The Ingredients of Improvement: How Doug Hay Progressed Over 10 Years

Progress is what made me fall in love with running in 1998. If I put in the work, I improved – and that was intoxicating.

Jason high school

Jason leading a 2-mile in 2002

In hindsight, running is what created my growth mindset. When I planned for growth and then it happened (!), my inner sense of agency was ignited. I knew I was in control of my progress.

And there are so many ways to grow as a runner:

  • Run longer than you ever have before
  • Complete a workout faster than before
  • Race a new Personal Best in any distance
  • Build a bigger base with higher mileage
  • Finish a run streak, running more days in a row than ever before
  • Set a monthly or annual mileage PR (this is one of my favorites for its focus on the long-term)

When these improvements are stacked on top of each other, real improvement naturally follows. And often, training PR’s are necessary before you accomplish a series of racing PR’s.

Today I want to dive deeper into the topic of improvement. How does it happen? What are the mindset shifts, training principles, and strategies that allow runners to continue progressing year after year?

Ultimately, this is the million dollar question in the sport of running: how do we keep getting better?

To give this topic as much context as possible, I invited a “regular runner” (not an elite or someone who can run a 2:25 marathon) onto the Strength Running Podcast to discuss the last 10 years of his training.

I think it’s important to highlight someone who hasn’t won the genetic lottery and isn’t competing at the top of the sport.

He’s a dad, a husband, and sometimes he doesn’t run as much as he’d like.

He’s a lot like us. Meet Doug Hay.

Doug Hay’s Improvement: 2010 – 2020


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

I first met Doug Hay in 2012 for a trail run in Rock Creek Park. At the time, he had only been running for a few years but was quickly smitten by the peaceful grandiosity of trail running and exploring the woods.

As someone who ran his first marathon on a whim (he agreed to it after a few beers one night…), Doug quickly transformed himself into a competent and experienced trail ultramarathoner.

He’s now run 100 miles (or more) five times. His idea of a fun weekend is going on a 12-hour adventure summiting peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains. And he has a 100-mile race coming up in May…

You might know Doug as the creative force behind Rock Creek Runner or as the cohost of No Meat Athlete Radio with Matt Frazier.

Or, from one of our earlier conversations about trail running.

But today we’re not talking about trails or ultras. We’re talking about development, progress, improvement, and growth.

We’re discussing how Doug went from non-runner to ultra endurance athlete – and how you can, too.

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunesSpotifyStitcheriHeartRadio, or Google Play.

Show Links & Resources:

I also want to thank SteadyMD for sponsoring this episode. SteadyMD pairs you with a primary care doctor, online who’s available via phone, text, or video for all of your needs.

And not just any doctor, but a fellow runner who understands the training process, your recovery needs, repetitive stress injuries, and can easily order you blood work, referrals for specialists, and more.

Visit SteadymD to learn more about this innovative medical service for endurance runners and reserve your spot.

Get Stronger & Run Healthy

Join our free course to help you better prevent injuries, develop runner-specific strength, and avoid the big mistakes that get runners hurt