Dr. Tony Agtarap knows how to run. He’s finished the Boston Marathon three times. Not only that, but he’s completed the New York Marathon twice and the Chicago Marathon once. You might think his success comes from a lifetime of training and skill, however, Dr. Agtarap, an orthopaedic surgeon and knee specialist at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates, didn’t run competitively until the age of 40.
A surgeon at the Oly Ortho Eastside Clinic in Olympia for the last 20 years, Dr. Agtarap ran a bit in high school but was focused on medical school and residency after that. “Early in my career I spent a few years volunteering in the medical tent at the Capital City Marathon. I thought, ‘Eventually I’ll get back to running and I’d love to run this race,’” he explains.
His wife Christie, a triathlete and endurance runner encouraged him to begin training, knowing it was something they could do together. Starting with a 5K then a 10K, Dr. Agtarap eventually ran his first half-marathon and marathon. To date, he estimates he’s ran at least 20 half-marathons and more than 10 full marathons.
Dr. Agtarap saw an increase in time over his first three marathons. In his third, he qualified for the elite Boston Marathon. “Running is interesting in that it’s one of the few things where in your 30s and 40s you can continue to excel and actually be pretty competitive,” he explains. “A lot of other athletic endeavors stop at age 25 or so.”
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a big deal. “It’s a race that’s been around for nearly 115 years,” Dr. Agtarap says. “It’s considered the grandfather of all races and all the best runners are there. You earn the right to be there and you’re running with the best athletes in the world.”
While still running marathons regularly, Dr. Agtarap has began to have more fun with the sport instead of chasing after quicker completion times. “I’ve had the chance to be a pacer in a few marathons. I’ll carry a sign with a specific race time and other runners stay with me, trying to hit that time,” he explains. “That’s kind of fun because you’re a coach on the course, helping runners hit their goals.”
His experience on the course, along with his specialization in knee issues and knee surgery, Dr. Agtarap is becoming known for his skill in assisting athletes, keeping them on the road. “I get the pleasure of caring for a lot of athletes who come in and want help to keep running,” says Dr. Agtarap. “Trying to help them, as their doctor, but also a bit as a coach, shedding some light on knee related injuries, is a lot of fun.”
We asked Dr. Agtarap to share advice for local runners training for distance races. Whether you are training for your first or tenth distance race, there are tips here for you.
- Sign-up: Plan ahead and sign-up for your race early. Once you’ve made that commitment you are much more likely to follow through.
- Set your goal: Are you racing the clock or just aiming to finish? Those are two very different things, according to Dr. Agtarap, and your training will vary for each.
- Establish comfortable, base-level running: Run comfortably each day. Make sure you can complete a 5K or a 10K without physical issues. Feeling good on shorter distance runs will enable you to handle the intense training for longer distances.
Create a realistic training schedule: Dr. Agtarap recommends a minimum of 12 weeks to train for a distance event (16 weeks for novice runners). Allowing enough training time ensures better results in your event.
- Build a training program: Use resources to plan your training. Join a running group, use a training book, hire a coach. “There are many philosophies about training,” shares Dr. Agtarap. “I think the simplest way is to build volume of running, either minutes or miles, over three consecutive weeks. The fourth week should be a recovery week.” By building, you’ll avoid burnout, overuse problems and injury. Repeat the cycle until your event.
- Mix up your training: “Pounding the pavement every day will result in what we call, ‘tissue issues,’” says Dr. Agtarap. Add in flexibility, strength training, cycling and swimming to cross-train.
- Address obstacles quickly: Whether physical or mental, there will be bumps in the road and Dr. Agtarap says, “Don’t ignore them.” See your primary care physician, an orthopaedist or running group trainers and coaches. Small modifications in training can make a big difference.
- Re-evaluate: Check in with yourself as your event nears. Are you healthy? Is your goal the same? Is your training on point?
- Finish strong: Take care of yourself before your race. Stay healthy, rest, eat right, hydrate well. All that training will be wasted if you catch a cold or are fatigued.
- Plan your race: Show up on race day with a plan. Take it slow in the first half, saving yourself to finish strong on the second half. Stick with what you know works for you including gear, clothing and nutrition. A new protein bar or gel on the course may spell disaster for your GI tract.
- Enjoy the results: When all is said and done, don’t forget to take it all in after your race. Enjoy the rush of accomplishing something big. Don’t forget to stretch, grab food and water, take a short jog or walk to loosen up. And of course, you must celebrate.
You can visit Dr. Agtarap at the Olympia Orthopeadics Associates Eastside Clinic where he sees patients, runners or not, for knee related issues. Make an appointment by calling 360-709-6230.