PROFILE--Phil Krajewski won the Virtual 2020 Boston Marathon in the 75-79 age group

(Oct 2020) Phil Krajewski was born on June 5, 1944--the eve before D-Day in Europe. The Allied forces prevailed the next day, and Krejewski has a strong racing record as well. 
As he notes below, "I have won just about every marathon I have entered." Indeed there he is atop the 2020 Boston Marathon leaderboard at 3:38:37, more than 30 minutes ahead of the second-place 75-79 runner. Krajewski, 76, from Eastport ME has achieved his success with several interesting approaches, not the least of which is his striving for "Lightness" in his life.

Career-profession? I am a tree farmer and have grown hardwoods, conifers, and shrubs, both native and ornamental species and varieties. I specialized in digging trees for market and have dug over 55,000 trees – by hand – in my lifetime. While this amount may seem staggering, it is very accurate.

When did you start running and why? I always loved running and ran to elementary, junior, and high school on many an occasion but running in high school was not en vogue. In my ‘meat and potatoes’ town a person played football, basketball, and baseball. My wife, Ellen, got me running with her in the early 2000’s when my daughters, Vinca and Evangeline, were 8 and 12 and had joined some local soccer and running programs.

How much did you run in your peak years? I am a minimalist and never have run more than 50 miles in one week.

What were some of your top race performances? I have won just about every marathon I have entered. I have won NYC 3 times and Chicago once. My Waterloo with running is the Boston Marathon as I have never done well there. However, I did finish third in 2016. I have had incremental wins at Boston with some firsts for my age while also beating all older, or runners a year or two younger than me, or being first or high in the US standings. 

I believe I will try to continue running until I have the good fortune to win Boston. I am presently ranked #1 in the world by Abbott World Marathon Major rankings for the 75/79 age group.

An estimate of your total lifetime miles? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 miles

How much are you running and cross-training now? I run about 35 – 40 miles per week. I do not and have never cross trained. My strength training is

running up hills and long runs. I do not stretch but run the first mile slow. However, after my run I now do the Kenyon cool down [see bottom for more], then have an Emergen-C drink, finishing with a hot shower with deep tissue massaging with Badger cream of both legs pulling from ankle to hip towards the heart.

Recent races? 74 yrs. - 2019 Boston Marathon - 3:46:52 - (1st 74, 73, or 72 yr old or any older age)

74.98 yrs old – 2019 Vermont City Marathon – 3:40:06 (1st)
75 yrs – 2019 Chicago Marathon – 3:40:01 (1st)
75 yrs. - 2019 New York City Marathon – 3:52:34 (1st)
76 yrs. - 2020 Boston Marathon Virtual 26.2 – 3:38:37 (1st Leaderboard) [See below for some of Krajewski's training.]

Does it bother you that you are slowing with age? Aging does not bother me because all runners as they age will slow down so we are all on an equal footing. I train hard and accept and I am happy with any result. My time goal was always an 8 pace or a 3:29:36. As I have gotten older I have upped it to a 3:40. This is a positive development as I can now run slower and achieve the same satisfaction. 

I have no trouble staying motivated. The key for me is getting dressed in running clothes as after that everything takes care of itself. Also motivating is that since I have incorporated slower running into my training regimen, I know that every time I go out for a run I do not have to push push but can enjoy myself with fun runs. However, speed work is still central to my training as it permits me to train slow with the confidence and motivation that I can maintain a fast pace, most importantly on race (marathon) day, when I need to.

I am inspired by the Light within me and give thanks to my fortunate predicament of a sound body dwelling in a relatively peaceful environment. I also give thanks when I toe the starting line and begin a 26.2 mile ‘trajectory of suffering’ that is a 1 on an Earthly suffering scale of 1 to 10. I am also inspired by any trees or water along the course and ask for help to complete my task. I smile or cry as much as I can and gain further inspiration if needed from Terry Fox or other runners along the course who may be blind or have some physical handicap. I am also inspired by and sing “This Little Light of Mine” in sync with my running pattern that develops during the race.

How have your diet and weight changed through the years, if at all? I was 6 foot and 150 pounds when I was 17 and it has not varied at all in the last 59 years. I am more aware and have a better more balanced diet now than at any time in my life. I am open to and feel my body will let me know what my diet needs are. After my last NYC Marathon (which I considered a meltdown), 5 minutes after the finish I heard a voice say “more fruit” so I incorporated it immediately. A new diet development is that I try to increase my level of fat and red blood cell count by eating a lot of hamburgers two weeks before a race. Then I go traditional a few days out with slow acting carbohydrates as well as water hydrating throughout. I believe a good taper is of paramount importance two weeks out, so I diminish my exercise and get plenty of rest.

I take – 1 Multiple, I Fish Oil, 1 Potassium, 1 Vitamin E 5,000 units, 2 Hyaluronic Acid pills (knee) every day. I believe all of these pills help. My blood work is excellent. I used to take CBD Oil with some developed skepticism but may revisit it to determine if it benefits me. I strongly recommend that all runners get a multi-diagnostic blood test once every other year or more often if needed.

What injuries or other health issues have you faced through the years? How have you dealt with these? I have had, I believe, the normal amount of aches and pains, pulled or strained ligaments and muscles. A plantar fasciitis bout for six months kept me out of Boston 2012 and was particularly harsh.

The real debilitating injuries have been three meniscus surgeries, several of which took a long time to heal. I also have received the series of ‘chicken shots’ every 6 months – Suparz and now SynVisc – and I would say that they have been very helpful. I also take the hyaluronic acid pills to help with the long haul and I believe they have helped.

Favorite inspirational quotes? Two recent running thoughts that came from the BAA Virtual Newsletter were Des Linden reminding marathon runners to concentrate on the mile they are on, and Meb’s thought that a runner should treat a marathon as a celebration of all the hard training.

Three tips for hopeful lifetime runners?

1--Monitor your injuries carefully so you can continue running as soon as the time comes.

2--Comebacks are one of the most enjoyable aspects of running as you can ditch the old stuff that did not work or you were skeptical about, and instead develop new ways to succeed.
3--Think long range and be patient. Expect nothing at the start line and be happy with any outcome because that is the way it happened. You can and should analyze in a few days and make adjustments.

How does running & fitness improve your life on a daily/weekly basis? Running helps me to realize my number one goal and that is to maintain my health at an optimal level.

Running helps to crystallize my thoughts and collate them into an expressible form.

What are the biggest lessons (life lessons and running lessons) you have learned from running? How would you describe your philosophy of life, running, and aging? The combination of philosophy of life, running, and aging is an interesting one and words might not be the best vehicle in which to explain, but I will give it a go. As an older runner my aging brings me closer to Transition, and it behooves me to be able to crystallize the overall way I see 'things' before I toe the starting line for the big event. 

I feel that having a load of attachments would bog me down as too much baggage would not be something I would want on my back as I begin my final race. Whether we are very successful with running or whether we are just an old person 'still doing it', we gain some, and maybe a lot or too much, notoriety. I see notoriety as baggage or an attachment, and feel that anonymity might better serve me as I could then have a final run with no extra weight to bear. 

This conflict, as I see it, needs some resolution as I want to continue running even though I see a 'pitfall' of possibly gaining more notoriety. Enter the 3 AM clarity epiphany. I feel that through patience and openness that attachments will be able to become non-attachments similar to leaving my 2013 Samuel Adams bottle opener to my neighbor. Of course material objects are easy to get rid of and notoriety, or the stroking of my ego, is a much bigger challenge, if, from my perspective, anonymity would again better serve a Transition. 

So how do I see it? I am not going to stop running, or age for that matter, and I am going to perform to the optimum of my abilities. Therefore in pursuing clarity and seeking Lightness to the end, I will continue to let my running shoes fall where they may and embrace this non-attachment challenge as part of my training program. 

[The Kenyon cool down is not a Kenyan system, but one Krajewski picked up from someone connected to Kenyon college. The Kenyon Cooldown is a post run exercise I read about in Running Times. Let me try to explain: Counting only your, and every, left foot/left leg lift or stride as it strikes the ground. Right after a run - all walking:

1. leg lifts - lift leg bringing thigh into upper body (far as you can it will never touch body) - 20 lefts
2. leg strides - over extend stride but in a walking manner - 20 lefts
3. leg bends with trying to touch heel on buttock - 20 lefts
Repeat 3 times

I used to do this after every run and taught my daughter and had not done it for about 4-5 years and my daughter reminded me to do it about 6 months ago - and now I do it after every run..]

[Some training details: I have a varied training pattern that is predicated on whether I am training for an actual race (marathon) and how close I am to race day. I usually run around 25 - 30 miles per week every other day and as I get closer to race day (not counting taper week/s) I up it to 5 days and 40-45 miles (long run weeks). I really like running slow as it takes the psychological edge off of feeling I always have to push but I incorporate long fartleks with my medium distance slow runs. For instance - I seem to have settled into 8 mile runs as my default run. With usually every other 8 mile run I wind up running 3 miles fast which is 1000 counts of every other left foot strike done in 10 x 100 (about 0.3+ miles) every other left foot strikes. This enables me to stay motivated with going out to run slow but getting in the necessary speed training. I also try in a 16 week program to do at least 1 x 10 x 400 meters and 1 x 10 x 800 meters on a track. I feel that the most important aspect of my training is the Tempo run. To compound this, I cannot shake having my long runs turn into long Tempo runs. I feel that I have to do my long runs as a simulated marathon and the psychological fallback is that it is not a full 26.2 but between 16 and 20 - thus the edge is taken off. To make these runs easier I take the first mile slow (unlike on race day) and the rest of the run I try at an 8:30 pace or faster. Another psychological edge thing is that if all goes bad in my long run - a 9+ pace - I believe and inculcate the adage that a poor rehearsal makes for a great performance. Even if I have to lie to myself I feel it is of paramount importance to stay upbeat. I try to also incorporate hills in my runs and try to limit the fartleks to the ups (build more strength) or levels and the slows (protect knees) to the downs. I eliminate any hill training 2 weeks before a race.

Another small aspect of my training is that I train with a target on my back and when things are getting hairy I feel weird in my backbone that someone is trying to catch me and that any little push will help me to cross the finish line a few seconds the winner - so I push when my mind says no. Establishing new territory and fighting against 'rutism' makes me a better runner.