Winnipeg runner Jeff Sacco was firing on all cylinders at this year’s Manitoba Marathon.  Finishing fifth in the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Full Marathon in 2016, he clearly had a podium finish in mind for 2017 and that is just what he got, with a strong third place finish. With his drive and determination to constantly get better, we look forward to seeing what else Jeff has in store. Read on for some great tips on training and race day prep.

What is your motivation to run?

I started running 4-5 years ago just because I thought it would be a cheap and easy way to lose a couple pounds. It wasn’t long until I ran my first half marathon and after finishing I kept thinking I could improve my time with a little more work. That’s pretty much why I still run, there’s a desire to keep improving myself.

What do you do for cross-training? Do you focus more on it in the off season or do you keep it consistent all year?

I cycle throughout the year as my main method of cross-training. During the summer and fall I probably only use my bike 2-3 times a month but during the winter I’ll put it on a trainer and spin at home 3-4 times a week while mixing in some treadmill runs.

If you could run any race what would it be?

There’s a few that come to mind here. Definitely would like to take a shot at the Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, Alberta, but being from the prairies I’m a little intimidated with the 17,000ft of elevation throughout the 125km race. Otherwise I’d like to run the Berlin Marathon and hopefully head to Boston sooner than later. For a fun race, the Krispy Kreme Challenge in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is a 5 mile race where you have to eat a dozen donuts at the halfway point. I think I could do some damage there.

What is your favorite post-race meal or snack?

Ideally there would be a beer or two waiting at every finish line for me. Otherwise I’m usually not all that hungry after a race. Some fluids and a banana can hold me over until I get home to nap, then I normally order a pizza in the afternoon.

What is your number one method for injury prevention?

Keeping your easy days easy. I found trying to run at my threshold too often brought on a lot of unwanted aches and pains and wasn’t sustainable. Otherwise I’ve been trying to run on grass and trail where I can to ease the pounding the body takes from the pavement and mix in the odd day of cycling.

What advice would you give to someone who has just started running?

Don’t worry about pace or distance, just get out and spend some time on your feet. Start slow, set goals for running maybe 10-15 minutes without stopping and build from there. Try to be consistent as well, set a schedule and if you can find a running buddy or join a weekly run group, even better. I always find it’s easier to get out the door when someone’s holding me accountable.

When you think about setting goals for yourself, what’s the process like? How far in advance do you try to plan for?

I usually set a goal at the start of the year and make a rough plan to execute it come fall. I don’t get caught up in time frames because there are always things you can’t control. I’ve shown up at races where it’s windy, rainy, hot, humid, which are just not good days to run fast. Just make sure you put the work in and your goals will eventually be met.

Do you have any pre-race rituals?

I try to prepare my clothes, fueling and anything else I can the night prior so there’s less to worry about in the morning. Otherwise I’ll do my carb loading two to three days before but I always eat light the day prior. I think eating a big bowl of pasta the day before is a big misconception: it’s heavy, takes long to digest and likely won’t let you get a decent sleep. Stick to something you’re used to eating the night before and don’t try anything new close to race day.  The morning of I’ll get up early, eat a banana, have some cereal, stretch, and get to the race early enough to get a small warm up in.

What was the most challenging race you have ever completed and why?

Easily the 2014 Manitoba Marathon.  It was my first marathon and I definitely came into it underprepared and definitely underestimated it with my longest training run being 15 miles.  Very proud of myself for not stopping to walk at any point but I did an awful job at fueling and found myself hitting the wall by mile 18 and could barely stay on my feet during the last mile resulting in a pretty good fall in the last couple hundred meters.

Do you have a personal running hero or mentor?

As a Canadian, I feel like I have to say Terry Fox.  His ability to persevere no matter how difficult the road was ahead relates to more than just running.