Philipp Baar is one of Germany’s fastest marathoners. He ran a 2:16 debut marathon earlier this year and has his sights set on much faster in the coming decade. In this podcast episode, Philipp talks about his training, his American college experience, work/life balance, favourite training camp locations and much more.

Enjoy our conversation with Philipp Baar!

Don’t forget to check out our new book: Eliud Kipchoge – History’s fastest marathoner: An insight into the Kenyan life that shapes legends

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Podcast Transcription

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Hi, Philipp Baar we have today on the podcast. Thanks a lot for joining me, Philipp. You are in Berlin right now, in your hometown?

Philipp Baar: Yes, thanks for having me. Yes, sitting in Berlin. It’s morning hours over here and a beautiful day. We’ve had very fortunate weather for Berlin standards this October, so yeah, it’s very exciting. I’m in good mood, you catch me on a good day.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Awesome. And you, earlier this year, in April, you opened up your marathon debut with a very fast 2:16, which is… Which is fast. I mean, there’s not too many people, outside of Africa, I guess, that open up with a debut that quick. So, let’s get straight into it and talk about how that was, and what… Yeah, how you felt about that, and what are the goals moving forward.

Philipp Baar: Yeah, so, basically… Yeah, it was a debut marathon, and I was happy with the performance for the first one. Yet, I still like to remind people that I’m still not the fastest woman out there, so I guess nothing to get too excited about yet. But I was very glad that the first marathon worked out, because I know a lot of people that didn’t really have very nice experiences in their first marathon, so it was really just a matter, for me, of going out a little bit conservative. I was hoping for… To crack the standard for the European championships this year, which was 2:17, for the team, basically. It was, like, a team cup where each country could send six people, and the standard for that was 2:17, so that was, of course, the minimum goal. So we went out accordingly, and about 68:30, pretty much right on. And then a few guys from the group really started grinding it out, and we were moving pretty good at that point. And I was feeling very, very good until about, let’s say, 38 kilometers, so right around maybe 2,5 miles before the finish. And then I, for a second, I was afraid that I was meeting what we call ‘the guy with the hammer’. But it wasn’t too bad, because thankfully, at the 40 kilometers was the next aid station, so I had about two kilometers where I slowed about 10 seconds per kilometer, but then, once I got my next drink, I really, you know, got, like, second life out of myself, and I managed to run the last two kilometers pretty quick. The last one was in 3 flat, and then I actually edged out one of my competitors that day. I beat him just by a few seconds, so I really, like, kicked to the finish line. That was a very important kick, because I was the last guy to make the team for Europeans. So he was the first one out, so I like to say… I like to refer to these 400 meters as the most important 400 meters of my life.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): What was in that drink? You said you took that drink, like, just a couple of kilometers before the end, and then you had a second life. Do you think that had anything to do with how you felt?

Philipp Baar: I like to think that it did, yeah, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have bounced back without it. Well, my drinking strategy was pretty… Pretty much straightforward, also very planned out. So, I’ve been practicing, basically, with Maurten, I’m sure some of you, all of you, have seen it out there, many…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Many of the top runners, you know, all of the NN Running Team use all these different… Yeah.

Philipp Baar: Exactly. Exactly. Practicing with that, it’s really good on the stomach, I’ve really had… Did not have any issues. And so, I like to spike mine a little bit at 15 kilometers and 30 kilometers, I added some extra salt because I’m a pretty heavy sweater.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: So… So I added some extra salt, and I also added some extra caffeine, about milligrams per bottle, so basically, I had eight bottles, one every 5 kilometers, and after roughly 15 minutes and about an hour forty, so 15k and 30k, I had some salt and some caffeine in my bottles, which always kind of help me, you know, stay on the edge, basically. I really like to run with caffeine in my races. I also take a little bit before the races, usually not as a capsule a pill, I usually just drink very, very strong black tea. That works pretty well for me and it’s good on the stomach. And then, during the race, I also like to, yeah, go back to caffeine in the long races. In the half-marathon, I don’t really use it that much during the race at all, but in the marathon, I think it really helps you to stay focused, especially in the later stages of the race. So, I think that was just a combination of good pacing, good fuelin strategy, and just maybe a little kick from the caffeine, that I really kind of managed to stay on it ‘till the end, and never really basically… Yeah, died – if you want to call it that.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Sure.

Philipp Baar: I think that was… That was my strategy that worked pretty well for that one.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. Cool. As I said, that’s a fast debut, and I guess, moving forward, you’re targeting Olympic qualifying standards… Well, I know the Olympic qualifying standard officially is about 2:17, but many countries have it much lower. But I guess… Let’s talk quickly, before… About… Before we talk about your goals moving forward, what was your training like leading into the… To the race? Were you, sort of, consistent with it? Did you have any hiccups at all? And, you know, what does your, sort of, training look like, as a broad overview?

Philipp Baar: My training started 13 weeks out… So, my coach, which is also the same coach from another guy you used to have on the podcast, Julian Flügel – he’s a German Olympic, and I had the same coach as him for the past two years, so my training was fairly similar. Other people say that our training is really hard, which, I guess, I could agree on. But it’s different hard. So, like, we start 13 weeks out, because he always likes to save one week, basically, for needed recovery in the middle somewhere. And since I am… Or I was, at the time, working a full time job, it wasn’t too easy balancing the high miles with my work, especially because it was German Winter, I started out very early in February, so basically… I’m not sure if any of you have been out to Europe in the Winter, Central Europe – it’s basically dark all the time. So…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): I can… I can attest to that, that is true.

Philipp Baar: So, you spend your bright hours, basically the sunny hours, you spend the time at work basically, so I ran before work and after work. So, you really try to get the best out of it. And, of course, recovery is another issue, but I’ll talk about that in a second. So, the training, basically… I start it out with about a hundred miles per week, which, well… I have to add, my body is pretty sturdy. I’ve never really, in my life, had any injuries that kept me out from running more than four, five days.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Nice, that’s good.

Philipp Baar: So, I basically knew, going into it, I’ve had a lot of hundred-mile weeks under my belt, it shouldn’t really bother me. So we started out with a hundred, and then we basically broke up the training in two cycles, so basically two waves. So, we worked it up, at first, to about… What was it? About 130 miles a week… Yeah, that works. 210, roughly, kilometers a week in the first cycle. So, I hit that probably around week 5 or 6. And during that time we were in the training camp on an island in the Netherlands. Well, you may ask – ‘Why would you go to… From one cold place to another cold place?’ Well, my coach is kind of old school, and he believed that, if we go to a warm place, it’s going to make us soft. So he was, like, ‘Well, your Spring marathon is not going to be a nice experience, so I’m not going to make your Winter training a nice experience, so let’s go somewhere cold and windy.’

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): I remember Julian talking about this location, as well.

Philipp Baar: Yeah, yeah.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): So just for reference – Julian is also a German marathonist, 2:13 from memory when we spoke to… And he mentioned this training. So it might be good to talk briefly about that while we’re here, yeah.

Philipp Baar: Yeah. So, it’s basically… It’s an island in the… In the North Sea. Small island, basically, there’s a lot of dunes, a lot of sand. Not many people. But it’s very beautiful – lot’s of forests, you can run through the dunes, rolling hills, gain some strength, but you can also run flat and fast. So we’ve done some ridiculous long runs out there… It usually gets pretty windy, so, you know, any marathon in April, chances are it’s going to get cold, rainy, windy. This will be your most likely scenario. So, we were trying to prepare for that.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: And training went well. I caught a little cold out there, but it was what /audio breaks, 17:55/ …too if you hold on, keep going, or if you should take off a little bit, so we just switched a few days… Which, in retrospective, was maybe not the best idea, because after the training camp, I… Yeah, didn’t fall in a hole, but I was pretty tired. It was this typical, you know, what you always read in the magazines, on the boards, where people are, like, ‘Oh, marathon is… Marathon training is terrible, I’m tired all the time.’ I felt like that for about two weeks, and then, at German Cross Nationals, I actually, for the first time in eight years, had to drop out of a race, because it just felt like someone pulled a plug on me.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: I was going good for about 8 or 10 kilometers, and then, the last 2k, I just found myself in the place where I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to finish.’ So I figured, ‘OK, you’re in the middle of a marathon buildup, let’s not ruin anything – the big picture is the marathon race, so let’s just call it for the day.’ That was it. And I kind of sat down with my coach, we talked about, ‘OK, what are the lessons learned?’ basically. And I came to the conclusion myself, and together with my coach, that – yes, I never really get injured, but I’m still, you know, a normal human being, and maybe it wasn’t the best idea to keep running a high amount of mileage, plus marathon workouts, plus work, plus long runs, and really try to push the distance run a little quick, too.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: So, you hear that a lot from people, they say ‘Well, easy days it’s easy, fast isn’t fast.’, and so on. So my lesson learned in that middle really was, ‘OK, marathon training is hard. Don’t make the easy days harder than they have to be.’

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: So, basically…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Fantastic advice.

Philipp Baar: … What I did from there onward, I just left my watch at home. I ran routes that I knew how long they were, so I covered the miles that I had to, basically, cover. And I’m sure, some of those days, I ran just as fast as I did before. But I… What John McDonnell and others used to say – I basically used my instruments to kind of gauge how fast I should be running, yeah.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yes. But then…

Philipp Baar: I’d really look at the watch.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): But then, none of these workouts are logged on Strava.

Philipp Baar: Exactly, yeah. If you looked at my strava – exactly – all of a sudden, from logging everything, people were asking me ‘Hey, are you doing OK? Are you injured? Are you sick?’ I said ‘No, I’m fine, I just… I’m not running with my watch anymore.’ So, and a few people were confused there probably, yeah.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): By the way, I’m not going to… Philipp didn’t tell me to say this, but Philipp has a pretty… A pretty big following on Strava, if not… If you’re on Strava, you should get on there and follow him. He’s got some good training happening at the moment, anyway. And what are you building up towards now? Like, let’s get back to the topic of the… The debut, and what’s next.

Philipp Baar: Yeah, so, basically, since the debut went very well and I got nominated for the European Championship, that kind of kicked open a few doors for me. So, and one of those, in fun runs here in Berlin, I actually saw and met Uta Pippig, which… I’m not sure if all of you know her, but in the 90s, she won Boston three times…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah, that’s right.

Philipp Baar: Berlin three times, and New York City Marathon also once. And her then spouse and coach was Dieter Hogen. So, I’m at this fun run here, in Berlin, and I’m talking to my… To my manager at the race. And he… And he says, ‘Hey, have you met Uta?’ I talked to Uta a bit, and basically, while in my mind, ‘Well, if Uta is here, maybe Dieter Hogen is here.’ And I said, Hey, Christoph…’ – that’s the name of my manager – ‘… is Dieter here?’ And he said ‘Yeah, he’s right over there.’ So, Dieter is coming over, we just chit-chat a little bit, and well… You know, he’s been living out in the… In Kenya and Angola for the larger part of the last 30 years, and so we start talking, and he’s a little intrigued by, you know, running marathons and working full time, because most of his… All of his athletes are professionals. So he says, ‘Well, I have an idea. Let me get back to you, you’ve got my email.’ And a few days later, we start writing emails, he said ‘Well, let’s meet up, let’s talk a little bit.’ So we start talking, and he asked me for me goals, this and that, and I’m saying, ‘Hey, well, I’m working full time, so I’m not sure where my seeding will be, but I think it should be somewhere around 2:12, I’m guessing, you know, working part time and a little less, and running marathons. So that’s what, you know, a few people in the past have ran with mediocre talent and hard work and, you know, some focus, but, you know, still working a little bit.’ So, I figure, OK… He says, ‘Well, let’s go talk a little bit.’ And we kept talking and talking and talking, and then, at one point, he tells me that the people that organize the Berlin Marathon, which is a company called SCC Events, it stands for Sport-Club Charlottenburg, Charlottenburg being a district here, in Berlin… They organise a bunch of races here, in Berlin – the Berlin Half Marathon, Berlin Marathon, and about twenty other events. Well, they were on a plane, on the way to the London Marathon, and saying ‘Man, OK, again, this year, you know, we’re hosting the best marathon, or the fastest marathon in the world. We’re shooting for world records…’, this and that, ‘… and we don’t really have, in our team, we don’t have any German athletes in there that are really doing anything other than…’ Yeah, you know, running /audio skips, 23:50/ results there, but nothing that really strikes your interest and that people talk about. No, let’s say, sub 2:10s, you know, In that area.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Sure.

Philipp Baar: And so they figured, ‘OK, well, let’s sit down and debate what we can do about that.’ So they… They started with the idea, ‘And we’ve had few decent runners in Berlin every once in a while, people who already, you know, If they were only getting the support they needed, maybe they could be better…’ This and that. And they’re like, ‘OK, let’s do it. Why not do it.’ And at the same time, Dieter Hogen, who is very good friends with these people at SCC Events, they started talking, and he was saying, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about relocating back to Berlin.’ He’s originally from East Germany, and he’s lived quite some years out in Potsdam, which is, well, 30 minutes from Berlin, and then Uta and him also ran for these… This club – SC Charlottenburg. So, they had this connection already, and they started talking, ‘Hey, why don’t we do something together?’ And that’s how the idea, kind of, you know, started. And so, the only thing, basically, that they needed now was athletes. And lucky me – I walked around at the perfect timing, because yeah, I had just ran a decent marathon, showed some sort of talent for the distance, I guess, and I’m young, basically, I’m flexible. I, you know, never really had any injuries, so he figured, ‘Hey, why not give it a shot?’ And with Dieter Hogen, he really likes to pick his athletes by personal… Personality, I guess. You know, you could be a fast kid, but if he just doesn’t, I guess, like you…? Maybe that’s the wrong word, but if he doesn’t see it in you, then he won’t ‘waste his time’. So, I think he just liked that I was really motivated and did most of this stuff by myself, and these kind of things. And yeah, that’s how it all got started, and now, looking forward… Well, he told me, and the other people told me, that their goal is to, basically, produce one or, hopefully, a few more German runners that are able to run right around or, hopefully, run under 2:10. So that, in Europe, will put you on the map.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): For sure.

Philipp Baar: And… Will put you on the map mostly anywhere, except maybe Eastern Africa.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: And so, basically, that’s how it all got started, and that’s probably our long-term goal. Of course, I’m very aware that 2:10 is not going to happen anytime soon. It’s baby steps, I know that. But hopefully my age – 26 years old now – and the guidance of the coach and such will help me to eventually reach the goal, and on the way there, of course, there’s a few steps stones that you have to hit, everybody knows 2:10, there’s nothing that you just do, it’s lots of hard work… And there’s also other distances where you need to improve to hit that kind of time, so basically, that’s kind of my timeline, going out from now on.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. Perfect. Very well explained. So, I really liked the last thing you said there, ‘There’s a number of different things you have to do in order to drop that time from 2:16 down.’ Like, what are they, in your mind?

Philipp Baar: Well, first of all, the biggest thing for me is to stop working, basically.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah, sure.

Philipp Baar: I don’t think I’m necessarily going to have to train more. I just think I’ll have to rest more.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. That’s really… That’s a very good… It’s a very good answers, because it’s something that I think is correct with a lot of people, that they don’t know, like, they don’t do it. They actually think they need to train more. But a lot of the time it’s just about exactly what you said – resting more and just being more consistent with training.

Philipp Baar: Exactly, yeah. The biggest… The biggest problem that I’ve found with working and training, and I do recommend to anybody who still has those goals, let’s say… I know, in the States, a lot of people at the Olympic qualifier, and other countries, advice might be to earn, invest or some sort of thing, you know, run for your respective country once at least, or… You know, compete at national championships and such. I really encourage everybody to stick with it, stick to your goals, stick to your plans, even if you have to work. Of course, sometimes you might have to look around a little bit to find an employer that really supports these hobbies, and… Again, it’s really all, like, the university professors tell you it’s all about networking, really. You have to find the right kind of people that want to support you and are… Have an actual interest in what you’re doing. And I really encourage everybody to stick with it, that’s why… Yeah. Because I would say if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t get the chance now to do this kind of thing. So a lot of people, I think, prematurely assume that, ‘OK, I’m not going to make it, I have not shot, basically. I’m just slow. Other people are faster than me, I have to work now.’ Really, working and training is possible, you just have to be extremely disciplined. So, maybe I can give you a little idea of how my day would normally look, maybe that would be interesting for people to see, because a lot of people tell me, ‘Yeah, I have trouble running five times a week.’, and such. I like to tell them that others out there, you know, run ten to twelve times a week while holding a job, so usually it’s all about getting up early, getting to running before work –  I noticed it’s a lot easier to run before work rather than after. I sometimes felt a little drained after work, I’m sure others feel like that, too. And basically get your work done. Maybe you will even have an awesome employer, some sort of flexible hours that you can catch a lunch run on instead, if you don’t want to get up so early. And then, second practice would happen usually after work, and then it’s… The biggest problem, really, is not the running. The biggest problem is, you know, the stretching, lifting, physiotherapy…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): The one percenters.

Philipp Baar: Yeah, basically everything… It’s extremely hard to get… To get these essentials in. Also, in Germany, we like to do, like, sauna and all these kind of things in the Winter to stay healthy. So, really, it just… It comes down to your time management. That’s the biggest part of it. But I think it’s absolutely worth it, absolutely worth to stick with your goals, because again – no one is going be able to tell you what your seeding actually is, so it’s up to you to try it, and I think it’s possible to work and run. So, as long as you find an employer that really kind of supports you in that, you should really give it a go.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah, perfect. Awesome. And what is your, just quickly talk about what is your current job situation now? Like, you were working full time, you’re looking to turn pro, so what’s that situation look like?

Philipp Baar: Mhm, so I worked full time ‘till June, and then I cut my hours down to 30 because my employer, well, kind of noticed that I was running a lot. So, it was very nice of him. He’s a big… A big… Kind of loved doing sports, too. He approached me, asked if I want to cut back, which I did, because, you know, when you start running decent times, you can also, you know, make a quick dollar here and there. So, I told him, I said ‘Hey…’  I have two… Two resources at the time that are important to me. One is, of course, money, and the other one is time. And I have enough of one, but not enough of the other, which was – I didn’t have enough time. That was my biggest thing. So I asked him to cut back. So, he was happy with that. I’m actually working, currently, as a headhunter.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah, OK.

Philipp Baar: So… So, it’s basically, you know, it’s not a hussle, but it’s definitely doable. It gives you a little bit of flexibility. I can meet and talk to clients after my runs, before my runs, in the afternoon, in the evening, you know, when most other people are out of work anyway. So that kind of worked pretty well and… So now, moving forward, I’m going to still work until the end of the year, because I’m going to honor my contract with my employee… Employer, of course. And it also has to do with switching clubs. I mean, sure, you guys are aware of the system in Germany, so we have a club… Club sport system, where you don’t really compete in high schools and such, you just basically go to school during the day, and in the evening, you go to your… Go to your sports club, whether it be soccer, tennis, tracking field – whichever. And you can only switch clubs once a year, which the deadline being November 30th. So, basically, I have to wait until November 30th before I can switch clubs, and then my new club here, in Berlin, will help me on the financial side, and will allow me to basically quit my 9-5 job and… Yeah, do what most people would call ‘go professional’.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah, cool. Very well explained. Actually, it’s… I guess it’s cool to a lot of the listeners here and readers of Sweat Elite in the US, so… They’re probably not very familiar with how that club works, and actually this is the perfect transition to talking about your last, sort of, seven or eight years, because you spent some time in the US, at a college. So, I’m actually… We spoke briefly about this before the recording, but it would be good to talk about how that came about, where you went, and if you thought it was, you know, a good move, and maybe a bit of advice for people that are thinking about… We’ve actually had quite a lot of people, over the last two years, since we started two years ago, ask about that, you know, about going to college in the US and is it a good idea. We don’t want to give that sort of advice because it’s very different for different people, but it would be good to hear your experience about that.

Philipp Baar: OK. Absolutely. So, yeah, I was a decent junior runner in Germany. I ran in high school 3:56, 59, which is about 4:19 mile on the… On the US scale there and… Well, I was never good enough, really, to get any sort of financial aid here, in Germany, so… But I really liked running, and I figured, ‘OK, what do you do? What are your options?’ And then, at the time, in 2010, some guy approached me on social media and was, like, ‘Hey, have you ever thought about running in the United States?’ And I’m, like, ‘No, I actually haven’t. But tell me more.’ So, this guy…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Sounds nice.

Philipp Baar: This guy… Sounds kind of fishy, but that’s how it went down. And this guy, his name is Simon Stutzer, he’s founded a company in 2010 that actually helps German athletes get scholarships in the United States, and I was the second wave of athletes. So, basically, the first one went over in 2010, and I was graduating in 2011. So we worked everything out, I got a few very nice offers from schools in the United States, and well, I decided… You know, coming from Berlin… Well, not from Berlin, but from Germany, I wanted to really go somewhere where it’s warm, so I figured, ‘OK, Texas would be a good place to go.’ Because I’m really not a big friend of Winter, if you haven’t caught onto that yet. And so, I decided to go by feel and pick the school that really had the, I guess, nicest coach, that was really, yeah, the most interested in me, and really, I guess, the most sincere, where I felt, ‘OK, he will care for me.’ Which is a good lesson I can give to high school students that want to go to the States: the place to be is great, wherever the city is and such is really important, but at the end of the day, it’s like a job, you know – the most important thing is your boss and your team. So that’s one lesson I can really pass on – pick the school where you feel most comfortable with the coach. So I went over there, I wasn’t very fast, as I said, about 4:18 mile, and I started improving, I started running, also, more. You know, a little faster, that’s how it is in college, I got sprained a few time in practice, didn’t really manage to keep up at first. It was hot in Texas. I ran my first 5K race in Texas, took me 18 minutes to finish, because I was just dying. Anybody ever ran in Houston all day, in 100 degrees, 90% humidity… It’s not fun. Especially if you come from more moderate temperatures. So, yeah, I started getting better, my sophomore year I really kind of improved. I ran 14:25 in the 5K, 3:49 in 1500, so started showing some signs of, you know, decent improvements there. Kept going, graduated in 2015, my coach luckily let me redshirt, so I ran another extra year, and it really helped me to kind of close the gap to the German national scene. Unfortunately, I never made it to the national championship. I was really close in cross country one year, but on the way out to fed in Arkansas, to a regional championship league, the airline actually kicked us out of the plane for no reason, so we had to drive for 14 hours, and I was absolutely knackered when we got there. So, it kind of ruined my chances. I finished about five spots out and 10 seconds out from making the individual qualifier for NCAA, division one nationals. So I was kind of bummed out knowing that I’ve done really well all season and that kind of ruined it. But that’s old… Old news, basically. So, do I recommend a college path? I absolutely do, because yes, there is good coaches and maybe not so good coaches out there, but if you’re mat… If you’re a mature, somewhat mature athlete, you know what you want, you have your goals, you… Maybe the biggest keyword here is maybe ‘rest’ – you know, everybody can train harder, but it’s… It’s most troubling for most people to rest a little bit more, you know? To maybe sit out a run or maybe not do a workout on some days, and such things. And I think that’s really important in the States. Because the coaches have a lot of kids to take care of, so you really need to… I’m not saying ‘Disobey your coach.’, absolutely not at all, because it’s going to get you in trouble. But you need to know when to take a step back sometimes, and that’s , I think, really going to help you to… To survive the college system, which – yes – does involve a bit of racing and does involve hard training, but what it really does, it’s going to buy you time. It’s going to buy you at least four, if you redshirt a year, you get five years to really close the gap, to improve, and that was my goal going to the States. I said, ‘OK, when I come back, I want to be able to run at German, basically, senior championships, hopefully be able to somewhat be relevant. And, actually, in my first year back, I won a few medals. I won a medal in cross country, bronze then in long distance, in Germany. Then I won the national championship in the half marathon, running 64:50 actually, edging out a guy that qualified for Olympics that day. Hendrik Pfeiffer was also on, on the podcast, I know, a few months back, or even a year back also… So that was a major success at the time. No one knew me, it was broadcasted on TV, they didn’t know who I was, so that was… That was kind of funny. And, yeah, so that’s my biggest lesson – United States is going to buy you time, it’s going to give you a great education, you can hold bachelor’s degree, lots of new friends, a great experience for anybody who is not a native speaker of English. Of course, that’s actually really important. Working as a headhunter, I can tell you that English skills are extremely important. So, the only problem you’re going to have is, possibly, basically, racing a lot and training a lot. But if you’re mature enough to learn to say no, or actually to use your own… Your own intelectual, to kind of cut back on training sometimes, when you have to, I think you’re going to have a really good time.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): That’s really… It’s honestly fantastic advice. I… I regularly speak to, on this as a side note, I regularly speak to a young lad from South Africa by the name of George Kusche, I met him in Finland last year, at a race, he’s a very talented young 800 metre runner. He ran 1:47 at the age of 18. He went to world junior championships.

Philipp Baar: Yeah, sure.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): And he’s regularly in touch with me. He’s… I guess I’m sort of… Even though he’s run… I was a 1:48 800 meter, and he actually ran faster than me. But he, sort of… I guess he sees me as somewhat of a mentor, in a way, and I regularly speak to him about exactly what you just spoke about, and you’ve got to have the ability to say no to some things and not just always go along with what the program has down on paper. And George is getting quite good at that, and he’s often skipping sessions and running in the water, and he’s finding that he’s doing very well over there, now. He’s only been there for 3, 4 months, but he just ran a very fast 10K cross country race.

Philipp Baar: Nice.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): And he’s sort of staring down the barrel hopefully this year, running under 3:40 and under 1:47, and yeah… It’s basically what I’ve been helping him with, it’s exactly what you just said, so it’s… It’s very good advice, I think. And I think that a lot of people overlook, before they go to the US, they don’t really consider… Or they don’t place too much emphasis on is what you also said, and it’s that, you know, people often think, ‘Oh, what if I go over there and I don’t improve?’ Well, yeah, OK, a lot of people… That does happen to a lot of people. But, you know, there is the free… There is the excellent education, and the fact that you’re going to be flying all over US to race. You’re going to be on training camps, maybe at altitude, make a lot of friends, have the experience of a lifetime. Like, if you end up going over there and not improving much, or not improving at all… Like, there’s still a lot of pros that come from it.

Philipp Baar: Absolutely.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): And if you stay in your home country, like, you know, myself being based and growing up in Australia, a lot of people struggle coming out of school because there’s no funding at all.

Philipp Baar: Yeah.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Like, in… I’ve spent some time in Finland, I know Germany is somewhat similar – there are clubs that have some finding, but in Australia there is no funding. So a lot of people, in Australia, at least, think ‘What if I go over and don’t improve?’ They don’t think about the possibility of them if they stay in Australia, they might not even be able to afford to keep running. So…

Philipp Baar: Absolutely.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): They might as well… You’re in a better position to go over there and stagnate…

Philipp Baar: Absolutely.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Than maybe stay here and not go at all, because you might not be running in a year or two.

Philipp Baar: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s… I had the same conversation with a potential… Potential, basically, customer of this company that is called Scholarbook, that’s the one who basically gets those kids those scholarships. And he was asking me, because he was one of those kids, he says, ‘Well, I really like it at home, and I like my coach, and I really enjoy running here, and I’m afraid that I’m not going to improve over there.’ This and that. And I said, ‘Listen, kid – chances are, in a year from now, if you don’t go, you’re not going to be running anymore, period.’

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: Because that’s what happens to most kids. Most kids get frustrated, they get stuck, they get extremely fed up with the lack of appreciation.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yes.

Philipp Baar: That is, I think, in my opinion, one of the biggest factors.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: In the States, people actually care for your running. You’re going to be in the newspapers, you’re going to be on television, you’re going to be on the website on a regular basis. You’re a student athlete, so people actually care for your progress. Your professors are going to care. Try telling a professor, and I’m not sure how it is in Australia, but try telling your professor in Germany that you’re running – he’s going to tell you ‘Son, you better stop soon because it’s going to interfere with your studies.’ This kind of talk, you know… So, if you really want to pursue running, I think it’s a great experience, unless… And this is what I tell kids, also – unless you’re good enough, coming out of high school, to be a world class athlete.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yes.

Philipp Baar: If that is the case, then I tell kids, ‘Then stay at home, you’re going to get funding, you’re good enough already, you don’t need it.’ But for everybody else, everybody else who is not a world class athlete coming out of high school, chances are you’re going to find a school that is challenging enough for you, academically and athletically, and you’re going to have a really good time.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. No, that’s excellent. What’s the name of the company? Scholarbook, there? I hope they use this podcast as some sort of, like, advertisement. I think it would be suitable for them, actually.

Philipp Baar: I hope so.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Like, we’ve actually discussed in depth about how that… I guess how kids, coming out of school, should think about this stuff. Because, you know, before I decided to go to college in the USA, I didn’t think like this. I was just thinking ‘I’m a 1:49 800 runner, am I going to improve or not?’ That was pretty much all I was thinking. So, you know…

Philipp Baar: Sure, a lot of kids share that attitude, absolutely.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. Cool. Well, we like to keep these podcasts, sort of, 45 minutes or less. We’ve been going for nearly 40, so… But this has been a really interesting podcast, and I appreciate you coming on, but before we go, so, the goal now is, sort of, staring at the barrel of… In the next, sort of, I guess, five years, roughly, aiming towards that 2:10 mark, but – and I apologise if you did say this, but I may have missed it – what is the next race?

Philipp Baar: Well, since now I’ve just recently… After the European championship, I actually took 7 weeks off.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: Because… Not because I was injured, I just promised myself I would take off from running until I really feel the sparkle again, and that actually put me at 6 weeks, and then I talked to Dieter Hogen, and he said ‘OK, let’s wait at least another week or so to make sure it’s actually feeling the sparkle and not just some sort of other feeling, and you’re just getting bored.’ So, it took me seven weeks, then we started back training just two weeks ago.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: So, now I’m kind of actually learning how to run again right now, you know, starting back up. So it’s going to take me a long time to really start racing again, and that’s totally OK, because we’re trying to go to a long, long training camp stint, which we’re still debating where we’re going to go, basically just skip the German Winter, and then we’ll come back next Spring. And then we’re targeting first the Berlin Half Marathon, which is one of these events that the company hosts, that supports us financially. So, that, of course, is a given. And then we’re debating where to do our spring marathon. Of course, then you have the German alternatives – Düsseldorf again, or maybe Hamburg. Hannover is one alternative, maybe Vienna could be one, Prague… this kind of thing. So that’s all basically in the making right now. And… But the very big goal is to run Berlin Marathon next year, which I think is going to be pretty exciting, because a lot of athletes are running there to try to qualify for the Olympics. Everybody knows that Berlin is probably the fastest one out there.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: So, no one really…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): I hope… I hope to be there, too. I’d like to… I’ve got a sub 2:30 goal at this stage for Berlin  next year, so hopefully I’ll see you there.

Philipp Baar: Berlin… Berlin is definitely a place to do it, if you’re going to do it anywhere, absolutely. One tricky part for most elite athletes is going to be that no one really knows yet how the whole qualification system works yet.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: They don’t really have the standard anymore, it’s now about a ranking kind of system, where you have to run big races, but meets to get points, and then, based on your ranking in the world, you either qualify or you don’t. No one actually knows how it works yet, so hopefully someone will explain us soon.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Hopefully.

Philipp Baar: So, that is the big goal. And, until then, really, it’s… It’s about training. I can’t give you too much insight yet, on Dieter Hogen’s training, because, you know, I’m brand new to it. But what I have learned already in the past few weeks, and what he always stresses is, basically ‘Have more strength, and use less of it.’ So, we’re working a lot on the strength right now. We’re doing about six… Six strength sessions a week, of all kinds of stuff.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Wow.

Philipp Baar: You know, in the gym, running uphill and cross country routes, really hilly routes. We’re doing… Yeah, all sorts of typical stuff: hurdles, jumps and so on. And while also simultaneously working on, yeah, efficient running form. So, that’s going to be the biggest test for the next, I guess, six months, leading up to the big preparation. We said we’re not really going to hit the spring marathon too hard, you know, because we’re brand new with each other, working together, and so… But Berlin is really supposed to be the big one.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Cool.

Philipp Baar: And, until then, it’s going to be, yeah… Build strength and learn how to use less in the race, that’s really the whole point of it. Dieter actually told me, ‘Hey, decent marathon, but you don’t really run like a marathon runner, you run like a tracker trying to survive a marathon.’ So, hopefully, by text year, I’ll look a little different.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Well, you did run a fast 10K – 29:31 is… If that’s right, that’s pretty fast, so… Yeah, transition…

Philipp Baar:Yeah. I guess it’s not too bad. I still think that my tempo is a little soft, though. I ran 13:59 5K and I think I ran a decent half, so… I’m not too proud of my 10K, actually, so… You kind of hit a soft spot there.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): What’s your half? What’s your half personal best?

Philipp Baar: 64:50-and some change.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): OK. That’s good.

Philipp Baar: That’s when I won the German Half Marathon Nationals, you know, fairly practical race, so hopefully also shave off a little of that one.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Awesome.

Philipp Baar: Yeah, so…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah, OK. Cool.

Philipp Baar: That’s one thing I’ve noticed, a lot of people that run 2:16 marathons have a lot faster half marathon at 10K PBs than mine, so hopefully I can catch up on that soon.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. I have… I have all confidence you will. You seem like you’re heading in the right direction with everything, and it’s… It’s been really good for you, I mean, I really appreciate that you’ve been able to sharing everything. Just before you finish, I just wanted… I just want to ask a couple of, like, sort of random rapid fire questions that maybe people can take some tips from.

Philipp Baar: Absolutely.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): What does your last 24 hours before a race look like in terms of diet?

Philipp Baar: Mhm, diet… Yeah, well, in marathon running, diet is absolutely super-important. So, I would kind of expand that from 24 hours to, basically, you can use these lessons for the last three or four days. So, let’s say you have the last seven days before the marathon. So, on day 7, 6 and 5, I try to cut down on my carbs. So, I don’t do, like, an extreme low carb diet, but I try to keep it less than usual, to kind of empty out the carbs just a little bit. And then, the last four days before the marathon, I really go into heavy carbo loading. And a lot of people mix up carbo loading and don’t really know what it means, they just think it means eating a lot of junk food. That’s actually not the point. The big point of carbo loading is not to eat a bunch of cake and such, because cake also has a lot of fat and these things. So, you still should try to maintain a healthy diet, but basically the relation… The ratio of carbs to fat to protein should switch a little bit, to about an 80% of calories coming from carbs, 10 coming from fat, 10 coming from protein. And if you keep that for the last four days, and really cut down on your fibre, because a lot of people, you know, get stomach problems, you know, some sort of… Have to do some sort of pit stops in the marathons – that’s usually a problem of eating too much fiber before the race.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Right.

Philipp Baar: So, basically, all of it is high carb with starchy foods, which could be, you know, pasta, rice… I love potatoes. Potatoes are perfect for that – not much fiber, very high in carbs, and also have some sort of protein in it. So, really, if you do that, you can’t go very well… Very wrong on that part.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. OK. Good answer. Do you have any, in a sense, in the same question, do you have any sports … Do you use the, sorry, Maurten? How do you pronounce the brand name?

Philipp Baar: Maurten?

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Maurten. Do you have any of that, like… In the days before? Do you, like, load on that? Or is it just sort of normal, typical, normal drinking?

Philipp Baar: You can, you can absolutely do that. I have… I have, actually, another product that I like to use, it’s called Vitargo. It’s…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of it. Yeah.

Philipp Baar: It’s a Swedish product. They have a product called the CARBOLOADER, that you can also use, it’s fantastic in the race, also, it does just as good as Maurten, and you also load up on it the days before. I like to drink, in the day before the marathon, I drink two, two portions of it, and then, in the morning of, I drink one in the morning, just sip it with my breakfast, which – the breakfast – you know, it’s usually just, like, some sort of toast with honey or whatever. So, that’s how you can really get your… Your fuel up.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Perfect. Favorite interval training session?

Philipp Baar: Favorite training session…

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: I actually… I actually really grew on my long runs.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): OK.

Philipp Baar: I didn’t really use to like long runs, especially the marathon specific long runs, you know? We run them of… At upwards of 90% pace-wise of the goal race, so we run our long runs pretty hard. I’ve done 1:45 kilometer long runs, so how much is that? About 28 miles?

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: And ran it at 3:30-and some change pace. So about 5:30, 5:40 per mile

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): So… So you’re going through… You’re going through the marathon there in about 2… About 2:30?

Philipp Baar: Yeah, that makes sense. I should have been… I was probably around, like, yeah, 2:29, something like that, yeah. And this session actually really grew on me and started being a lot of fun, because it’s very specific marathon training, and at the end of these long runs, you really kind of get into that zone where everything kind of starts feeling a little fluffy, everything hurts, but it still feels good, though. I really like that.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah.

Philipp Baar: I guess that’s what some people refer to as ‘the runner’s high’, and I think that’s the closest I’ve gotten to it.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Perfect. Well, we’ve run out of time, but it’s been a really informative conversation, I appreciate your time.

Philipp Baar: Thanks for having me.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): And I’ll look forward to personally going to have a run with you next month in Berlin, when I stop by.

Philipp Baar: Absolutely, absolutely. I’ll show you the town. I live very central, I can show you… We can go a little sightseeing if you want to, I can show you the last mile of the Berlin Marathon, so you can kind of, you know, do that mental preparation already, over when it comes up next year.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Yeah. Just no 45K long runs at 3:30, and other than that, I’m fine. Sounds good. Thanks for joining us.

Philipp Baar: Thanks for having me. It was wonderful, and I hope I gave you some decent info that you can use for your… For your own training, and maybe go… Go on moving forward. If you’re a working athlete, I’ll tell you – stick to it. It will be worth it.

Matt Fox (Sweat Elite): Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Philipp.


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