The Running Man Taggart VanEtten

Taggart VanEtten is a teacher who recently broke the 100 mile treadmill record in 11:32:05, and his next target is going sub 11 for 100 miles during a 24 race inside a Dome. We had a chat with this 25-year old runner from Morton, Illinois who has a solid triathlon background, and still some unfinished business in triathlon.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time.

Taggart: Thanks for having me Herbert! I love taking the opportunity to be interviewed on Slowtwich.

ST: I believe you are getting ready for an event called 6 Days in The Dome, but what you have in mind is not short in distance but well short of 6 days.

Taggart: Yes, on June 19th I am going to Six Days in The Dome. I will be starting with the 24 hours section and running only 100 miles. At the race they have 24 hours, 48 hours, and Six Day events so, my 100 mile effort will be a drop in the bucket compared to some runners there.

ST: What inspired you to chase that sub 11 time and why in the Dome?

Taggart: Going under 11 hours in a 100 mile run is something that’s never been done before. I’d say in the past year the flat 100-mile distance has been getting more attention. Just like in anything from the mile to the marathon runners make feats that show going under a specific time is possible. Like a domino effect. I want to be that guy for the 100-mile distance.

I chose the Dome because it is a 440-meter indoor track surrounding an ice-skating rink. The temperate is kept around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no wind. Plus, I can get aid every one minute and thirty-nine seconds. It’s a fast surface that I only have to worry about running 6:35 minute per mile pace.

ST: You also broke the 100-mile treadmill world record recently in a bar on Zwift, and your time of 11:32:05 was well under the previous record time of Zach Bitter. Did the bar patrons appreciate your effort?

Taggart: [Laughs] Yes, they did. My crowd had the place packed all day ordering food and drinks. There were so many people present that during the final three hours of the run the building’s air conditioner couldn’t keep up and the temperature was over 80 degrees.

ST: Did that rising temperature bother you?

Taggart: I wouldn’t say the rising temperature bothered me. It just forced me to maintain pace rather than speeding up the final 25 miles as I had planned. I called my team of guys over to the treadmill and we had a conversation over what I should do. I wanted to run 11:19, it would’ve made my second 100 mile run one hour faster than my first. But they were able to talk me out of it. The plan was 11:39 and they knew I was eyeing the all surfaces 100-mile record 6 weeks after. So, it was agreed to stick with the plan.

ST: I think you had 2 Matrix treadmills in that bar, and I would think the second one was there in case the first one decided to give up. Or was that so others could run next to you?

Taggart: Yes, I had two Matrix treadmills. The second one was there for both instances. In case the other failed and for people to run next to me. From miles 1-99 I always had a runner beside me.

ST: Were the folks running beside you all runner friends, or did some bar patrons decide to give it a go?

Taggart: Everyone running beside me were my running friends. My team created an excel spreadsheet for people to sign up for running next to me.

ST: And do you run on a Matrix treadmill at home?

Taggart: I do not own a Matrix treadmill at home. I run on them at the Gold’s Gym I am a member of.

ST: Did you have any equipment or connection issues that day?

Taggart: Thankfully, we didn’t have any equipment or connection issues. Both treadmills were plugged into separate breakers. Then, I had a backup generator for the treadmills, my fans, and computer. So, it was all on me to finish!

ST: Which shoes did you use and how did you connect to Zwift?

Taggart: I wore the Hoka Carbon X 2 and I connected to Zwift by the Stryd Foot Pod.

ST: Do you run regularly in these shoes, and which other shoes do you like, both indoor and on the mill?

Taggart: I do not regularly run in the Carbon X 2. But I do regularly run in the Bondi. I would say 80% of my weekly mileage are ran in the Bondi. It’s the most cushioned shoe Hoka makes. With on average running 200+ miles per week it keeps me injury free. However, sometimes when I’m on the treadmill since it flexes so much I prefer a little bit of a lighter shoe and I own a pair of Asics Novablast for this. I own a pair of Nike Pegasus 36 trail shoes for the few times a year I want to go off road. When I am going very long on the weekends I run in a carbon fiber plate shoe since that’s what I’ll be wearing on race day.

ST: Talk also about your nutrition during that effort.

Taggart: Every 2 miles I ate two salt stick fast chews. Every 4 miles I either ate a GU Gel, Honey Stinger Waffle, ClifBlok 6 pack, or a banana. Starting at 30 miles I added in a Salt Stick Capsule every 4 miles, and at 60 miles I switched to a Salt Stick Capsule that had additional caffeine. Whenever, I felt tightness in my legs I would take a large gulp of pickle juice.

ST: Is pickle juice also your secret sauce in other endurance efforts?

Taggart: Hahaha I wouldn’t say it’s a secret. My secret sauce is just plain ole hard work.

ST: Have you talked with Zach Bitter since?

Taggart: Zach and I have talked a few times since the effort! He’s going to help me approach Six Days.

ST: I interviewed John Kelly after his Barkley Marathons win and in that interview I called him a triathlete. He corrected me after and said that he is really an ultra-runner who does triathlon. How would you describe yourself?

Taggart: My description is kind of complicated. I have a bigger background in 70.3 racing than I do in ultra. But I also want to run a 2024 marathon OTQ. For the past 10 months I’d call myself an ultra-runner. However, for four years before this I was a triathlete.

ST: What is your day job?

Taggart: I have the best career in the world. I teach Kindergarten through 8th grade Physical Education. Then I coach 7th & 8th grade boys’ baseball, basketball, and track. I am living the dream.

ST: Have some of the kids you teach been inspired by your running adventures?

Taggart: I would say my athletes are a little inspired. I mean they are teenagers after all. Most of them think I’m a little crazy. But overall, I’d say the whole student body I teach are great kids.

ST: Talk about your athletic background.

Taggart: Back in high school I wrestled. I didn’t even start running track or cross country until I was 17. After high school I had a failed collegiate career in running and this is when I found new light in triathlon. Like I said earlier I did triathlons for a while. After my triathlon season concluded in 2019; I ran the Indianapolis Marathon in 2:37 from only 22 miles per week of running. In 2020 I made the switch to marathon to start training for an OTQ. Because of the pandemic I couldn’t run a marathon. In July of 2020 I chose to start training for ultra. In November it brought me to 12:19 in my first ultra – a 100 mile run at Tunnel Hill.

ST: That is a very impressive time for 100 miles. Be it the first or 10th effort.

Taggart: Thank you! I have been lucky to find out quickly how to train for ultra-marathons and figuring out what works for me. Training and nutrition is something that is different for every athlete. It’s not a one size fits all.

ST: What is the name of your first triathlon and how did it go?

Taggart: The Tremont Triathlon was my first triathlon in 2015! It is a 400-meter pool swim, 15.5-mile bike ride, and a 5K run. Considering I had never swum in life and picked up a road bike road bike the night before I’d say it went well. I got through the finish line and instantly knew I was hooked.

ST: Which event was your favorite one to date?

Taggart: My favorite event to date would have to be my treadmill world record. I was surrounded by my family and friends all day. Then I got off the treadmill, hugged my mom, and popped a bottle of champagne. I’ll never have a finish line with that many of my loved ones there. Truly, it was special.

ST: And in terms of triathlon?

Taggart: My favorite triathlon race was the 2019 Grand Rapids half iron distance when I was 23. It was the first time I had really felt I competed with some top level age groupers. I swam around 29 minutes. Then I split 2:21 on the bike and wrapped the day up with a 1:22 run. My run should’ve been a few minutes faster but I forgot to slip on my socks and by the end they were bleeding like stuffed pig. This day showed me I could nearly swim with the front pack. I can get through a rainy bike ride. Then I was able to prevail in the run. I think I was the only person in the top 10 under 30.

ST: But no Iron distance yet?

Taggart: Not yet but that will change very shortly!

ST: What kind of bike do you ride?

Taggart: Before I left triathlon I rode a Felt IA16 with a Flo Disc and a Zipp Front. I had full Ultegra on the bike too. However, after I switched to marathon training - I sold the bike. Now, I just have my old roadie on my Wahoo Kickr.

ST: And do you ride on Zwift too?

Taggart: Oh yes. I love Zwift. To be completely honest, I never did any bike specific workouts. I just raced on Zwift 2-3 times per week. I know that approach probably isn’t the greatest idea for training but it is what I enjoyed.

ST: What is on your schedule after the Dome?

Taggart: You asked earlier if I had done an iron distance race yet and I haven’t, but that will change this summer. On August 22 I will be lining up for the full 140.6 distance at Michigan Titanium. Although, I haven’t swum since October 2019 I’m hoping I can get the feel back for the water if I swim 4,000-5,000 yards per day for eight weeks. Then I’m confident my aerobic engine will nicely transfer back to cycling. My legs will need a break from ultra-marathon training. I couldn’t think a better way than spending an Illinois summer in the pool and on the saddle. I will resume ultra-marathon training this fall. I have not yet decided in terms of which races.

ST: Anything else we should know?

Taggart: You asked earlier how I described myself. I’d say I’m just a 25-year-old guy working the best job and finding my limits in triathlon, marathons, and ultra. I’m an endurance junkie who wants to do it all. I love training and racing. I’m grateful I have the opportunity to work out every day and race when I want to.