have learned during this time? 

 Patience, consistency and overall just how to train. Running, unlike most things in our lives, I would argue requires a lot of patience to achieve the goals you set. I’m definitely one of those people who wants to hit their goals immediately, even when that is not possible. Trails and Tarmac has taught me that my goals are certainly achievable but that I have to be patient in achieving those goals as it takes time to gain that fitness. In high school and college I was never a runner so learning how to train effectively with constructed workouts and the importance of an off day and cross training have been huge for me. Even more than learning how to actually do a running workout is how to effectively pace them to get the highest benefit out of them. For consistency, prior to joining Trails and Tarmac I would never run on a truly consistent basis. Maybe 3-5 days a week but if something came up I wouldn’t think twice about cutting my run for the day. Now I know missing these runs can have a huge detrimental impact in my overall training to reaching my goals. I’ve learned how to always budget my time so I can be sure to get in my run no matter what. One final key item I have learned from my time with Trails and Tarmac is the importance of the long run. Prior to my time with them I would rarely run more than 9 miles as a long run nor would I pay attention to the time it took. Now I know just how important it is to get out for a true long run and just run a relaxed pace the whole time.

You live in Detroit where weather swings from one extreme to the other. Cold in winter and hot/humid in summer. What tactics have you developed to get outside to train in all these conditions?

 I would say it is mostly being mentally prepared and being willing to make changes on the fly as needed. In the winter for example I know that I will need to start a run with a jacket, a long sleeve, gloves, a hat, and most likely will eventually need my headlamp. I’ll start with all this knowing I can easily strip down my layers during my runs. Admittedly during the peak winter season when it only gets to 15 or so Fahrenheit out, all these layers are staying on. More than making sure I’m dressed in the appropriately in the winter is just knowing it’s going to be cold and that is just what it is where I live. There’s nothing I can do about that so I shouldn’t let that impact my training and I should enjoy it for what it is. In the Winter as well, I find something very enjoyable about getting out when it is snowing out. For me it’s a very tranquil experience during that time as it is usually very quiet out and you can just get lost in your run. In the summer, it’s about knowing the heat will absolutely kick my butt. I’ve learned to slow myself down in the summer or I’ll blow my run up very early. There are still times for me in the summer I find myself going out to hard and can tell half way through a run that I did so. It’s these runs that remind me that I’m still learning to become a more effective runner in the summer. In the summer especially knowing my body won’t be able to cool itself off in the humidity I’ve begun carrying a second water bottle with ice in it just to spray myself with to cool off. A final tactic I never thought of until I completed a race in Tennessee called Wild Trails was that I could bring a buff that I soak in water and put some ice in. I’ll start my runs with that on already knowing that it might not have much of a purpose to start but as the run goes on it can pay dividends to have that on me. Overall though it is just being ready with a plan for every run knowing that in these seasonal extremes here and being ready for any situation the weather can throw at you.

Jacob during his marathon PB at Detroit Free Press in 2018

You recently ran a big PB of 3:12 in the marathon! Tell us about how your progression at the distance has gone over the past years and what it is that draws you back each time you race this distance? 

 Two years ago I ran my first ever marathon with a 3:26 finish. After that I spent my focus on longer distances in the ultra marathon realm. During that time though I was itching to get back to a marathon just to see how much an whole extra year of training could help my at that distance. I think going into ultras for a while absolutely helped me in getting better at the marathon distance. By going into the longer races I really learned how to run through pain. During my first marathon this was not something I had experienced very much in my running career and something that you can’t simulate very much in training.

For me it is such a different challenge than an ultra marathon. In the marathon its purely about speed and pacing. You don’t have to worry nearly as much about your calorie intake or the distance you have to you next aid station and what you might need in between. To me the difference in strategy and training between a marathon and an ultra draws me to both distances. In trying to keep my schedule varied and seeing my progress keeps bringing me back to this distance. I think if I only trained for ultras my training might start to feel repetitive. By adding in challenges like this it always keeps running interesting.

Earlier this summer you finished the Burning River 100 mile, your second 100 mile finish. What did you think of the race and the course there? How did your recovery and subsequent transition to marathon training go? 

 I thought this was an awesome race. It was a point to point which is really what drew me to it. It was very different than my first 100 as well. My first 100 was 6 loops and started at 4 pm. This course aside from being a point to point also started early in the morning rather than in the evening. Burning River also added some very interesting challenges. It starts with 20 or so miles on a road which could easily trick you into going out too hard. Being point to point too it added an extra strategical element to as to where to put my drop bags. In my first 100 miler I got to see my drop bag every 8 miles. In this one there were only certain points you were allowed to put a drop bag. Without a crew placing these could have made or broken my race. This was a large part of the discussion with my coach as I didn’t want an error in this to end my race. The race overall was very well organized and extremely well marked. Having been in trail races where the course may not be the best marked I was very impressed with this race. The volunteers in this race were also just amazing. They knew how to keep your spirits up at all times. I went into this race slightly injured with a knee issues and around mile 80 it had flared up pretty bad. I don’t know if I would have gotten through that injury without the help of volunteers at that aid station. They took the time to listen to what was ailing and worked on me until I was ready to roll again. The course as a whole I thought was amazing. Never knowing what the next turn would bring such a cool experience and a rare one in races of these distances.

After the race we took 5 days off which I think helped with recovery a great deal. Going into a whole different style of training for the marathon we took the first week and a half back relatively slow, no real intense workouts. Making sure I got lots of sleep during this and to take each run easy based on how my body felt and rather than how I normally am able to run really got me back and primed for a strong training schedule going into the marathon. I think the initial start of the marathon training was a little tougher as we were running at paces we don’t normally train at for ultras. But after a couple of weeks at those paces I really started to feel strong and know I would be ready to push it once the marathon came.

You have made huge leaps these past few years. What keeps you motivated to get out the door to keep training for the long term? 

 I think it’s exactly as you said, making those huge leaps and seeing what I am truly capable of. For the longest time after high school I was not motivated to get out and do anything physical. During this time put on a lot of weight and really let myself go, I had graduated high school around 160 lbs and was topping the scale around 230 lbs this time. Realizing I was not happy with what I was doing to my body I decided to make some changes in my life and vowed to let my health go again. Since then getting out for a run has been one of the best parts of my day. Knowing that I got my weight under control I now look to see how hard I can push myself in running. Aside from my personal motivation my fiance is my biggest supporter in making sure I get out daily. She’ll always ask me what my run in is for the day and how I think it will go and how it was when I get back. She supports me in every race whether she can be there or not, knowing how proud of me she is keeps me going out every day and putting in my best effort.

What are your big goals for 2019 and beyond?

This is actually something I have been thinking a lot of lately. I’m getting married next year on June 8th so that has been my main focus for next year. I’ve been looking for races that I can schedule around that without making them too close to that or my honeymoon so I know I can put in some solid training leading into it. With that being said I’m hoping next year to break a 3:10 marathon and hopefully break a 24 hour 100 miler. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find too many races that I can work into my schedule in the summer so for ’19 I have only been able to find races in the Fall and the Spring. Beyond 2019 I would really like to run a sub 3 marathon and qualify for the New York and Boston marathons. I’ve only run one 50 miler and I’ve never run a 100k, I definitely want to get more experience in those distances and see what I can do at them. My 50 mile time is around 10:30 if I recall correctly so I would really like to get that down to around 9 hours in the future. Looking even beyond that I would be ecstatic if I got to run Western States once in my life, whether that be due to lottery or somehow winning a golden ticket. One thing in the future I always think about is trying to work in some west coast races. In Michigan there aren’t very many races where you can hit 8000 feet of climbing unless you go for 100 miles. Even then those aren’t very long climbs overall. I would love to experience some of the running and scenery the west coast has to offer. I get to see it all over on Instagram and any time I see it I get pretty jealous of the runners that get to experience those areas.

Thanks for your time Jacob. We are certainly excited to see you continue to progress and for all that 2019 has in store for you!