Mercury News

San Mateo's Peter Gilmore is one of the finest marathoners in the country, but he needs to trim about 2 minutes off his time to compete with the best in the world.

It has nothing to do with effort. Gilmore runs 120 to 140 miles per week and goes months without a day off. Nor is it diet-related. Even though Gilmore eats his share of sweets and has a glass of wine with dinner, he consumes plenty of lean protein, energy drinks and fruits and vegetables.

Instead, the problem is what happens after his training runs: Gilmore has no time to chill.

``It's not necessarily about training more,'' said Gilmore's coach, Jack Daniels. ``It's about more relaxation time. . . . If you have to work to support yourself, then you can't go home after a two-hour workout and have time to put your feet up. If your performance isn't quite good enough to bring in the money, then you have to do other things. It's a vicious cycle.''

Despite finishing second among Americans -- and 10th overall -- at the Boston Marathon in April, Gilmore can't yet command appearance fees for prestigious marathons like those in Boston, New York or London. Instead, he races shorter distances for prize money and is a substitute teacher at Woodside Elementary, which sometimes requires a 35-hour-per-week commitment.

Considering that Gilmore runs twice a day, is pursuing a master's degree in finance from Golden Gate University and coaches a kids' running club twice a week, he doesn't have much time to rest. Meanwhile, the best-of-the-best, who get paid to run, spend their free time on the couch.

``I'm in a weird place,'' Gilmore said. ``I'm at the highest level you can be without the money coming in like crazy. I'm putting in the effort of the folks who are more successful, but my performance isn't quite there yet.''

That's not surprising, given that Gilmore, 28, has been a professional marathoner for just three years. He ran track and cross-country at Cal, finishing third in the 10,000 meters at the 1997 Pacific-10 Conference championships. After college, he began running longer distances and completed the 2002 Chicago Marathon in 2 hours, 21 minutes, 48 seconds. Under Daniels' tutelage, he improved rapidly and finished second in the California International in Sacramento last December with a personal best of 2:14.02.

But Gilmore is still a few minutes slower than the elite of the elite. (Kenya's Paul Tergat holds the world record, 2:04.55.)

``I think Peter would benefit most from seeing his 10K time come down,'' said Daniels, a legend in the running community. ``Right now he runs about 29 minutes. I'd love to see him run 28:30. If you can bring your 10K time down 30 seconds, you can bring your marathon time down 2 minutes. There's no question he can do it. It's a matter of having more time to rest.''

These days -- as he prepares for the ING New York City Marathon next month -- Gilmore rises at 5:30. He downs two pieces of sourdough toast with butter and a cup of coffee and is out the door by 6. The length and intensity of his workouts vary, but he generally covers 8 to 12 miles at an average pace of 6:30 per mile.

Home around 7, he stretches and has breakfast: more toast, with a fried egg on top. Then it's off to Woodside. Gilmore munches throughout the day, either on the ProMax1 nutrition bars he buys at Trader Joe's or on doughnuts in the teachers' lounge. Lunch is usually a sandwich and cookies. He's done at 3 o'clock and is running by 4 -- usually for 60 to 90 minutes.

Afterward, Gilmore downs a bowl of cereal with soy milk -- he's lactose intolerant -- and then makes dinner with his fiancee, Liz Wu: a steak from Costco, potatoes, salad and a vegetable. (Gilmore prefers his fiber once he's done running for the day.) And yes, he'll have dessert if there's something in the apartment.

This fall, he's taking finance classes via the Internet, but when he has to be on campus in the evenings, dinner is a to-go burrito. He's usually in bed by 10 or 11.

Seven or eight hours later, he's back on the road for another 20-mile day.

``America men with my profile usually peak in their early to mid-30s,'' he said. ``So I feel like I have a lot of room for improvement.''

He just has to find the time.

Contact Jon Wilner at

Peter Gilmore

Peter Gilmore

Age: 28

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 137 pounds

Hometown: Pacific Palisades

College: Cal

Resides: San Mateo

Occupation: Substitute teacher

Best marathon: 2:14.02 at the 2004 California International in Sacramento

Career highlights: Finished 10th overall and second among Americans at the 2005 Boston Marathon (2:17.32); finished eighth at 2004 U.S. Olympic trials (2:15.44).

Favorite places to run in the Bay Area: Coyote Point and Sawyer Camp Trail in San Mateo.

Next up: ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.


Workout tips and tricks from Peter Gilmore.

Gilmore's top training tip


Peter Gilmore's No. 1 piece of advice for recreational joggers and first-time marathoners: Take it easy.

``If there's one overriding thing with my workouts and the folks I see running, it's that I run at an easier pace effort-wise,'' he said. ``I hear how hard people breathe. Folks are out there hammering away every day, and then they wonder why they have injuries and a hard time recovering. If you can run and carry on a conversation, that's a pretty good indicator.

``There's a huge window of effort levels, and you can accomplish the same thing on an easy run. You don't get an extra benefit from a strenuous run . . . but an easy run helps your recovery.''

More tips from Peter Gilmore



Gilmore and his coach, Jack Daniels, author of the acclaimed ``Daniels' Running Formula,'' had these tips for first-timers:

Take your weekly long run on the same day of the week as the marathon. ``Get used to that being a demanding day,'' Daniels said. ``You'll end up building the rest of your week around it.''

Run a race before the marathon. There is no way to simulate race-day excitement during your daily runs. A 5K or 10K will help you learn to manage your adrenaline. Many rookie marathoners start too fast and stagger home.

Know what you're drinking. Don't consume water on training runs and then switch to energy drinks during the race. That could upset your system. Gilmore recommends checking with race organizers in advance. ``Find out what they have at the tables and use it in practice runs,'' he said.


Whether you're training for your first marathon or are a veteran trying to improve your time, the key is teaching your body to become more efficient:

At a slow pace, your body burns fat and carbohydrates in equal amounts. The faster you run, the more carbohydrates you burn. The catch is that you can only run about 17 miles burning exclusively carbohydrates, so you need to conserve them through the race. (If you run out, you'll hit the wall.) Increasing speed during long runs teaches your body to burn fat instead of carbs. For instance, run for 60 minutes at an easy pace and then 60 at marathon pace.

Studies indicate that the best predictor of distance-running performance is the ``lactate threshold.'' That's the speed you're able to run before lactate accumulates in the bloodstream faster than your body can clear it, which leads to a burning sensation in the muscles. The fitter you are, the higher your lactate threshold.


At the peak of his marathon training, Gilmore runs 120 to 140 miles a week. Six days a week, he runs in the morning and afternoon; on the seventh day, he runs once: a 22-miler. He sometimes goes months without a day off.

His 22-miler is broken into segments. He'll run 8 miles easy, then 8 at marathon pace, then 2 at his lactic threshold (15 to 20 seconds faster than marathon pace), then 2 to 3 at marathon pace, then 2 easy.

Sometimes, he'll do this workout: Run 5 miles at his lactic threshold, rest for 5 minutes, run 4 miles at his lactic threshold, rest for 4 minutes, run 3 miles at his lactic threshold, rest for 3 minutes, and so on. Total: 15 miles.


Gilmore believes strong core muscles -- those in the abdomen, hamstrings, glutes and lower back -- are crucial to efficient running. ``A strong core holds your form together,'' he said. ``Just imagine a car with a flat tire. If your midsection is strong, then the legs and arms can be your engine.'' Gilmore holds a skateboard with both hands and slowly pushes it out in front of him until he's in a prone position.

A common problem for runners is knee pain caused by iliotibial band syndrome, the inflammation of the fibrous tissue that extends from the hip along the side of the upper leg to the knee. ``You use the band when you run, but it's hard to stretch because it's on the outside,'' Gilmore said. He recommends resting one leg on a table so that the outside of your calf is touching the table. To increase the stretch, lean toward the table. Gilmore stretches after runs but not before, when muscles are cold.


Gilmore consumes about 4,000 calories a day but is not fanatical about what he eats. He'll have doughnuts in the morning or cookies at lunch. He often has wine and dessert with dinner. He avoids fruits and vegetables before runs -- the fiber can cause stomach problems -- but eats several servings at night.

He offered a few tips:

Nothing beats caffeine. ``An exercise physiologist at the world championship said caffeine was a central nervous system stimulant and a muscle relaxant, and that combination is fantastic for running,'' Gilmore said.

Fuel and replenish your body. Gilmore is vigilant about his energy drinks. He consumes Cytomax before he runs and Endurox R4 when he's finished to aid muscle recovery. ``The first 30 minutes are critical,'' he said. ``You need a blend of carbohydrates and protein, and that's full animal protein, not soy.''

Eat four or five small meals. ``That keeps your energy level higher and lowers your body's propensity to store food as fat,'' he said.