Gary N. Koutsoubos – Gary is a Runner

Photo by: Nicholas Jamora (IG: @ncj_phto)

Gary Koutsoubos, you most likely know him by his Instagram name Gary Is a Runner. Gary has been super consistent over the past few months as he’s currently getting ready for the New York City marathon this November. Gary recently ran a 322-mile September which should give you an idea of the hammer he’s preparing to drop for that race. Gary’s transformation has been amazing, and he only continues to get better. This month Gary shares his journey with our readers as we dive into his running journey, his drive, his why and most of all his inspiration.

MSM: So, you’ve been running for a minute, for you it goes back to your college days and I’m sure high school as well. How did you fall in love with running and when did you know that this was indeed something that you wanted to focus on.

Gary: I was riding the bus home in 8th grade when I saw a friend of mine who was a freshman wearing his brand-new varsity jacket for lettering in Cross Country. We had just run the mile in middle school PE, and I knew I was decent, so I thought, “I bet I could do that.” Sure enough, I surprised a lot of folks, including myself, and had a standout freshman year of Cross Country and earned a letter and jacket. From then on, I was hooked on running.

MSM: You’ve conquered the 26.2 distance 9 times. That’s super impressive, once thing i like to focus on is the journey, every marathon isn't the same and each one is a different journey. Give us some insight from your first marathon up to now and even the process of training for NYCM.

Gary: I always try to incorporate something new into each new training segment. I feel like when I ran my first marathon in 1996, I was starting from the bottom. The only thing I had going for me was my consistent training as a member of the college cross-country and track team. Lansing Community College was the host of the NCJAA Marathon National Championships that year and we treated it like any other race, no specific training, just keep fit and get to the line healthy.

Looking back on it now, I realize I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have a training plan, goal time, race strategy of any kind, much less a fueling strategy, whatever that meant. LOL. I came away from that race with a positive experience, posting a 3:18 finish. I didn’t bonk or hurt myself (except for the chafing. Again, no idea Body Glide was a thing.) It was a great way to end my college career and for a long time, my running career.

Fast forward 20 years, when I returned to running, I signed up for the 2017 Detroit Free Press (Freep) Marathon in early January. The race was in October, so I had some time to prepare. My training for the Freep wasn’t much different than my prep for the NJCAA, except this time I had a training plan. Nothing fancy, just mileage. No speedwork or anything like that. Unfortunately, I also learned a new term: IT Band. A weak IT Band put my marathon dreams on hold until I recovered. Once I was ready to train again, I signed up for the 2018 Bayshore Marathon, with the same type of training plan, this time I added foam rolling as a recovery tool. While the mechanics of running hadn’t changed much, it seemed everything else had. I felt like I needed to play catch-up on all the new technology, recovery tools, shoes and really the science of it all. 

Following Bayshore, I slowly added those new elements into training, including speedwork, strength training, dynamic warm-ups, shoe rotations, etc. For the NYC training block, I have added a focus on mindset. I’m learning to stay in the mile I am in, keep my thoughts on the goal at hand, to not panic if things do not seem to be going the way I had envisioned.  And most of all Trust the Process.  

MSM: Out of all those marathons, what was the one that stood out to you the most? Most importantly, when did you know that the marathon distance was indeed something that you wanted to tackle. Running a marathon isn’t easy, heck the training itself isn't for the faint of heart.

Gary: The 2021 Boston Marathon, the year that they held it in October. This was my second attempt at breaking 3 hours and I really locked into my training in anticipation for the tough Boston course. The reason this race stands above the rest is not because I PR’d with a 2:55. It was because I ran the race perfectly. I held true to my game plan. I kept it easy for the first 16 miles, much of which was downhill and then I attacked the Newton Hills and when I got to the top of Heartbreak, I had the energy to let it rip. I put in some of my fastest miles ever on a marathon course for that last 10K. I felt amazing and I hope to be able to put together a race like that again.

I knew I wanted to be a marathoner training for the Detroit marathon. I felt like I adapted well to the long run and once I realized I had some talent leftover from college, I began to believe I had what it takes to make a go for a BQ. Having achieved that goal, I want to keep pushing to see how much faster I can get while I can.

MSM: Your mileage is impressive, well above 200 per month. That's a lot of miles each week. If you want to get ready you must stay ready. What's the typical week like for you when it comes to your training? 

Gary: I have been using the Hanson’s Marathon Method for the past few years now, which consists of three Something of Substance (SOS) days, usually Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, 3 days at an easy pace and then a day off (Wednesday). For the past few blocks, I have adjusted this a bit to be in line with my friends Tommie Runz and Aaron Barnett’s schedules. So now my week is a Wednesday SOS Day, which consists of speedwork and a combined SOS day on Sunday that puts together a long run and some tempo work in the middle. This gives me Friday off so I can rest a bit between the Wednesday work and the Sunday work.

MSM: For our readers that are looking to become better runners which you’ve done over the last couple of years, what would you suggest, what type of runs or workouts would you recommend that would help fellow runners to the next level whilst meeting their full potential.

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