3:59 Miler Matt Daniels on 150-mile weeks, Zone 1, and the Scariest Events He’s Ever Run

Only a tiny fraction of the population has run a sub-4 minute mile. It’s an incredible accomplishment. But this week’s guest has achieved something even more rare: successfully evolving from a sub-4 athlete to an accomplished trail and ultramarathon runner!

While most of the world outside of the United States tends to focus on the 1500m, the mile is a legendary and beloved part of racing history in the United States. Less than 2 weeks ago Yared Nuguse broke Alan Webb’s American record in the mile by nearly 3 seconds, which had stood since 2007. The list of those who have gone under 4 minutes for the mile is an especially elite group!

Rarely do middle distance runners turn their focus to competitive trail and ultrarunning, as the events appear to be at the opposite ends of the racing spectrum. But for some, the allure of each is equally strong in its own way. And learning how to be successful in the long term at either distance requires learning how to listen to your body, stay injury free, and find a community that you can thrive in.

On the podcast this week is an athlete who has found success on both the track and trails. Matt Daniels is a professional athlete for Nike Trail Running who focuses on ultramarathon distances. 

Matt Daniels on ultra running, racing the mile, and how to stay healthy

Matt’s story is unique. He was a competitive yet injury-prone runner in high school, who temporarily stopped running when he entered the Navy. After two and a half years he was honorably discharged and moved to Colorado where he ran for Adams State and rediscovered his love of running with the help of his coach, Damon Martin.

Matt focused on the mile in college, but also ran a variety of other distances to support his team. He placed 7th in the NCAA 1500m, contributing to Adams State’s first ever 1st place team finish in the Outdoor NCAA Championships. After college Matt began to focus on longer distance racing, entering his first trail race on a bit of a whim. He has been successful at ultra trail running ever since, most recently winning the Gorge Waterfalls 50k earlier this year and competing at UTMB this summer.

Matt and I discuss our shared love of the mile and how his college coach helped to shape him. 

We delve into:

  • The events Matt ran in college and his experiences as a middle distance runner
  • Matt’s unique comparison of the 3k and the 50 mile distances
  • How his first trail race led him down the path to ultra running
  • Typical training weeks for ultra races with different terrain and distances
  • How Matt’s college coach had a long term impact on all of his relationships
  • Learning to get comfortable with slower ultra paces
  • Great options for a fun first 50k!

While Matt’s success at a variety of distances is unique, his story of injury, recovery and learning how to get the best from himself is entirely relatable. Enjoy our conversation!

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