Fred Zalokar: Beliefs and rituals of a marathon champion
Fred Zalokar and I recently connected on Twitter when he commented on one of my posts that he was about to “Smash sixty”. Intrigued I did a bit of research and discovered a man leading an extraordinary life from his base up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Nevada, USA.
Here is a man who has literally smashed his entire fifties to smithereens through his epic marathons, mountain expeditions and world travels.
I instantly knew that I wanted to find out more about him and share it with the Smashing Fifty family. So I requested an interview, to which he happily agreed.
During our Skype, Fred reveals just how he’s created one of the most exciting and fulfilling lives you can imagine, all whilst working a regular day job. Hold onto your hats, folks!
“I love growing old. It’s a lot better than the alternative.”
Fred Zalokar is the first marathon runner to have won his age group in all six Abbott World Marathon Majors.
He won in Berlin 2010, Boston 2011, Chicago 2012, New York 2015, London 2016 and Tokyo 2017.
Originally an ultra-runner, it wasn’t until he turned 50 that he decided to try road running after being persuaded by his wife. Impressed? Me too, but that’s not all.
Fred has also traveled to 136 countries (scaling to the highest point of 78 of them) and has climbed 145 of the world’s highest mountains.
For the last decade, he’s been running 13 times almost every week, clocking up an average of 105 miles every 7 days.
Not bad for a family man who also works a regular 9-5 job, sometimes pushing 50 hours per week.
What’s even more astonishing, is that he doesn’t really consider himself to be that much of a marathon runner. Ask him and he’ll tell you that he prefers to think of himself as a “passionate traveler who also happens to climb mountains and run marathons.” His thirst for life is immense.
Here’s a man who has been unafraid to live his life on his own terms and has seen just reward.
His work ethic, focus, positive mindset and passion for life prove that anything is possible in life if you put your mind to it.
But let’s not be overwhelmed by the extent of his achievements (this guy’s taking it to the limit).
Instead, let’s be inspired by his determination, passion and focus and use it to inspire the rest of us mere mortals to smash our own challenges no, matter how big or small.
“I wake up at 3.30 am almost everyday and workout for two and a half hours.”
Fred sits comfortably in front of a bookcase crammed full of Lonely Planet guidebooks. He’s relaxed, friendly and unbelievably positive. His easy-going, super focussed attitude is infectious. I’m feeling inspired already.
To begin with, I wonder if he’s somehow superhuman or has the luxury of extreme wealth which allows him the energy and time required to become a world champion marathon runner, climber and travel so much. He tells me with a shrug that he’s neither. Puzzled I invite him to go on.
“It’s really quite simple,” he tells me… It soon becomes clear how he’s created his most amazing life.
I begin our conversation by asking him about his daily routine and indeed if he has one.
“Well, I wake up at 3.30 am almost everyday and workout for two and a half hours. I’m lucky because I work at a fitness club so I have access to the gym 24/7.
“I’ll be there on my own (which I love) and so I’ll get a good running session in on the treadmill.
“Then I’ll come home, shower and I’ll be at my desk by 6.30 am.
“I take one and a half hours for lunch during which I’ll have another running session. But Fridays are my day off, so I only do one session.”
I’m exhausted already… he continues.
“I’ll usually be in bed by 7.30 or 8.00 pm. When I’m at home that’s the routine. That’s how it gets done.”
I tell him how I’ve been reading about Tabata and other shorter exercise plans that suggest you don’t need to do such long workouts.
“It depends on your goals,” he tells me with a smile. “If you have the same goal as me…” he pauses and with a chuckle continues “… put it this way. You work out your way and I’ll work out mine. But the only time I’m going to see you is at the starting line.”
I see his point.
“NEVER. I never miss. You have to have that focus.
“If I do get sick and miss a day, I feel like I’ll have to make it up the next day and run three times.”
“No. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t do it, and I’m so used to it now, that it’s like breathing. In fact, it’s harder now that I’m cutting back and just running once a day.”
(His new goal for 2019 is to smash the American record at the mile or 5k for a sixty-year-old, so he’s changed his routine to accommodate, running just once a day and increasing his strength training and diet accordingly).
He goes on to describe the workout that he did that morning (on a Saturday at 3.30 am!):
(The weights are increased for each set).
Personally, If I’m up at 7 am on a Saturday and do fifty push-ups I consider that a win. I’m beginning to see what real commitment, desire, focus and hard work looks like. Click to read the full article @ http://smashingfifty.com
In November of 2015, after moving up an age group, Zalokar repeated New York City and won his age group in 2:43:10. On April 24, he returned to London and won the 55–59 age group in 2:39:50, bringing him to wins at five out of the six majors.
Gaining entry into Tokyo isn’t easy, but if Zalokar can earn a spot in the 2017 race, to be held February 26, he hopes to complete a sweep of age-group titles.
Zalokar, who will turn 56 on May 27, is also interested in taking a crack at Norm Green’s American marathon record for 55–59 year olds, which is 2:33:49, and would require a lifetime PR.
Although he’s been a distance runner since he was in his 20s, until recently Zalokar’s focus lay elsewhere.
“I’ve never really trained like this before,” he said. “My passion’s always been mountains and traveling, and it still is.”
Zalokar “collects countries,” and he’s been to 119 of them so far, including the highest point in 63 of those countries. He plans to hit more high points in Europe this summer.
But now he simultaneously focuses on running well in the marathon. For Zalokar, that has meant high mileage—he averaged 150 miles per week over a seven- to eight-week stretch leading up to London, with a high of 162 miles—and just as important, keeping his weight down.
Zalokar is six feet tall, and he has been since sixth grade. In high school, his primary athletic focus was football. He also wrestled for one season and ran track, but his longest event at the time was 440 yards. He didn’t become an endurance athlete until he moved to the Reno area in the mid 1980s.
Zalokar’s high weight was around 230 pounds, but now he weighs in around 145 and credits that weight loss for his faster times in recent years. Zalokar said he’s not fanatical about what he eats, but he tries to eat well and has to be vigilant.
“People look at me now and are like, ‘Oh, you’re just naturally skinny,’ and no, [working at it] is a constant for me. But it feeds on itself. When you do well, it’s positive reinforcement,” Zalokar said.
Zalokar has been the general manager of the Lakeridge Tennis Club, a multipurpose fitness facility in Reno, for the past 30 years.
In order to squeeze his training into his 50-hour work weeks (when he’s not traveling), Zalokar usually starts his day by 3:30 a.m. at the latest. Six out of seven days, he does his first run of the day on the treadmill at his workplace, and he is at his desk by 6:00 or 6:30. He takes a two-hour lunch break to run again, this time outdoors.
Zalokar works out four to five hours per day most days. In addition to running, he lifts weights, stretches, and does Pilates. He saves his social life for the weekends and the runs he does with training partners, most of whom are at least 20 years younger than he is. Zalokar is usually in bed by 7:30 or 8:00, so he can begin the routine again the next day.
Though he gets injured from time to time, Zalokar says he has no major chronic issues. “Thank God for KT tape,” he jokes. “I don’t know how I’d survive without KT tape.”
Regardless of whatever else Zalokar accomplishes, he’s thankful for his longevity and the fact that he’s still able to run at a high level.
“I realize it could end tomorrow,” Zalokar said. “My goal is to keep going as hard as I can reasonably. Some people say, ‘There’s no way; you get no rest.’ I heard it when I was running those 100 milers, back in my 20s. ‘By the time you’re 35, you’re going to be shot.’ ‘By the time you’re 40, you’re going to be shot.’ ‘By the time you’re 50, you’re going to be shot.’ And now they’ve stopped saying that.” Read Full Article
It took Reno’s Fred Zalokar only 2 hours, 45 minutes, 42 seconds to run the Tokyo Marathon, but he had to wait 11 days to see if he became the first person to swept the six World Marathon Majors.
On Wednesday, he found out that he did make history.
Zalokar’s time, while a little slower than he hoped, still topped the 55-59 age group, giving him titles in all six world majors, the first person to pick up age-group wins in each of those events.
“I am overjoyed to work so hard and finally check it off,” said Zalokar, who was featured in the RGJ prior to the race.
Tokyo is the newest addition to the world marathon circuit and not quite as technologically advanced as the others. So, after Zalokar finished the race Feb. 25, he had to wait until Tokyo posted the age-group results. He waited … and waited … and waited … until they were finally posted Wednesday with him on top.
“If I told you what I really think about waiting this long for the results, it probably won’t be printable,” Zalokar joked.
Originally an ultra-marathoner, Zalokar decided to attempt to win all five majors titles (Tokyo wasn’t an official major at the time) when he turned 50 after his wife, Deb, asked him to run the Boston Marathon with her. He won at Berlin in 2010, Boston in 2011, Chicago in 2012, New York in 2015 and London in 2016. The only major title that had eluded him was Tokyo, where Zalokar placed second in 2014.
Zalokar actually clocked a better time in 2014 than he did this year, running a 2:40.35 in his first attempt. But a new course added to the increased time and he was able to edge his closest age-group competitor Satoru Narabe of Tokyo. Zalokar finished 606th out of all finishers.
“I didn’t have one of my best races, but it was enough to win by less than a minute,” Zalokar said.
With the world major marathon sweep complete, Zalokar said he will move on to other challenges. His next race is the Los Angeles Marathon on March 19 before the national championship half marathon on May 7.
But with his latest goal achieved – and unmatched by anybody else – Zalokar can rest easy for a couple of days.
“Let’s just say it’s unbelievable,” Zalokar said. Read Full Article
Longtime Reno runner Fred Zalokar won this years 55-59 age group National Half Marathon championship at the Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in San Diego in 1 hour, 15 minutes, 28 seconds on May 31. Read Full Article
FRIDAY, MARCH 24, 2017, 9:08 AM
With his age group victory at the Tokyo Marathon on February 25, Fred Zalokar, 56, of Reno, Nevada, is thought to be the first runner ever to win his age group at all six World Marathon Majors races—Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City.
Zalokar’s tally of age-group wins started in 2010, and he secured three victories in three years in the 50–54 age group:
• In Berlin in 2010 he ran 2:37:03
• In Boston in 2011, he ran 2:34:46
• In Chicago in 2012, he ran 2:35:10
After Zalokar turned 55 and moved into the next age group (55–59) he won two more:
• In New York City in 2015, he ran 2:43:10
• In London in 2016, he ran 2:39:50
That left him with one more race, Tokyo, to complete the sweep.
Zalokar’s training this winter went well and he felt fit and ready for the challenge. He was hoping to win his age group and run faster than 2:40. But he didn’t feel at his best during the race.
“I cannot remember a race where I was passed by so many people,” Zalokar wrote in an email to Runner’s World on March 21. “I kept looking at my splits and they were okay, but people kept passing me.”
Zalokar reached halfway in 1:18, but he was slowing each 5K. When one of the elite female runners passed him in the 25th mile, he tried to key off her.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to stick right with her,’” he wrote, “and we passed a bunch of people in that last stretch. That was probably the difference between 2:45:42 and 2:47. Given that the second-place guy [Satoru Narabe of Japan] was less than a minute behind me [in 2:46:33], that resolve at the end really mattered.”
Zalokar believed his 2:45 was likely good enough for the win. But age-group results took 11 days to be released. “That was a tough wait to find out whether I won,” he wrote.
Three weeks after Tokyo, Zalokar was on the starting line of the Los Angeles Marathon, where he successfully defended his 2016 age-group title with a 2:49:10 win in the 55–59 division.
Two high-level marathon efforts in the span of three weeks was a test, and Zalokar said he’s now looking forward to focusing on shorter events. Next up is the May 7 Orange County Half Marathon, which serves as the USATF masters national championship at the distance.
“I’m looking forward to running more masters championship races in the coming years and playing around with different distances,” Zalokar wrote.
But he is not abandoning the full marathon completely or backing down from his high-mileage training, which reaches to about 150 miles per week at its peak.
“I’d like to break Norm Green’s 2:33:49,” he says of the American 55–59 marathon record that has held up since Green ran it in 1988. “That’s fast, but I believe if I stay focused and healthy, it’s within my reach. I just want to keep going, trying to get faster, stronger and do the best every day, every mountain, every race.” Read Full Article
Fred Zalokar and John Taniseb 8 hours and 6 minutes to Koningstein and back Congratulations!!!
Des Erasmus – ’n Nuwe bergklimrekord is deur ’n Amerikaner, Fred Zalokar (55), opgestel.
Hy en ’n lid van die Daureb Brandberggidse het die hoogste berg in Namibië van die basis tot by die hoogste spits en terug in agt uur en ses minute geklim.
Zalokar se aanslag op ’n rekord wat op net meer as nege uur gestaan het, is in die teenwoordigheid van Basil Calitz van die Brandberg Ruskamp op Uis gedoen. Calitz het as tydhouer by die Gaaseb-basis aan die voet van die berg opgetree en was by toe Zalokar en die gids, John Taniseb, met die epogmakende tog begin en weer daar geëindig het. Zalokar se vrou, Deb, het saam met Calitz op die twee klimmers gewag.
Nadat die ervare bergklimmer en marathonatleet van Reno in Nevada en Taniseb met die tog begin het, het Deb en Calitz ’n viertrektoer deur een van die kraters van die Namib onderneem. Terug by die Gaaseb-basis het Calitz met ’n vleisbraaivuur begin om die twee klimmers te verwelkom. Die vleis was nie eens naastenby gaar nie toe die twee mans hul opwagting gemaak het.
In Reno is Zalokar bekend as ’n ultra-atleet wat op afstande van 100 km en meer konsentreer. As bergklimmer het hy reeds die hoogste spitse in 120 lande geklim.
Oor die roete het hy gesê hy en Taniseb het op Königstein, die hoogste spits, nog sowat ’n halfuur gerus. Op die terugtog het hulle ook nie gejaag nie. Hy meen persoonlik dat hy tot met ’n uur op sy eie rekord kan verbeter. Die roete wat hulle gevolg het, was van Gaaseb, oor die Longi Pools (’n watergat), Wasserphalfläge tot op Königstein en toe terug.
Sy verblyf op Uis vir die aanslag op die rekord het net twee dae geduur.
In Amerika is Zalokar ’n swembadbouer van beroep.
Reno is op sy beurt bekend as die kleinste stad in Amerika en ’n sentrum van egskeidings. Tradisioneel kos dit paartjies net ’n dag in Reno om te skei. Nadat die paartjies se weë geskei het, word hul ringe in ’n riviertjie gegooi waar delwers dit weer vir ’n inkomste herwin.
Deb is ’n fiksheidsinstrukteur. Volgens haar sien sy ook kans vir die Brandberg, maar sy het doelbewus nie aan die tog deelgeneem nie, omdat sy Zalokar se volle aandag by die rekord wou hou. Read Full Article
I was standing in the third row of people at the start line of the 37th annual Berlin Marathon, the fastest marathon in the world. All around me, people stood hushed with anticipation, waiting silently as rain fell on them in a steady downpour. A voice came over the intercom: “Zehn sekunden.” Ten seconds. Everyone in the crowd bristled at the sound of the voice, putting their heads down and their hands on their watches.
The voice spoke again: “Fünf sekunden.” Five seconds. Everyone leaned forward.
A gunshot rang out, echoing over the crowd, and we were off.
The course ran all along the streets of Berlin, taking participants past many of the historic points in the city. It started and finished in the Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest public park, and took runners past the Reichstag, the location of German parliament. We also passed several remnants from WWII and the Cold War, shockingly out of place in this beautiful, peaceful city.
The most prominent reminders of conflict that I saw started 10K in with the Fernsehturm, a TV tower built by the Soviets during the cold war that has always been a symbol of East Berlin and the Soviet rule. I also remember coming to the Kaiser-Wilhelm Church with less than 10 kilometers to go in the race—this church was bombed by the Allied Forces during WWII. The people of Berlin chose never to rebuild it, in the hope that it would serve as a reminder of what war had done to the city.
Towards the end, we ran through the Postdamer Platz, where a portion of the Berlin Wall still remained, before crossing under the historic Brandenburg Gate and sprinting to the finish. After 26.2 miles (42.195K), I finished with a time of 2 hours, 37 minutes and 3 seconds—109th overall, and 1st in the Men’s 50-54 age group. I grabbed a couple of waters and was herded back out in the direction of the course.
As I watched the other runners heading in towards the finish, I cheered them on and thought about what I’d just achieved. I’d had two goals going into this race—namely, to win my age group and to run a sub-6 minute mile pace—and I’d accomplished both of them, but the training had been anything but easy.
I did four major things to train for this marathon. The first, and maybe even the most important, was something that a lot of runners don’t include in their training plans: diet. When I started training, I made the decision to eat less. A lot less. I cut way back on my calories, and started eating more and more protein. With this, I started to feel stronger, healthier, and more capable of achieving the goals I’d set for myself.
The second thing I worked on was distance training. I started to run, on average, 120 to 125 miles every week. Four weeks out from the race, I got my distance up to 140 miles. Three weeks out was 120. Two weeks was 100; the week before the race was 90, and I ran 50 miles the week of the marathon. This helped my endurance immensely, and I was well prepared enough that I never really hit the wall during the race.
RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – Reno’s Fred Zalokar is hands down the best marathon runner of his age in the entire world. Of the six World Marathon Majors, the 55-year-old has already won five for his age group: New York, Boston, Chicago, London, and Berlin. This February, he’ll go for the sweep in Tokyo.
“I’m just pleased as punch that I’m able to still run and compete at that level at my age,” Zalokar says. “I’m very proud and I’m very focused on number six.”
Zalokar has been the general manager of Lakeridge Tennis Club for the past thirty years. But a full-time job hasn’t slowed down his intense workout routine.
“I wake up at 3:30. Monday through Saturday, I do my first run about that time here at the club on the treadmill. And that ranges anywhere from eight to fourteen miles. Then I take about an hour and a half to two hour lunch and run anywhere from eight to ten miles again. And then I run my long mileage on the weekend. I normally run sixteen to twenty-two miles.”
Zalokar recently gained world fame when he was featured in Runners’ World magazine.
“I’m amazed at the response” he says. “They put it online and people from all over are actually commenting on the article. It’s amazing how many people it reaches. I’m really excited about it.” Read full Article
Last summer, Fred Zalokar and his wife, Deb, visited Namibia, an African country known for its Skeleton Coast, crumbling shipwrecks and gigantic sand dunes. It is one of 121 countries the Reno resident has visited.
Of those 121 countries, Zalokar has climbed the highest peak of 63 of them, so checking the top of Brandberg Mountain off the list was a must. Zalokar grabbed a guide and set out for the peak. But the 56-year-old Zalokar doesn’t hike mountains. He runs them, usually leaving his guide in the dust. Starting at sea level, Zalokar ascended the 8,550-foot peak and returned to his hotel, a good day of hiking completed.
“The next day, we were at the Hilton and my wife walks over and says, ‘You’re not going to believe this,’” Zalokar said from his office at Lakeridge Tennis Club. “She pulls out their national paper and who’s on the front page but me. It basically said, ‘American comes and breaks the record.’ And I just wanted to climb the mountain.”
Murray: Reno’s fastest man has unique soul
Unknowingly, Zalokar set a record for fastest ascension of Brandberg Mountain, completing it in 8 hours, 6 minutes (he could have done it quicker had he known a record was at stake). Still, a picture of Zalokar and his guide was right there on the front page of Republikein, Namibia’s top newspaper, the following day.
“It was the funniest thing,” Zalokar said with a laugh.
It also was typical of Zalokar, a man as well-traveled as you can be and a man who is crushing the record books with every run. A mountain climber by nature who eventually got into ultramarathons, Zalokar turned to regular marathons (26.2 miles) in 2010. Since then, he’s won five of the six World Marathon Majors for his age group. In February, he could become the first person to complete a career slam.
“In a word, it’s otherworldly,” said Michael Connors, a longtime area runner and de facto local running historian. “To run like he does consistently and to put in the sheer amount of training that he does is so impressive, and to know what a humble person he is and how grounded he is, if you talk to any runner about him they’ll tell you how good of a person he is. Any accolades that he gets are well earned.”
Photo rewind: Action at the 2015 Reno-Tahoe Odyssey
Perhaps the most incredible thing about Zalokar is he didn’t even take marathons seriously until age 50.
Born in Ohio, he moved around a lot as a child, making stops in upstate New York, New Jersey and Southern California before graduating high school in Tulsa. He was mostly a football player as a kid, hitting 6 feet in the eighth grade before stagnating at that mark. Checking in north of 200 pounds, Zalokar was a fullback who spent more time in a weight room than he did running laps, although he always loved to run.
“Back in those days, we all wanted to be Arnold Schwarzenegger,” said Zalokar, a child of the 1970s.
After getting an accounting degree from University of Oklahoma, he moved to San Francisco following graduation and two years later relocated to Reno in 1984 because of his love of the mountains.
“I wanted to get up in the mountains and I really liked Lake Tahoe and Reno was the biggest population that was close,” he said. “I just thought I’d be up here a little while and check it out and I fell in love with the area.” Read Full Article
Last September, Fred Zalokar put in 622 miles, with as much as 182 miles in one week in preparation for the 2012 Chicago Marathon.The result speaks for itself–a 2:35:10 finish and first, by more than 5 minutes, in the 50–54 age division.
“People say I’m crazy, but I tell them that it works for me,” he says, referring to his mega-miles training regimen.
Although he has been running for 30 years, Zalokar, a 52-year-old Reno, Nev., resident, has been setting personal bests. They include a 33:26 10K, a 1:15:15 half marathon, and a 2:34:46 in the 2011 Boston Marathon. It’s not necessarily the high mileage, however, that’s responsible for his faster times. “I’ve always trained hard,” he says, “but when I began to focus on improving my marathon times I revised my eating in an effort to drop a few pounds.”
The 6-foot Zalokar weighed in at 210 pounds when playing football in high school in Oklahoma. Until two or three years ago he tipped the scales at about 170, in spite of the fact that he was regularly putting in 100-mile weeks while training for ultramarathons. He began the Chicago race at 152 pounds. “The problem was that I ate like a pig,” he explains. Now, he says, “I don’t do anything special, don’t get fanatical about it. I just watch the calories. I want to make sure I get enough protein every day. I weigh myself regularly and let that be my guide.” He eats two to four bars every day–some high-protein, some not, and mostly small meals, including a lot of salads. “I intend to continue my modified eating and get a little lighter, gradually, over the next year,” he says.
He also believes that changing from a heel-strike to a midfoot-strike has been a factor in his improvement. “It was mostly a matter of changing to shoes with a negative heel,” he says. “I worked on it gradually, as I wanted to avoid any kind of injury.” Read full Article