C.J. Albertson: 3-time winner of the 2 Cities Marathon

(Photo contributed by CJ Albertson)

Written by Jess Gonzalez

December 17, 2023 – Over the years, many horror and strange stories have been written and talked about related to running a marathon—the 26.2 miles event that separates true long distances runners from pseudo distance runners—those who only run 5,000 or 10,000 meters (3.1 and 6.2 miles, respectively).

Of course, stories of running a marathon are as many as there are runners who have run it. If you talk to the runners who competed in the 2 Cities Marathon this past November, everyone will have their story to tell. But let us talk about the winner of our local marathon—for truly his story needs to be told.

C.J. Albertson, an ex-Buchanan High School and Arizona State University distance runner, ran his first marathon in 2018—the 2 Cities Marathon. And he won it! Not many people can say they won the first marathon they ever attempted. Since then, he has run 19 marathons and won 8 of them! This year, 2023, he ran 4 and won the last three.

He also set the world record last year in San Francisco for the 50,000 meters with a time of 2:38:43. That is a true distance runner!   Aside from running and winning three marathons in a little over a month—2 Cities Marathon, Sacramento’s California International Marathon, and the “57 Maraton Baja California” in Mexicali, on the Mexican border–he is training hard for the U.S. Olympic Trials of the marathon to be held in Orlando, Florida, on February 3, 2024.

We recently spoke with C.J. and touched on his victory in the 2 Cities Marathon this past November 5th and his training for the U.S. Olympic trials.

C.J.       Winning the 2 Cities Marathon was fun because it’s a good flat and fast course. The weather was good, and I felt good It wasn’t too challenging, though I did slow down toward the end before picking it up again. But I wasn’t going for a certain time, just for the win. I did not have to push. So, I was able to recover quickly.

He has won the 2 Cities Marathon three times and his time of 2 hours 11 minutes and 34 seconds this year set a new event record. Running one marathon is very tiring. Yet, running three in such a short time frame must be exhausting. However, his times have been very consistent. After running 2:11: 34 in 2 Cities, he ran 2:11:03 in Sacramento and 2:11:08 in Mexicali.

C.J.       I have been feeling good and have needed very little recovery time. Actually, I’m just using the marathons to help me get in shape for the trials Plus, I make some money on the side.

CR        What is it going to take to breakout of the 2:11 plateau and run faster?

C.J.       I need to do much more speed work, which I have started to do. Presently I feel comfortable running at a 5-minute pace per mile, but I need to feel comfortable running at a 4:50 pace. When I’m able to do that, my PR (personal record—2:10:23) will come down. I just haven’t been pushing to run too fast.

CR        So, how do see your chances of placing in the top three at the Olympic trials to make the U.S. National team?

C.J.       I feel good about it. I’m not the favorite, but I feel I have at least a 50% chance of making the team. All depends on what the weather is in Orlando that day. If the dew point is 75% it will probably take a time of 2:10 to make it. But, if its not too warm, it will probably mean having to run about 2:08.    

CR        Many people who have run marathons talk about the exhaustion and horror stories of what they experienced tackling the 26.2 miles distance. How do you feel after running 20 or 25 miles in a marathon? Do you feel the tiredness and pain experienced by slower runners?

C.J.       When you get to those miles in a race, the miles become difficult. The body feels the pain and the mind starts thinking of ways on how to stop or slow down. But you must stay focused. If I’m still competing with other runners at that point, I think of ways to beat them. I work on staying alert.

CR        What about the body’s need to stay hydrated and not lack nutrition?

C.J.       I try to drink lots of liquids to stay hydrated during the race. I also try to consume about 200 grams of carbohydrates.  If a runner takes care of himself in that manner, he should be OK and not feel too bad running a marathon.

CR        In this run-up to the Olympic trials, how many miles are you running weekly?

C.J.       I’m running about 120 miles a week. In certain periods of time, I run 140 to 150 miles a week. It all depends on how I feel and what I think I need to improve my conditioning.

In the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials for the Tokyo Olympics, C.J. finished 7th. Since then, he not only has improved his time, but he has also gained considerable experience on how maintain a faster pace and still save the energy needed for the final stages of the race.

To be in the hunt for one of the three first places, the final mile needs to be fast. That is why C.J. has been putting his body through the fatigue of running back-to-back marathons-to-back. Hi speed training is also a must for the grueling stretch run to the finish line.

With six weeks to go to the February 3rd challenge, we wish C.J. the best of luck in his training. We hope he attains a dream many have, but only a chosen few accomplish—the Olympics. May he run faster than ever and make the U.S. Olympic team that will go to Paris!