The Wife’s Perspective on a Career Change

As of 2014 our family will be officially going through some big changes as Alan makes the transition from runner to triathlete. News broke earlier this week on Alan’s “retirement”. It’s a different retirement than most professional runners go through since he’s actually going to be training more and likely will be continuing to run in races regularly.

Not by choice he is no longer with Nike and realistically will no longer be looking to make any World Championships or Olympics on the track. Since 2007, it has been a bumpy road with so many twists, turns and setbacks that has left Alan unable to recover to his full strength he once had. Witnessing someone continue to exert the same drive and discipline in his training day in, and day out without success has been tough. One disappointment after another and failure to fulfill his potential with his talent has not been for lack of effort. It is unsustainable to continue fighting especially from a psychological standpoint. At this point it makes no sense to keep driving the nail into the ground to leave him bitter. Its been a great run and Alan is very grateful for the success he has had.

alanCvilleSince summer, my coach Jon Marcus, has taken over the role as coach for Alan as well. Jon knew what Alan did when he was training under Alberto, he knew what he did with Vigilante and he knows what Alan did with Jerry. Not only that, but being a best friend to Alan, he knows the guy. And he was the first and only person to shoot down the idea of triathlon when Alan mentioned it this summer. Jon knows the lack of consistency to stick with one training plan has been a big reason for the lack of results and the last thing he wanted to see was Alan jumping ship again first sign of failure.

What makes some guys the best is they find what works for them and stick to that plan. Bernard Lagat may be 39 years old, but he has got the “what works for Bernard Lagat plan down”. Even with Scott Raczko, Alan had his best years, but there was still a lack of consistency in their training plans which resulted in rollercoaster results. Jon was not initially supportive in this change to triathlon because he has seen the amount of changes Alan has gone through the past 5 years. He did not want this to be another cop out of trying something (Jerry) for less than a year; giving up because it failed to work right away. With another year past followed by a 13:37 5000m on the track, 7th place at the Turkey Trot in sub 14 and a dismal 32nd place at Clubs after chasing after the win; it’s confirmation that its time to pursue his next dream.

With all these changes, we can’t go back. Were there mistakes made? Yes. Stupid decisions. Definitely. What’s done is done and the only thing we have is now and the future. Could Alan possibly keep plugging along getting the formula right to train and maybe run 3:53 in the mile or 13:15 for 5K? Possibly. Would anyone really care? Likely not since it would be a shadow of what he once did when he ran 3:46 and was part of America’s hope for distance running. Could he make another world team and be in contention for a medal? Doubtful. He’s not delusional and knows the level of competition has stepped up big time since he first turned professional in the early 2000s. Would Alan really have the mentality and belief in himself after all that has happened to make the sacrifices knowing the chances for a full comeback are so slim? Probably not. The heavy burden of constantly falling short of your goals takes a big toll and carries over. Winning is a habit and so consequently, losing becomes a habit. Once you lose your momentum, it is very hard to bring it back when your confidence is down.

So.. no more lamenting the past, the start of a new career is just around the corner. In March he will step on the line to compete in his first olympic distance triathlon. The US could use more talent. In the 2012 Olympics, with 3 open spots, only 2 men represented the US including 37 year old veteran Hunter Kemper in his 4th Olympic appearance. The US men have never won a medal after its first appearance in the Olympic games in Sydney (2000).

Currently one of the of the best female triathletes Gwen Jorgensen was once a standout runner which has brought her weapon of speed on the road to become a threat to the world scene. High school sub-4 minute miler Lukas Verzbicas, decided to make the switch to triathlon after only a season of collegiate running. He didn’t get to show his full potential yet after suffering in a bike accident which threatened his ability to even walk in 2011.

Lukas is healthy now, and it was funny that 2 of the 5 people to ever break 4 in high school are now on the same path. This past October, on a trip to watch a San Diego triathlon, Alan was in a pool workout with the kid he had once handed over the Gatorade recipient award to less than 5 years ago. Jesse Thomas, “Mr. Lauren Fleshman”, a former standout steepler at Stanford has made his second career triathlon but also had to overcome recent injury of a broken neck from a bike crash.

Sean Jefferson, another successful runner turned triathlete made history when he and his brother John became the first set of twins to ever break 4:00 in the mile in the same race. Soon all these boys will meet again.

There’s big competition but big hope. The 2012 Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee from Great Britain raced in the 10,000m at Stanford to run 28:32 this past spring. Not discounting the strength of these guys in the water and bike. It is just exciting to know Alan has a chance. The thought of racing this sport brings him excitement.

His abs may have been ripped from all that swimming...

His abs may have been ripped from all that swimming…

but it would take a few years before his legs caught up.

but it would take a few years before his legs caught up.

As a successful swimmer, he could have been pretty good if he would not have started running. He was definitely built for middle distance running over swimming, because my wingspan dominates his by maybe 3 inches and we are only an inch apart in height.  During his freshman year in high school and last competitive season in the pool (while also competing in cross country and track), he came fairly close to qualifying for U.S. Junior Nationals in multiple events. See times below.

Swim times from his last big competition – 1998 Potomac Valley Champs meet–  (qualifying times in red) *many are PRs

100 Breast – 1:00.79 (59.49)
200 Breast – 2:12.09   (2:09.79)
200 IM – 2:00.1 (1:56.29)
400 IM – 4:11.99 (4:08.09)
500 Free – 4:47.00  (4:39.59)
1650 Free – 16:44.4 (16:13.69)

All in 3 days, he had no problem doing 9 races (including prelims and finals).

Unfortunately for Alan, this won't be the kind of bike he'll be riding

Unfortunately for Alan, this won’t be the kind of bike he’ll be riding

Since the summer, Alan has began to make swimming a vital part of his weekly routine and has seen big jumps in improvement from these last 6 months. The bike – another question. In high school he worked in a bike shop and started riding occasionally. This past fall he finally replaced his 13 year old bike (Thanks to Athlete’s Lounge in Portland). The first few weeks, he got a flat tire almost every single ride. No joke, I got the phone call to pick him up just about every time he was out there. After hearing about all these triathletes getting in bike accidents, I’m excited that he minimized some of his chance with the decision to get rollers. This just means another quality memory for Joanie of Alan wearing his altitude mask while he sweats intensely for hours with the windows open throughout the winter.


Before age 2, Joanie already has training with the mask down

Throughout his entire career the question has popped up  “What if Alan did triathlon”. I always wished there were 2 of him, because I know he can be awesome combining the 3 sports. Alan is only doing this because I fully support him. He knows the toll it takes on the family to train endless hours each day and felt guilt after things have not been going as well as he had planned. There’s no way I’d dissuade him to stop pursuing his Olympic dreams. I can’t wait to see what he can do.


  1. Rick Rodriguez · · Reply

    Excited to watch his progress!

  2. Kara Goucher · · Reply

    I am so proud of you both. You have come through so much and are so positive. Keep it rolling with your racing and good luck to Alan! The Gouchers love the Webbs- Colt especially loves Joanie:) Miss you guys, take care, Kara

  3. ErikaDPT · · Reply

    Awesome news and best of luck. The best triathletes are runners. He will likely be a more successful tri star vs track star. HAVE FUN!

  4. Best of luck with the transition (and be sure Alan doesn’t forget to practice triathlon transitions ;)) – Looking forward to seeing how he does!

  5. Very touching post. Ignore all the naysayers and nitpickers, Alan. In masters track, I encounter Olympians (and near Olympians) and former world record-holders who never achieved their former goals. Now in their 50s, 60s and up to the 90s they enjoy a reunion with their one-time joy of competition — and without fan or coach expectations. My hope for you and Alan is that the triathlon (which grew out of a birthday event for the founder of masters track) will give you the same joy.

  6. Jim Lewis · · Reply

    Best of luck to the Webb family!

  7. Great to hear, a huge topic of conversation on Slowtwitch

  8. Barry J. Lee · · Reply

    Julia, you hit the nail on the head when you talked about ALL THE CHANGES… EVERY TIME, Alan had a setback, starting with Ron Warhurst and Michigan, he would change programs and coaches. The only exception, for a time, was with Raczko, and even then he jumped ship. Under Raczko, he broke the American HS mile record which Jim Ryun held for nearly 40 years, and the American mile record, which Steve Scott held for 25 years. Ryun was coached his ENTIRE career by Bob Timmons, and Scott was coached almost his entire career by Len Miller. Alan has had what, 4 different coaches in the last 3 years?!!! To this day, I do not understand why he left Raczko, and I’ve never met the man. I guess my thinking is, is that when someone guides you to breaking two of the oldest and most prestigious records in track, he must have a pretty good idea of what the hell he’s doing, at least as far as you’re concerned.
    As shown by his range from 800-10,000m, Alan is unquestionably, one of the most talented runners ever. But what he needs to do, is get in a program, AND STAY WITH IT, FOR A MINIMUM OF 4-6 YEARS!!!! And yes, Alberto, Jerry. or Jon, could get him back to at least 90% of his prime… But if I were Alan, I would explore the possibility of teaming again with Raczko. I don’t know him, but again, he’s taken Alan to places that only a couple of Americans have been to. I truly believe that if Alan were to commit himself to a program, and stay with it, mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, than he could be a factor in 2016 in the 5 & 10, as well as a 3:53-3:55 mile.
    Alan certainly has nothing to prove to anybody; he’s had one of the greatest careers imaginable. And its obvious the desire to train and compete is still there. But he needs to stop looking for quick fixes, and commit himself to a program and STAY WITH IT….. If he does that, I think he’ll find the peace that has eluded him in his career the last five years, regardless of the outcome.

  9. Webb Fan · · Reply

    Very excited for your family. There are people like myself who have been waiting for this for a long time; not because Alan needs to prove anything else to the world, but because he already gave so much to so many people in the running community. It’s said we go through macro life-cycles that last 7-8 years and after that the brain gets bored and craves new stimulus. This is probably something Alan could look back on and see.

    Finally, Alan goes into this “T1” of sorts and being a natural athlete will surely come out of it with a new zest for athletics he probably hasn’t felt since before 2005 or so. Hopefully he’ll enjoy the process and not put too much pressure on himself. It’ll take 3-4 years for him to hit his peak (relative to himself) in Tri, then he can hold it another 3-4 years before it’s time to experience another area of life.

    Thanks again for the inspiration, Alan, we’ll always be rooting for you.

  10. Sneakin Sally · · Reply

    Good luck Webb family. I’ve been a fan of Alan’s since he was making national news in high school. He inspired a lot of people, make sure he knows that.

  11. Thank you for sharing this. Wishing the Webb family much love, peace and success.

  12. Excited to hear Alan is going to become a triathlete! As a runner-turned-triathlete, I can confirm that it’s the best of both worlds! And I think Alan should sign up for Reston Triathlon – home town race that’s perfectly suited to him with a nice hilly 10K on the trails!

  13. […] so, according to his wife Julia, he’s looking at triathlon for 2014.. Apparently, he was an age-group swimmer at South Lakes […]

  14. As a runner turned multisport athlete, I am very interested to see how he transitions and I wish Alan the best of luck. Tell him to check out the possibilities in duathlon too!

    Will Alan have a “coach” for his new endeavor?

  15. Best of luck. Triathlon seems to be a lot about finding your own personal schedule and just hammering out the workouts which I think Alan will thrive on. You can hit harder workouts more often and also not feel terrible when one goes meh. That should be good for a guy with his work ethic.

  16. Great to hear!
    The favorite picture I still keep at my desk is one of Alan, myself and my 2 year old son back in 2001 at the Prefontaine Classic where he broke the High-School mile record.
    Now my son is running track as a sophomore and understands why I took that picture!

  17. As a huge fan of Alan’s since my high school days, when he was dominating the mile scene, I am loving this move to triathlon! Hopefully I’ll see him out on some of the local race courses, where he can destroy me along with the rest of the field. Best wishes Alan!

  18. Exciting times! Good Luck!

  19. Great insights and great writing. I wish you guys all the best.

  20. I think this is wonderful! And I think Alan is so lucky to have you as a life-partner, Julia. Your unwavering support and recognition of Alan’s value as a PERSON and not just an athlete is the best gift you can give him. And kudos to you for being his press-agent here about these big decisions. On a side-note: as a female athlete myself, I’ve been thrilled to watch your own progress and success as an athlete after the birth of Joanie. I’m rooting for Team Webb!

  21. Frank Muriithi · · Reply

    Am a big fan of Webb !! Good luck man

  22. Alan Webb is the most talented middle distance star the US has ever seen.
    Whatever he does, I hope he’s happy and wish him well.

  23. Looking forward to Alan’s transition and is great to hear how excited the both of you are. I remember watching him my freshman year in high school when he broke Jim Ryun’s record mile. He is going to do great! Hope all is well with the Webb family. Take care and I look forward to following the Webb family—thanks to Kara who shared this page on her Facebook page. 🙂
    Happy Training

  24. I’ve looked up to Alan since I saw him dominate the VA State HS XC meet when I was an 8th grader (and he was a senior). Even when he hasn’t lived up to the expectations placed upon him, he’s always had compassion for the sport and a positive outlook. I’m sure he’ll do great in triathlons!

  25. tony kaleth · · Reply

    Thanks for the inspiration. I can only imagine the frustration of these last few years and the confusion. You handled it better than most. I hope that you’ll be surprised and inspired by the new challenge in front of you. I also think (and hope) that you’ll revisit the track in the near future as your fitness grows. You are still an awesome runner (and athlete). Best wishes.

  26. […] whose official running retirement announcement came on Saturday through a blog post made by wife (after rumors of his retirement began swirling last week), was a talented age group swimmer before […]

  27. […] whose official running retirement announcement came on Saturday through a blog post made by wife (after rumors of his retirement began swirling last week), was a talented age group swimmer before […]

  28. […] whose official running retirement announcement came on Saturday through a blog post made by wife (after rumors of his retirement began swirling last week), was a talented age group swimmer before […]

  29. I am really excited to follow his progress in triathlon. Best wishes!

  30. I’m excited to see what Alan can do in the tri. What a great talent!

  31. […] rer, Running, Swimming, Triathlon Lucho and Tawnee team up for Ask the Coaches, including talk of Alan Webb moving to triathlon and one of our biggest tangents to date (at 1:16 in the show): -What do you want to see on a video […]

  32. Your style is unique compared to other people I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, guess I will just bookmark this page.

    triathlon events

  33. runner · · Reply

    Mr. Alan Webb, you do not know me and perhaps never will, but I first remember seeing you on the front page of the New York Times many years ago and read the book sub four a few years later. I followed you from time to time and just happened to go to the same college as you, but not at the same times. I even got to see you run a race in real life in new york city. I ran track and field also all throughout these times. Following you has been very interesting all these years and I will continue to follow you in the triathlon. Your child has good genes for running — I hope Alberto Salazar can train your child and can win your gold medal for you.

  34. Hi, I’m trying to reach Mr. Alan Webb. I work for one of the largest direct selling companies in the world. We have been inspired by Alan’s story and accomplishments. Our president, Scott Schwerdt, has asked that I reach out to inquire if we could set up a call to discuss using part of Alan’s story (for compensation) to inspire some of our leaders at an upcoming convention in October. Please give me a call 801-851-0611 or email me back. Thanks for your consideration.

  35. I read about Alan in BORN TO RUN by Christopher McDougall. The statement that your husband initially had flat feet and a coach in high school helped him to strengthen and re-shape his feet was startling. Though he is on a rigorous training schedule and you have limited family time, is it possible that you could share with me the name of the coach or a printed information source? In my 60s, I’m having real issues with foot pain while simply trying to walk with my lifelong flat feet.
    Good luck to you both on living fulfilled lives.

    1. This piece on Alan’s miraculous foot change in the book has been something we have been frequently asked about, and not sure where the author initially got his information.. the real truth, Alan still has relatively flat feet, but with his training (as you mentioned), he was able to become more efficient running and his feet strong enough to allow him to run with an optimal foot mechanics. Now he doesn’t need massive amounts of stability in his shoes, yet it was likely possible the first person to “fit” him as a freshman in highschool- in the Etonic Stable Pros (heavily posted), was overdoing it, and likely he was just in a much too big size (think when kids assume their foot will keep growing, their parents recommend they go a little bigger in case). He still prefers a shoe with a small amount of posting (ie: Nike Structure, Saucony Guide); and for years in the peak of his career, typically wore SuperFeet inserts in his shoes. So, yeah, wish I could give you some magical answer, but there really isn’t any! His high school coach is Scott Raczko who resides in Reston, Virginia. Best of luck !!

      1. I thank you for your answer. Your time is more greatly appreciated! All the best to you, your family, and your husband in reaching all of your goals!

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