Q: How did your running career start?
A: I started my freshman year of high school in 2004, I was in honors classes that required a sport or to be a part of the student body, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do football but I was not athletic enough, so I did cross country at Alisal High School in California. After the first race, I fell in love with competing – training not so much, but I love the competition.
Q: You’ve had sort of a rough start with marathons, can you explain your experiences?
A: My first one was in February 2016 at the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, where I dropped out at mile 20 due to heat, so my first finished was Chicago 2016. There, after the second aid station at the 10K, I stepped on a water bottle, which might have been mine, and rolled my ankle. It was pretty bad. I fell to the ground and was really upset because I knew my first marathon went so bad I couldn’t give up again. I got up and it was uncomfortable, but made a split decision and finished it.
Q: So you wanted to come back to Chicago for redemption?
A: Well, my coach, who used to coach Deena Kastor, loves Chicago and said if we’re going to go for a really good time, it’s going to be Chicago. My ankle took two to three months to heal too, so we decided to wait a whole year and not put pressure on another race.
Q: Have you changed up your training in the last year?
A: I used to always be self-conscious that I wasn’t going to be fast enough, and thought if you can run the rhythm of the marathon you should be good but in Chicago, there’s no rabbits so there’s a lot of surging. I train by myself, and used to keep reminding myself to do fast speed workouts, but now I know I just need a few fartlek workouts and just switch it up. I think I have matured as a marathoner; I think of it actually as a marathon not a sprint.
Q: What have you learned about being a marathoner in the last year or so?
A: If I analyze the race from an outside perspective, without the fall and injury, I realized a lot of athletes blow up around mile 18 or 20 because they were surging really hard at first. Because I fell back, I couldn’t surge, but by mile 25 I was able to. I’ve never been a patient racer, but that experience taught me that I was beating a lot of guys I shouldn’t be beating because my ankle forced me to be patient. The easiest way for me to see it is the marathon is three times the half marathon.
Q: What are your goals for October 8?
A: As athletes, we’re never satisfied with our results and always want to do better. I don’t have a time or place in mind, but I’ve trained my body to be a 2:07 or 2:08 type of fitness. I don’t want to limit myself to anything either.
Q: As an elite, what sort of perks do you get on race day?
A: I really enjoy coming out here for promotional stuff; I live alone in Flagstaff, I train alone and my coach lives four hours away and my family is 700 miles away, so when I come here I’m not used to the attention. I do all these interviews with people who are interested to learn about me and I feel special. It validated the training and makes you hungrier to train better to continue earning that positive feedback.
On race day, most people deal with hotels, meal plans and everything, but we have everything taken care for us. They put us on a bus and take us where we need to go. There’s really no outside factors we need to worry about besides getting enough rest. On course, there’s fluids for everyone, but I experienced with a lot of different ones, and some just don’t sit well. Twenty-six miles is a long way to go with too much fluid, so every 5K we get to decide what we want. I think the fact that we are spoiled enough with those fluids it makes a big difference.
Q: You’ve done a lot of different distances over the years – what’s your favorite and least favorite distance?
A: My favorite is definitely the marathon; even though I’ve only finished one, I really like the process of it. It’s not that much different than others, but throughout college and in high school I could show up to one race and be good, but doing it over and over I’d lose some motivation. The marathon allows me to focus and put all my energy into one race. My least favorite is anything below a 5K, it just feels like a sprint.
Q: What are your three favorite things about Chicago?
A: People, food and weather. I love the deep dish pizza, and the few times I’ve been here, for Shamrock Shuffles and last year’s marathon, the weather was great. In Flagstaff, I’m used to the weather going from 50 to 80. Also, my girlfriend is from Sweden and when I go there it makes me feel Claus trophic; it’s wide open here, the air is clean and I can breathe. For me it feels like home.
Q: What advice do you give other marathoners?
A: Don’t rush the process. My first one I just wanted to finish so I trained too hard. Training is just training, it’s a combination of months or weeks, so not just one workout that will set you up.