At Mile 18 of the Berlin Marathon in September, Mitch Goldstein came up with a new mantra to keep plowing forward: “There is no wall.”
“It seemed like it fit well in Berlin especially and it mostly worked, just not quite enough,” says Goldstein, who ran just barely over 3:30 in the race.
Goldstein, who ran in high school and for the last nine years consistently, has worked through various mental walls and hurdles thanks to his experience, dedication and the power of the Marathon Training Academy (MTA).
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In high school, Goldstein ran sprints and hurdles. He continued to run off and on. Then in 2009, he moved to San Antonio and rediscovered his love for running.
“I fell into running early one Sunday morning before the gym opened, when my son was still asleep,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to wait to go to the gym and risk him waking alone in a new house, so I went for one of those random runs. It was probably 15 minutes through the neighborhood, which was hilly, so the run was quite hard. But, I really enjoyed it because I realized I was seeing my neighborhood and could look at the houses and learn where I was. So, I did it again, a little further, and you know where that leads.”
Soon the self-professed “data geek” bought a basic Garmin to track his runs. “I loved tracking my progress,” Goldstein says. “I pretty quickly realized that I had to run to get more data to track, so it became self-generating, especially because it was fun and I could see I was gradually improving.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but Goldstein was building a steady base. He would run between four and six miles three days a week. Then he realized he lived 4.5 miles from The Alamo and suddenly had a nine-mile target.
“One Saturday, I made the nine-mile round trip,” he says. “It was really cool. Eventually, I got up to 12 miles, and then realized that San Antonio had a half marathon and I thought that if I was running 12, I could probably run 13.1. I didn’t do any formal training, but just kept my pattern up.”
After running his first half marathon in 2010, Goldstein still had no intention to do a marathon.
Inspired by running friends
The following year he moved to Jupiter, Fla., and began running with friends who were training for the Arizona Marathon.
“I didn’t intend to run a marathon but enjoyed running with the group every Saturday,” Goldstein recalls, noting he caught the bug after his friends finished the Arizona race in early 2012. “Even though I didn’t mean to, I started thinking that maybe I could do it.”
And he did it in December of that year, finishing the West Palm Beach Marathon in four hours flat. “I was hooked,” he admits.
‘The pinnacle of running’
Goldstein continued running with his friends on Saturday mornings and soon enough his attention turned to the Boston Marathon.
“On one of our group runs, the subject of Boston randomly came up,” says Goldstein, who will run the historic race for the third time in April 2019. “I didn’t even know what the qualifying times were, but someone said he thought for 50-year-old men, it would be 3:30 and that’s an 8-minute pace. We had a long discussion about whether it would be possible to keep up that pace for 26.2 miles – the two friends I was with told me they knew I could if I worked at it. It got in my head.”
At that time, Goldstein knew he was in range, with a PR of 3:33 “but I couldn’t quite get there.”
In January 2015, he set out for his seventh marathon, this time in Miami. His qualifying time for the 2016 Boston Marathon would be 3:40 since he was now in the 55-year-old age group. “I ran a little over 3:34 at Miami and was so excited,” Goldstein recalls. “I knew I could do it but I had not yet done it, so it was an incredible feeling.”
Like many first-time BQers, Goldstein was confident his five-plus-minute qualifying time would get him in the race but nothing is guaranteed until the official acceptance email is delivered.
“When I went to the Boston site to register in September, my hands were literally shaking and I was almost in tears filling in the form,” he says. “I can still remember that feeling of disbelief that I could actually go to Boston, which I still view as the pinnacle of running. I had that same feeling the second time I registered and again this year. When the email comes from BAA saying you’re in, it’s like winning the lottery, except you earned this one.”
Goldstein understands how fortunate he is to be able to experience Boston multiple times.
“Now, having been so lucky to have that experience twice, I realize how special that race is,” he says. “Generations have run it and it brings the best in the world. We get to run through towns for whom the race is a personal thing – they welcome you to their town and root for you. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, before or since.”
Finding the MTA community
A key component of Goldstein’s rise from marathoner to Boston Marathon qualifier is the MTA community and coaching. He started listening to the MTA podcast, based on a suggestion from his daughter, Hillary.
“I listened for a while and loved the practical, supportive, friendly culture Angie and Trevor have created,” Goldstein says. “Their interviews are fun, the race recaps so real and the quick tips useful. It’s a great way to keep my mind in the running game even when I’m doing something else.”
After a few months, he joined the MTA community, where he is an active member of the private Facebook group and meetups at races. “I’ve been able to have MTA meet-ups six or seven times,” says Goldstein, who I met during an MTA meetup at the Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon in February of this year. “I’ve found MTAers to be friendly and they’ve brought an unexpected bonus dimension to my world.”
Out of his comfort zone
While the MTA community provided inspiration, an MTA coach supplied direction.
When he joined MTA in 2016, Goldstein was running four to six marathons a year. “But I really had plateaued,” he says. “I started thinking about a coach since I realized that I didn’t really know what I was doing, and simply reading articles and books was interesting, but wasn’t really giving me any new insights.”
After experiencing races that were 10 to 15 minutes slower than previous marathons, Goldstein signed up with coach Steven Waldon, starting in May 2017.
“From the very start, Steven taught me the basics of how to think about training stages, and his program raised my challenge level step-by-step,” Goldstein explains. “It was so hard, and took me completely out of my comfort zone – which I think was what I needed.”
Waldon strategically increased Goldstein’s mileage and frequency, while adding workouts like “ladders.” Those start out with a one-mile easy run, then 6-5-4-3-2-1 minute segments at progressively faster speeds with two minutes jogging in between, and then repeat the routine with a one-minute cooldown.
“Brutal – but so satisfying once it’s done,” Goldstein says. “And, it’s helped. After those two slower runs in early 2017, I have run six races – the first was on the day of a hurricane so I was distracted – but the last five have all either hit or beat my prior PRs, including 3:30:35 in Berlin.”
Looking ahead, Goldstein wants to visit every state. He only has four to go.
“I did Fargo in May to cover North Dakota and South Dakota,” he says. “I plan to do the First Light Marathon in Mobile, Alabama, in January to get to Alabama and Mississippi. I still need to get to Oregon and Alaska and I look forward to those trips.
Goldstein’s goals include breaking 3:30 in the marathon, as well as running in Athens someday. He would also like to do the London and Tokyo marathons to complete the six World Marathon Majors.
Still, he looks back — and ahead — to the pride of running a particular race.
“For me, Boston is the ultimate mark of accomplishment,” he says. “I’ve had a good business career, but I fully expected that, so I don’t make much of it. I’ve always been a decent athlete, but not an accomplished one. So, making it to Boston is very meaningful to me. I think only a runner would get that.”
Name: Mitch Goldstein
Hometown: From Brooklyn originally, now live in Jupiter, Fla.
Number of years running: Nine years.
How many miles a week do you typically run: Average 35-40 – targeting to make 2,000 miles this year, after 1,800 last year.
Point of pride: I’m most proud that I have worked hard and stuck to the program to push myself to whatever level I can achieve. I know that the only person who really cares about my times is me (like everyone else, my mother always tells me that what I did was “amazing” even when it really sucked), and I can see that by putting my heart on the line, I get something for it, just for me. Running is probably the most selfish thing I do – in terms of time, periodic travel away from my wife, and even cost – but I know it’s what I need and I love it.
Favorite race distance: Marathon
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Oatmeal
Favorite piece of gear: I love my Vivoactive 3 Garmin
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: It’s My Life by Jon Bon Jovi – with the lines, “It’s My Life; it’s now or never. I ain’t gonna live forever. I just want to live while I’m alive.”
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: I love Pre’s quote “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift” and I really try to live up to it.
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Strava, Mitch Goldstein