Corey Joyner and His 69 Minute PR
We all start our run journey like everyone else, small solo runs lead to group runs which then leads to meeting new people. After this stage road racing usually begins small with some 5k’s, turning into 10k’s, half marathons and eventually moving onto the big one THE MARATHON. As we run these races and finish we always look towards other goals, ones that we can push ourselves to the best of our abilities in getting to the next level. 2020 was pretty much a washout when it came to road racing but that didn’t stop some runners from going all out with trying to smash their goals, one runner did just that. Corey Joyner made a tremendous leap forward and one that is somewhat unheard of but very possible. Back in February 2020 Corey ran The Miami Marathon and finished with a time of 4:26, fast forward a few months later to The Space Coast Marathon Corey finished with a time of 3:18. Yes, that time is correct and we are just as impressed as you are reading that. Let’s chat with Corey and speak about his breakthrough and get to know what his process was and how he smashed his PR in a matter of months.
MSM: Corey let me first start by saying what you did is beyond amazing my fellow run brother. A HUGE congratulations to you and this accomplishment. What were your thoughts as you crossed the finish at the Miami Marathon back in February?
Corey: Thanks man, grateful for the invite, it’s been quite the journey in 2020. When I crossed the finish line in Miami, to date, that was the hardest race I’ve ever completed. Hell, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in life. I was so happy that I finished that race, but what a battle it was mentally. Overcoming cramps starting at mile 6, wanting to call it a day at the half way point, and then blowing my tire at mile 19 it was a long day for me. I was aiming for 3:45 as an “A” goal and sub 4 as a back-up but I never expected a 4:29. Just goes to show that you really have to respect the distance. Anything can happen when running 26.2 miles.
MSM: Your first marathon was back in 2019 where you ran a 5:01 at Disney Marathon. Give us some insight into what running was like pre Miami Marathon?
Corey: After my first half marathon, I was amped up to do another half at Disney, not the full. I still thought 26.2 was crazy! When it came time to register, Disney registration prices are up there with the majors. The half marathons cost the same as the full. At that point, I was like “Hell, if I’m paying the same cost, might as well go big or go home.” So I signed up for the full marathon. I purchased Hal Higdon’s, “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” as any rookie distance runner would do. Just following the miles prescribed each day of training. After Disney, I changed up my training plan and went with The Run Experience training app to better prepare me for the Miami Marathon. I dealt with some injuries during this build-up: shin splints and runners knee. However, the change in run types with race specific tempos and intervals was welcomed.
After my first half marathon, I was amped up to do another half at Disney, not the full. I still thought 26.2 was crazy! When it came time to register, Disney registration prices are up there with the majors. The half marathons cost the same as the full. At that point, I was like “Hell, if I’m paying the same cost, might as well go big or go home.” So I signed up for the full marathon.
MSM: It seems like there was a switch that flipped after Miami. The clique moment that doesn’t come often for us runners when everything starts to come together. What changed after the Miami marathon training wise? What were some things you did differently as a runner?
Corey: Yeah, we turned up the heat after recovering from Miami. I started to put together the pieces of folks who have run sub 4. I came across Phil Maffetone MAF (maximum aerobic function) Training from various YouTube channels and doing some online research. I was hooked up with a Garmin heart rate chest strap monitor from a fellow IG runner, Brian (@RunningBlackman), which changed the game! I started running at my MAF heart rate number or less of 151bpm, which was very humbling at first. I clocked an 11:30 mile, which was slower than what I was used to. I wanted results, and the testimonies of people who utilized this way of training had me committed to the process. Also, COVID-19 put the world on lockdown, and for me provided the opportunity to run more. After a few weeks, the results were showing. Run slow to run fast is the truth! It’s a must to properly develop that aerobic base for the rigors of marathon training.
MSM: We’re all students of the game as we look towards ways to improve ourselves mentally and physically when it comes to running. Were there any runners that you were in constant contact with that helped you on this journey, providing insights to help you get better?
Corey: I’m notorious for interacting on Instagram. I have a lot of fun networking and learning from runners on that app. I’d be here all day if I were to list all my run fam, but a few I’ll point out: I mentioned Brian: Super fast runner, 2:39 marathoner! He was the one who actually challenged me to run faster times, and I believed him! Then there’s A.J. Jones (@aj26point_2), Marathon Jones. When I started following him, we were in the same boat – he’d been trying to get over that sub 4 hump as well. I can’t wait for him to get the opportunity again to conquer the goal, I have no doubt he’s going to light it up. Lastly Jereny (@lolspacemonkey) who I met this summer. Her and her husband are killing it over there in Orlando. During this past training block I was able to get some runs in with them and I barely kept up! If you’re not doing so already, be sure to give them all a follow!
MSM: In life we grow each day and most of all we learn from our mistakes, it’s human nature and how we grow. It’s funny how much life is tied into running. What were some of the mistakes you made in your first marathon back in 2019 and what was the process/steps you took to avoid those mistakes while running your past marathon?
Corey: Man listen, you don’t know what you don’t know and I did not know much the first time around. I made the common mistake of running too fast on most of my runs. We really have to slow things down on easy and recovery runs. Another mistake I made was not doing enough strength training which is a very important component of staying injury-free. Lastly, post-run mobility! The Run Experience is the best in the game at providing all the exercises and tools for mobility work to prevent and rehab injuries. If you are not familiar with their YouTube channel, I highly encourage you to stroll through their video catalog.
MSM: These past few months you’ve been super aggressive when it came to your training cycle. Give us some insight into your training cycle leading up to the Space Coast Marathon.
Corey: Space Coast training, as mentioned before, was originally Chicago training. I started back in July going through the weekly mileage build-up and strength workouts. The Run Experience advanced program peaked at 50-mile weeks which, after 16 weeks, I replaced Chicago with a live half marathon race that was available. The week after the half marathon I had high hopes that the Space Coast Marathon wouldn’t be canceled because they had a strict cap on participation and also because Florida seems determined to stay open during this pandemic. I had 5 weeks between the half marathon and Space Coast. I actually made a change in training to the McMillan monthly plan. I thought the training switch would set me up well going into the race and give me the chance to decide if I’d like to continue the McMillan plan in the future which was low risk, high reward. The training worked out very well for me, especially the fast finish long runs where you run the last 3rd faster than marathon pace. Once I started finishing long runs at 15, 30, and even 45 seconds faster than race pace, I was confident that I was ready for a big marathon PR.
MSM: When did your run journey begin and what was it that drew you into the run game?
Corey: Although I had completed some 5ks and casual running in the past, I have to say I officially got into the run game in 2018. I casually signed up for a half marathon because I knew it would require some training to complete. The training I did was inconsistent, but one day leading up to the race while on a long run I hit the magical runners high. I’ll never forget it, it came on at about mile 7 during a training run around Lake Hollingsworth, which is the main running location here in Lakeland, FL. I had the new Black Panther soundtrack streaming in my headphones and on this beautiful day I felt my body go into autopilot on the run and everything slowed down. It was at that moment I went from “I kinda liking running” to really enjoying it!
MSM: Was running something that has always been a part of your life? Was there a CJ The runner back in your days as a youth?
Corey: No Sir! There was no CJ the Runner until summer 2019, although I did train with the track team in high school to stay in shape for football. I was not a fan of the workouts but I wanted to be able to compete when spring football training started. In hindsight, I wish I would have taken track and field a little more seriously. Funny story, I did compete at one track meet and flat out embarrassed myself in the 200-meter event. I had just got new spiked shoes and approached the race with the mindset that I would run as fast as I could, your boy slipped out the block, scrapped my knee, and barely recovered to at least finish the race, I was so ashamed. I didn’t run in another meet again. I guess 10+ years later I’m getting redemption through distance running.
MSM: Lakeland Florida is nestled between Tampa and Orlando. What does run life feel like in the town of Lakeland? Do you find yourself finding it difficult to find runners like us, finding groups to run in that are represented by Black runners?
Corey: A lot of folks casually run/walk Lake Hollingsworth, I’ve mentioned this location several times but it’s a pretty big deal once you can run the 3-mile distance around the lake. Our town has a solid run community with folks of all fitness levels. There aren’t many runners like us that do run at a more consistent run level, only a handful. One morning a couple of months ago, I was doing a threshold run and passed by another Black runner on my usual training path. We connected after that run and had some runs together now. It cracked me up to hear him say he was shocked to see another Black runner up early at 5 am getting after it.
MSM: You’ve been pretty open with sharing your run journey on social media, do you find that you’ve become an inspiration to fellow runners?
Corey: The Instagram run community has become the social media space I never knew I needed. It’s still a little surreal to me to think that my running inspires others. When I started the page I wanted to connect with other runners to learn and get inspired by their track records. After consistently posting, people started reaching out saying they’re encouraged by the work I’m putting in. Friends and family have sent me runs they’ve done just because they saw me being consistent with my running. I’ve received countless messages from strangers about how my race recaps and posts have inspired them to keep working toward their running goals. It all comes back full circle because of the hundreds of runners who inspire me to keep going. It’s a big reason why I continue to post regularly because so many pages helped me reach a new level in my running and I hope my page can do the same for someone else.
MSM: You’ve gained so much knowledge over these last few months, lots of insight. Coach Joyner does have a pretty nice ring to it. Do you see yourself becoming a run coach at some point?
Corey: You know, I won’t rule it out. I joke with some of my friends that I’ll put on my coach CJ the Runner hat when they need running advice. I consider myself still a newbie to the sport, but any knowledge I gain through the journey I share it with others so I can see them win too!
MSM: A 69 minute PR is amazing, as you were running The Space Coast marathon during the race when you realized that you had it, when everything was going to plan and essentially clicking. Was there a moment where you started to get ahead of yourself where you essentially had to say stick to the plan and stay focused?
The Instagram run community has become the social media space I never knew I needed. It’s still a little surreal to me to think that my running inspires others. When I started the page I wanted to connect with other runners to learn and get inspired from their track records. After consistently posting, people started reaching out saying they’re encouraged by the work I’m putting in.
Corey: This is a great question! I felt so relaxed and poised for this race. I viewed it as the last long run after a long build-up from the summer. I set an “A” goal to hit 3:15 for this race and I thought I was on pace but realized my watch splits and the actual race splits were off. At that moment in the 2nd half of the race, I knew the new game was staying in the 3:18, sub 3:20, range. Once I arrived at the last 10km, still feeling great, it felt like a great weight lifted off my shoulders. I knew I was in a position to start picking runners off to pass heading towards that finish line. I kept my effort level high and reinforcing positive thoughts with mantras when it started to get tough. I just kept saying to myself, “You ran 1,400 miles since Miami to this point, what’s 3 more, 2 more, 1 more!” Having a phrase like that will keep you locked in!
MSM: Pre-race preparedness, what changed from Miami to Space Coast physically and mentally?
Corey: Physically, I made sure to log in the miles week in and week out consistently. There are days when I do not feel like getting after it, but the goal is bigger than my feelings so I lace them up and head out for my runs. Mentally, I knew if I just stayed consistent and followed the training, that success in the marathon was inevitable.
MSM: With such a huge improvement in such a short period of time what next for you in 2021? Where do you see yourself leveling up to? What future marathons do you have planned? I feel like sub 3 is the next step and is more than doable.
Corey: 2021 is going to be EPIC! I hired a running coach, 2x Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier Jon Mott. Since the summer, I’ve raced against and watched the progress of his athletes. I believe working with him will be a perfect match to help me reach some lofty goals I’ve set. The next race I have locked in is the Los Angeles Marathon in 2022, deferred from originally this upcoming March. We’ll see what I can get in between now and then! In regards to sub 3, I don’t want to rush the process on that goal. It’s not necessarily the “next step”, but it’s definitely coming. Stay Tuned!
MSM: Any last words you’d like to share with our readers?
Corey: Never stop being curious about how to get better at this sport. As simple as it is, we can always learn more and do more to get better day in and day out.
MSM: Once again we thank you for taking the time to speak with us and wish you nothing but the best for 2021 my fellow run brother, run safe and run strong.
Corey: Thanks again for having me!