Exclusive Interview with Master's Men's National Club XC Champion Malcolm Campbell

This is the first in a series of interviews with elite athletes who, for various reasons, don’t make the pages of the running and triathlon magazines. First up, Malcolm Campbell from Marietta, GA.

Cross-country running doesn’t get much airtime here in the U.S. We can watch Boston and New York marathons live and stream the Ironman World Championships from Kona, but when it comes to the World Cross-Country Championships, well, that’s hard to find anywhere. It’s a shame because it’s always fun to watch. As a teenager I loved sitting down to watch the annual event with full coverage from the BBC.

So it’s not surprising that most people, even those who are runners, weren’t aware that last weekend, the USATF National Club Cross-Country Championships were held at Jefferson Park in Seattle. This is a big event for clubs across the U.S.; the championships offer a total prize purse of $30,000, with $25,000 going to the top open teams. The event has both Open and Master’s (40+) divisions, male and female. The women run 6km while the men run 10km. This is the way it is in cross-country.

I was delighted when I heard that my longtime friend Malcolm Campbell had won the Master’s Men’s race in 32:13, leading the Atlanta Track Club to the men’s 40+ team title.

Leading the pack

Some of us can only wonder what it's like to run through the tape...











Campbell and cross-country go way back. He’s been winning cross-country titles since he was a teenager and has represented Great Britain at two World Cross-Country Championships. He’s no stranger to the road, either. Now a U.S. citizen, Campbell represented the U.S. at the World 50K Trophy in August 2010, finishing 6th in  2:58.18. (Michael Wardian was 3rd in 2:54.56). He has run in four Olympic Trials and has a marathon PR of 2:18:41. He lives in Marietta, GA with his wife and young son.

I caught up with Malcolm soon after the race. I’d been thinking about asking him if he’d do an elite runner interview, and with his recent win, figured now would be the perfect time. Turns out Running Times had got to him first. Their article comes out on their website on Thursday, (Malcolm says it’s typical of ultra-competitive me to get mine out the day before) but they’re only covering Saturday’s event. I promised Malcolm that my interview would be much more revealing.

Racingtales: Congrats on your win. Let’s get right down to the important stuff.  How did you celebrate?

MC:  My team and I had a fun time at the Post-Race party on Saturday night in Seattle.  I normally go to bed at around 9pm but stayed up that night until 2am!  The party was sponsored by a local brewery and some people got pretty crazy.  It was a fun night but we were able to get up and meet at 6:30am Sunday morning for a recovery run around Seattle.  My rule has always been “If you go out at night, you’ve got to get up early in the morning.”  This mantra tends to keep me out of trouble.

Racingtales: You’ve been running and racing at a high level since you were 12. What do you think keeps you staying healthy and relatively injury free?

MC: I’m a stretching fiend.  Also, I’m a really big fan of icing, epsom salt baths, cold laser treatment, chiropractic and deep tissue massage.  It helps that my wife is a practitioner in this field.

Racingtales:  How is the 40-year-old you different from the 20-year-old?

MC: I find it’s so much more important to listen to my body.  At 20, if I strained a quad I would just train through it until it went away. Nowadays, I re-engineer my training to protect the injury, taking time off when necessary. If I didn’t stretch at 20 I just lacked a little mobility. If I don’t stretch now I’ll pull a muscle.  However, what I’ve lost physically, I’ve gained mentally. I can mentally handle a much larger and more complete training program. I also focus much more on nutrition than I did 20 years ago.

Racingtales:  What does your typical training week look like?

MC: It’s taken a while but I’m now at a stage where I can handle a pretty comprehensive training plan. I run split workouts.  This is basically two smaller workouts that when added together are better than I could do in one single workout.* I started this during the hot summer months two years ago and loved the results:

Typical Week:

Sunday – Long Run (17-20M)/ 1M easy, 1M Strides, 1M easy

Monday – 7M easy/ 5-6M easy

Tuesday – 2M easy, 2M Fartlek, 2M easy/ 2M easy, 2x2M Hard, 2M easy

Wednesday – 8-10M easy/ 4-6M easy

Thursday – 2M easy, 12x200M, 2M easy/ 2M easy, 2M Hard Fartlek or Hills, 2M easy

Friday – 4M easy/ Rest

Saturday – 2M easy, 5-10M Tempo Run, 2M easy/ 0-6M easy

Total Mileage for Week = 85 – 96 Miles

Racingtales:  What do you eat before races? After?

MC: If the race is shorter than a Half Marathon I don’t eat a great deal, maybe a banana, GU gel and an energy bar, along with plenty of water.  After all races I like to eat a lot.  This is pretty normal food, nothing unusual.  However, I am quite particular about taking a ‘smoothie’ type drink (most often Vega) and a gel within 15 minutes of most of my runs.  I’m a big fan of several companies, but lately I have been benefitting from Vega and GU energy gels.

If I am running a longer distance race then I get up extra early to be able to stomach a larger nutrition intake, typically including bananas, cereal, yogurt, toast and a nutritional supplement such as Vega Whole Food Optimizer and a Vega Whole Food Energy Bar.  After long efforts, I follow the same plan nutritionally.

Racingtales: What’s your favorite race distance and why?

MC: I like the marathon, mainly because of the intense training and planning involved.  I enjoy tough challenges.  If I had more time I would love to try an Ironman, purely due to the ultimate challenge it provides.

Racingtales:  How do you stay motivated to train?

MC: I think I’m just wired to train hard.  When I take a break I’m far more tired and irritable than when I’m training hard.  I just feel more ‘Me’ when I’m training.  It just makes sense to me.  Some early mornings are hard, just as it is for everyone, but I love the sense of achievement it provides me.

Racingtales: How do you find balance between family, work, and training?

MC:  It’s very hard.  I typically make sure all my training is completed first thing in the morning and at lunchtime.

Racingtales: I know you work full-time as a financial analyst, but have you ever considered a career in coaching?

MC:  Actually, I am going to start private coaching in January, both in-person and online.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  If anyone is interested they can contact me at malcolmcampbell1@yahoo.com (Shameless plug)

Racingtales: That’s OK. I shamelessly invited you for an interview to increase my readership.

Racingtales: Scenario: You wake up at 5am for a hard tempo run to find it’s pouring out and your training partner has bailed. What do you do?

MC: This actually occurred on my one evening workout I do, a couple of weeks ago.  On Tuesday evenings I quite often go to the track. This one evening it was pouring down and I was on my own.  My workout was supposed to be 8x1Km, but I couldn’t run the required pace due to the wind/rain. So I went straight into a tough 3M + 2M tempo.  I ended up running close to 5 minute mile pace for the whole workout, which I was very proud of considering the weather. Sometimes, you have to be flexible while understanding limitations.  The following Tuesday I nailed the 8x1Km workout, in beautiful conditions!

Racingtales: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

MC: I think my first National Championship at age 16 (1987 English Schools – Equivalent to the Kinney Champs).  I was not the favorite so I went off very hard; I think I shocked my competitors.  They let me go and I came home victorious.  I remember hearing “We are the Champions” on the radio on the way home.  I still love that song.

Racingtales: What are some of your most memorable running moments?

MC: When I got my first international [first time he was selected to run for Great Britain] I slept in my outfit.  I also have fond memories of running in two World Cross Championships and four Olympic Trials. Winning the Master’s XC Champs this past weekend was extra special as well, especially as my team also won the team event.

Racingtales:You’ve raced several Ultras, including a 50K on the U.S. team. Do you plan to do more?

MC: I would like to run Western States 100M and get a Silver Belt Buckle, but not yet.  As a fairly new Master’s runner, I have plenty on my plate right now.  I’m looking to run a few marathons next year including Twin Cities, Grandmas and possibly Boston, as well as several Half Marathons. My primary goal is to break 2:18 next year at age 41.  I really want to get much faster in 2012.

Racingtales: Thoughts on the recent IAAF decision that women’s times set under “mixed” conditions are ineligible for World Record status?  (Yeah, we ask the hard questions here…)

MC: I can understand it, as it is easier to run if you are being paced, but men can also be paced by other male competitors in races.  It’s a little unfair to punish a lady in a mixed race.  I think that National Organizations should not interfere as much as they do. I am very much against the new Olympic Trials Qualification criteria. Why limit the field by only inviting fewer than 200 people on a course that can easily handle many more? I think the old criteria worked so well (i.e., having an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ standard that was reasonable for younger athletes to attain).  In the ladies’ trials the two standards are available but for the men they’re not.  I think we should be encouraging men and women to try to qualify for the trials and fulfill their dreams.  A few years ago Mark Steinle was allowed to run the trials without a qualifying time.  He went on to make the Olympic team that year.

Racingtales: Thanks, Malcolm. Good luck in 2012.

If you haven’t had enough, here’s a  Post-race Interview Video from RunnerSpace.

*Interestingly, January’s Running Times magazine (available now) has an article on this very subject. There are numerous reported benefits of doubling, including enhanced recovery and increased adaptation.


  1. Lisa McClellan says:

    Great interview…Congratulation Malcolm!

  2. Nice interview. I almost feel like I know Malcolm…wait I do…Congrats Malcolm, Well Done!!

  3. Iain Donnelly says:

    I was with Malcolm when he won the English Schools in 1987, it makes me smile when he says he went off “very hard”, as a kid he didn’t know any other way! For someone who did not have it too easy growing up, Malcolm manages to have a personality that appeals to everyone.
    ps this is written post Boston Mara 2013, #runforboston

    • Racingtales says:

      Hi Iain! Wow, that was a few years ago! It was great to see Malcolm again. He always runs hard – I don’t think he knows any other way even now. After the race I was complaining about how I started to hurt at mile 10 and ran 16 miles in pain and needed a badge of honor. He said, “my foot hurt the whole way.” So much for my whining. Nice to hear from an old friend of Malcolm’s!


  1. […] Champion title at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. I interviewed him after his win in Seattle last year. He ran 2:22 at both Grandma’s Marathon and Twin Cities […]

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