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May 06, 2022
Matt McDonald is April 2022 Athlete of the Month
B.A.A. runner finishes as top New Englander, 14th overall, at Boston Marathon
(Boston Athletic Association / Cambridge MA)
is the 2022 USATF-New England Athlete of the Month (AOM) for April 2022. The top New England finisher in the 2022 Boston Marathon, he took advantage of the unusually temperate day to post a 35 second Personal Record and cross the line as the 4th American in 2:10:35.
A recent arrival from Atlanta, he made his presence known in 2022 by winning the year's first two USATF-NE road race championships, the New Bedford Half Marathon and Super Sunday 5 Miler in commanding fashion.
Outside of his running profession, Matt is enrolled in a post-doctoral program at MIT for Chemical Engineering. The hours are demanding, and he's appreciative of the flexibility the BAA has shown in allowing him to pursue both of his passions.
An interview with Matt and with B.A.A. coach Mark Carroll follows
: Can you tell us a bit about your race at the Boston Marathon? What were you hoping to accomplish? How did the race compare to some goals you may have set for yourself?
: I really wanted to have a big performance on Patriots Day. I didn't have a time goal because I think it would be silly to pretend I can control or predict New England spring weather, but I did have a place
goal. I wanted to be in the top 3 Americans. While I barely missed out on that, I'm not upset about it because the field was phenomenal and a number of guys showed up ready to run their best marathons ever. Plus, barely missing out leaves you hungry for what's next, so after a bit of rest I'm already pumped to start training again.
: You lowered your PR by 35 seconds and beat your time from the 2020 US Olympic Trials by 1:44. How did your training compare to a few of your previous professional (or collegiate) races?
The 35 second PR felt huge on a notoriously difficult course (with a slight head wind!), but with the weather as great as it was, I kept saying to myself "today is a great day to PR," and at every mile split it became more and more clear that would be possible and not just a nice thought. My training, after getting off to a rocky start in January, finally became consistent, which I've learned is really the only thing that matters when it comes to performing well in the marathon.
Training for Boston in Boston is definitely special and I felt very confident through the Newton Hills, but to be honest, I was kind of hoping for bad weather since I had trained through it all over the winter and knew that would contribute to my toughness. As far as training specifics, we did more fast interval workouts than I have ever done leading up to a marathon, and I think keeping the leg speed around really helped on the downhills.
: Since moving to the New England Area, you've been on a victory run with wins at the first two USATF-NE road championships in 2022 - the New Bedford Half Marathon and Super Sunday 4 miler, which both have great competition. Do you have any thoughts on what drove your success?
Firstly, I have to say that after moving from Atlanta, it is so exciting to see how many competitive local events there are, it's incredible! I'm competitive by nature, so when I go to a race it can be challenging not to leave it all out there, but I viewed the Super Sunday 4 miler and New Bedford Half as opportunities to get better. In practice we can work on strength and aerobic capacity, but we don't often get the chance to practice pushing hard by ourselves or pacing ourselves relative to competition, and so any opportunity to work on that is really valuable.
How has the B.A.A. supported you as both a post-doc at MIT and a professional runner?
The BAA has provided so many resources that have made my success possible. The most valuable to me has been the teammates, coaches, and community that are working towards the same goal. We have four men on the marathon squad and several more teammates on the track; having them to train with and commiserate with is invaluable.
Mark Carroll has also been great, knowing that we're doing some of the workouts he did when he was a dominating runner has made me even more confident in the training we've done. Morgan Uceny has also been a fantastic strength coach and spent a lot of very cold, windy mornings biking alongside me; she made several impossible workouts possible.
In addition to the people, the BAA provides us with all the other tools we need to train hard; amazing adidas shoes and apparel, strength and conditioning resources, and physio and recovery tools. They have also been very tolerant of my work at MIT, which I know is very difficult because I don't have the most flexible schedule.
What are some of your favorite things to do outside of running?
Outside of running I love skiing, visiting breweries, and talking about science with people - with everyone, those with no science background all the way to those with world renowned expertise.
Everyone has a favorite dessert or ice cream flavor. What would you say is on the top of your list?
Well, the Star Market near me has recently had a "Buy 2 get two free" Ben and Jerry's sale, so having eaten 8 different pints of B&J's in the past two weeks I can now say that I'm even less certain what my favorite flavor is... but 'Tonight Dough' is my go-to when buying them one at a time ;)
B.A.A. coach Mark Carroll was not surprised by Matt's successes on Patriots Day.
Did Matt's Boston Marathon performance match your expectations as coach?
Matt’s run was not a surprise as his training had gone really well. His workouts and long runs in the build up indicated 2:10 was achievable.
: Matt is balancing post-doc work at MIT with world class running. What traits make that possible?
Matt is very organized and has excellent time management. He generally attends workouts and long runs with the team and has to do his other runs around his long work hours. He's very dedicated to running and makes it work!
The overall men's dominating team performance - 4 finishers in the top 25 - reflects the overall program success. What's the team training philosophy that makes this happen?
We have a strong team of 5 runners – Matt, Jerrell Mock, Jonas Hampton, Paul Hogan and Eric Hamer - who work together to get the most out of workouts and long runs. We spent 6 weeks in Albuquerque specifically preparing for Boston and the goal was to have the team run 2:09-2:12 range. It’s a tall goal for Boston but we operate with that mindset!