Interview by Faith Briggs
Photos provided by the Jacuzzi Boys Athletic Club
There are many different ways to approach the Boston Marathon and Karim Shakalia is an experienced runner taking on the famed marathon for the first time. This will be his fourth marathon. In our quick race week chat, we got into training cycles, what it’s like to train with The Jacuzzi Boys and how he’s feeling about Marathon Monday. Karim has been running since he was about 14, running cross-country and the 5k and 10k throughout college. “Speed has never been my forte,” he laughs. In 2012 he decided to take on the marathon distance by running in our hometown, the Portland Marathon.
Karim: “Training went really well but I went out way too fast and died in the second half. That was my first marathon experience. I then ran Portland again a couple years after that and I kind of did the same thing. I couldn’t understand why. What I had run on the track wasn’t comparable to what I did on the roads.”
FB: So before you took on the marathon, you were already running, what’s your running background?
Karim: In college at Warner Pacific I’d qualified in nationals in XC and the 10k twice so after that was still getting coached by my college coach and then running with Bowerman Track Club for a bit. But mainly I was running by myself and I was running the same times year in and year out, so back in 2014 I really wanted a change and I wanted people to run with. I used to go to the Tuesday and Friday night sessions at Lincoln High School, that’s how I met Scott right before he founded the Jacuzzi Boys. Ever since I joined the JBAC, my running has kind of blossomed. I’m more well rounded, more consistent.
FB: So you went back to the marathon?
Karim: In 2016 I decided to run the California International Marathon with Scott and we ran 90% of our training together and that really helped. Training was consistent and I got keyed in with his coach Elliot Heath and we had some different training dynamics, all new building blocks than in my other marathons. That went really well, I ran a 2:36, so I took 25 minutes off of my previous time. Now, I’m trying to break 2:30, I wanted to then too but for where I was at before that. I was fine with that.
FB: What caused the blossoming?
Karim: I think it was the introduction of higher mileage, more voluminous workouts and kind of being able to touch all the palettes of energy systems. Not only am I trying to get marathon work in within the structure of a long run but I’m also trying to get speed work in on the track, hill repeats. Being able to touch on each energy system really helps me.
Karim isn’t actually talking about crystals, I don’t think, but rather, varied training.
So what’s training like for a Jacuzzi Boy during marathon season? Karim spent all spring and summer working on speed. He’s usually running 70-85 miles a week with longer runs on Sunday being about two hours, often including something fast within the run.
FB: What was your worst workout during this training cycle?
Karim needed to clarify whether we meant it ended poorly. There are varying ideas about what makes a “bad” workout to be sure.
Karim: I think it was kind of early in my cycle we went up to Fairmount and trained on a 3 ½ mile loop of rolling hills. Each lap I was supposed to pick it up and I went out a little too fast in the beginning, I did progress the whole way but that was one where I thought I couldn’t do another lap. That was 19 miles total and that was all I had that day. It was five laps that were like basically a little above marathon pace and right at marathon pace. The first lap was just over 6 min pace, down to 5:30 pace for 17 ½ miles that was pretty much just going. That was a grind and that was in an 83-84 mile week.
FB: Yikes. So what’s a recovery day like?
Karim: Usually its somewhere between 50-60 minutes or I’ll split up into a double, at lunch and then at home, 40 minutes a piece. Usually 7:50-8min range try to take it really easy, get on the foam roller, focus on the kinks in my calves. I’m a big proponent of the mantra "easy days easy, hard days hard."
FB: And now?
Karim: I feel really good. I feel like in marathon tapers it’s always so weird because you accumulate fatigue, I started my taper and I just felt like crap. Even though I get 8 to 8 1/2 hrs of sleep, I’m still tired. Then my back is kind of sore, but I think to myself is that the phantom injury, just in my head?
But other than that I feel physically prepared in the body as a whole. The goal is to run under 2:30, and I think it’s definitely doable. Whether the weather cooperates is another story, but I’m super excited. There are some other JBAC boys going with me, so having a couple other guys around me to go for the first 16 with me makes me feel really good and confident.
I’m feeling great.