An Interview with Jeff Miller (JM) after getting the ATR50K Grand Masters course record in 2018 – Interview conducted by Kevin Langton (KL) 

KL: Jeff, congratulations on another grand masters win and the grand masters course record at Afton. First, can you tell us about the pushups? How have they impacted your running?

JM: I don’t actually recall who suggested such a crazy challenge but both Cheryl Zwarkowski (the woman I paced in Badwater) and I got involved in challenging others to do 100 pushups a day for the entire year. Both Cheryl and I are athletes that want to help others see that age is not a reason to abandon or quit dreaming, in fact, it is quite the opposite. I know that the pushups have helped with both core and upper body strength which are areas that most runners don’t pay enough attention to. As we age, (I’m 53), we lose muscle mass if we don’t increase the strength training. A bonus is that Amy really likes the way I have filled out with the pushups.


KL: You’ve been chasing this record for a few years. Besides the pushups, is there anything different you did in preparation this year that made a difference?

JM: I spent 4 months doing Crossfit this past winter which helped me to really focus on strength training. I have wanted to learn/understand Olympic Lifting for some time now and the Crossfit coaches at our box were really fantastic at guiding me with safe movement and helping me stay focused on strength for running and not trying to lift too heavy of weights for my experience.

Also, I was heat training so I could crew and pace Cheryl at Badwater 135, and I found that to be beneficial.


KL: How did the race play out for you and how did it match up to your plans?

JM: The race went pretty much as I had planned. I started conservatively by referencing my heart rate instead of the pace or other competitors. Right from the first aid station I stopped and poured water on myself to keep my core temperature down as low and for as long as I could. I followed my own coaching advice. Too often I go out too hard and “race” right from the gun. This year I made myself follow the coach’s plan the entire way. My job has been pretty stressful this year so I haven’t had as many miles in my legs as in the past, so I was training smarter rather than training harder.


KL: What’s something non-running that helped you at Afton?

JM: I am running with more gratitude right now. I have at times forgotten how blessed I am. I am able to do what I love, my wife Amy is insanely supportive, and I am able to coach a few other runners along the way. I really believe that God wants me to run and share it with others. My head is in a good place right now and I need that with my current job stress.


KL: Did you have any low points during the race? If so, what helped you through it/them?

JM: I really don’t recall any low points. I kept myself in the correct heart rate window which helped me to avoid any real ugly points physically or mentally.


KL: Bonus question: Please make your own question (and answer) that reveals something you think we should know about.

JM: With such a stressful job and long hours, how do you find the time to work in enough miles of running and time for the strength training?

It’s my wife Amy that makes it possible for me to train as much as I do. She really holds me together and keeps me grounded. She helps with my diet and sleep, both of which I have allowed to suffer in the past. I also have been running frequently with my son Max and dog Kaia who both run a little slower than I would normally by myself, which has also helped me to run easy runs easy.



Afton Trail Run
50KM & 25KM Trail Races
Afton State Park – Hastings, Minnesota
Saturday July 4, 2020
50KM 6:30AM
25KM 7:30AM

Opens Wedneday January 1, 2020 at 12:01AM CST
Closes Friday June 26, 2020 at 11:59PM CST
*Or once the field limit has been met
Complete Registration Details HERE

Directions to Race Start:
Afton State Park
6959 Peller Avenue South
Hastings, MN 55033
Hastings, Minnesota
Google Maps Directions HERE
Approx 25 minutes East of St. Paul, MN and 40 minutes East of Minneapolis, MN

Terrain / Course Description:
The Afton Trail Run consists of a hilly 25K loop (two loops for the 50K), winding through Afton State Park’s trail system. The race is held 100% off road, primarily on very runnable / not very technical single double and single track. There are 7 long climbs per loop, rising from the river valley and down again with a good mix of rolling and flat terrain between the hills.  Be sure to see maps, elevation charts and stats provided on this website HERE.

2 x 15.5 mile loops =  31 miles
Elevation Gain 4,670 FT
Elevation Loss 4,670 FT
NET Elevation Change 9,340 FT
11 Aid Stations
9 hour time limit
Complete 50KM Info HERE

1 x 15.5 mile loop = 15.5 miles
Elevation Gain 2,335 FT
Elevation Loss 2,335 FT
NET Elevation Change 4,670 FT
5 Aid Stations
8 hour time limit
Complete 25KM Info HERE

More About the Race / Area:
The Afton Trail Run is one of the most challenging and beautiful trail races around.  The race was established in 1994 and is now one of the oldest, largest and most competitive trail races in the country and routinely draws runners from all 50 states and beyond.  The race takes place entirely within the borders of Afton State Park.  Afton State Park lies on a glacial moraine, scribed with deep ravines running down to the St. Croix River.  The 169 mile St. Croix River was one of the original eight United States rivers to have significant portions placed under protection by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.  Within the park sandstone outcrops have been exposed in some of the ravines. The vertical drop from the blufftop to the water is 300 feet.  A few patches of remnant prairie survived the decades of farming that took place on the blufftop. Today the former fields are being restored to prairie and oak savanna. The ravines leading down to the riverbank are thickly wooded with oak, aspen, birch, and cherry.