Footloose Sports Hosts a Q&A With Asics Elite Runners
Oct 20, 2020
Each year in August, high school and college running teams from around the country make an annual altitude-training trip to Mammoth Lakes. Large vans decked with team logos head up Highway 395 filled with student athletes ready to ramp up their training before the cross-country season begins.
Situated at 8,000 feet above sea level, Mammoth Lakes is an ideal training destination for endurance athletes seeking the performance benefits from high elevation. It is not only a mecca for school teams, but also draws a number of professional runners for year-round training.
Coach Andrew Kastor, ASICS Mammoth Track Club elite athletes, and visiting professional runners including Ryan and Sara Hall, and Becky Wade met with more than 200 student athletes at Footloose Sports last Wednesday for a question and answer session.
Q: What do you think about when you’re running?
Josh Cox: The great thing about training in a group and having a team is you have each other, so for a lot of workouts we have the group. We run with our buddies; it is not unlike what you guys are doing at the high school level where you are just running and talking at that conversational pace on your easy days. When I am out there by myself I either put on my iPod, or I go within.
I think about the why: why I am training, why I am running, and what I am working towards. If I am running really hard I pray a lot that I can get through the workout. If I am out there and I get to the final 3 miles of a run and I’m training for a marathon, I put myself at mile 23 and I tell myself this is the final 3-miles of that race. I’m a big believer in visualizing what you want to do. Everything is created twice: first you do it in practice, and then you do it on race day. I believe if I can do it in practice, then I can do it race day.
Q: When did you decide to join ASICS Mammoth Track Club?
Lauren Jimison: I really enjoyed running in college and I had a pretty successful college career. I knew I wanted to do longer distances and after college I ended up taking a job at a university, so I worked for a year. In that time I realized that I wanted to continue running. I am really glad that I took a step back to think through it because then I was able to look at every program. There are a lot of different options for post-collegiate running, but I knew that I wanted to be with a solid team and coach.
I talked a lot with my coach Andrew Kastor; he cares about us as athletes, but also as people. Deena is someone that I always looked up to and I knew that if I wanted to run the marathon this would be the perfect place to do it and that’s why I decided to join ASICS Mammoth Track Club. It’s been the best decision I ever made for my running career and I’m having fun with it.
Q: What made you want to become a professional runner?
Ryan Hall: Well, don’t tell ASICS this, but I would run even if they didn’t pay me. Running is my passion, though I used to hate running. I grew up in Big Bear Lake, California and I was looking out over the lake one day and I got this crazy idea that in hindsight was from God, to try and run around the lake. I went out the next Saturday with my dad and ran around the lake. It was a long painful slow 15-mile journey, but I made it and collapsed on the couch when I got home. I though God was speaking to me, telling me, “I’ve given you a gift; run with the best guys in the world. I’ve given you that gift so you can help other people.”
I’ve been pursuing that calling ever since I was 13, so for 18 years I’ve been going after exactly that—trying to run with the best guys in the world. It’s been my pleasure to run at the Olympics and trying to help other people. My wife and I opened the Hall Steps Foundation that helps people in need of health care, domestically or internationally. Running is an amazing sport. I love the performance end of it, I love chasing records, I love going to the Olympics, but nothing is more powerful than (helping other people through running).
You guys can transform the world, not just through your legs, but what you can do as a team, and what you can do through running. I encourage you to think about that. What is my running really about? How am I going to help other people? How can I encourage my teammates? How can I change the world through running? —Because you guys can do that.
Q: What do you do when you’re under pressure?
Deena Kastor: From 11-years-old to now 41-years-old, I’ve never been nervous for a race because I twist it in my mind a little bit. If I’m expected to win a race or break a record and I’m tying my shoe in a double knot on the starting line, you might think that’s nerves, but it’s not. If I’m on the starting line and that trash can over there looks like a pretty enticing place to puke because I have this thing going on in my stomach…I call that excitement.
I’m so excited for that gun to go off and to show my competitors, and the fans on the sidelines what I’ve been working for. I think we can make a switch in our mind whether it’s pressure or support, or it’s nervousness or excitement. If we twist it in our minds a little bit we can make it something that’s positive and fuel us rather than hinder our performances.
Next time you’re out there think of the positive and how the moment can empower you, rather. Try to find a way to work around any nervousness or negativity so you can continue to do what you set out to do.
Q: What is the biggest difference between high school and professional running?
Sara Hall: There are a lot of differences between high school and professional running. I remember being in your shoes. I used to train up here (in Mammoth) with some friends. My high school team didn’t, but I came up with Lauren Fleshman and some other friends. We decided that we wanted to be good, we wanted to push each other and train on our own.
I look back at my high school career and I’m really thankful that I had a lot of fun. I was definitely really driven in high school and wanted to be good, but at the same time I valued the team experience and enjoyed the social aspect—not being so focused with tunnel vision on my goals that I wasn’t being silly with my teammates and doing the fun and goofy things that teams do. I’m glad for that because as a professional you don’t quite have a team experience.
Even if you are on a team like the Mammoth Track Club it’s a little bit different because you are not scoring as a team. You are more a training group and a community. High school and college are really the only opportunities to be on a true team. My team didn’t even make it to state my first couple of years in high school, but I really tried to invest in them and my coaches. By my senior year we won the state championship. Anything is possible when you are working together towards those goals; it’s an exciting thing to do with other people, so enjoy it while you can.
Q: What do you do when you start to doubt yourself?
Becky Wade: It is a natural response (to doubt yourself) when you don’t know how people around you are feeling, or when you are starting to suffer a little bit. You have to find a way to mentally to change the situation. I like to play little games with myself. If I have 10k-to-go in the marathon, I will take it mile-by-mile and in the last couple miles, take it half-mile by half-mile; anything I can do to think about getting to the next point, but not getting beyond myself.
It is easy to doubt yourself when you are thinking too much about the results and the outcome, and you’re not fully invested in the moment. That is something I will always work on—being present fully and not worry about what is going to happen, or worry about if someone else is feeling better than I am. Appreciate where you are in the moment and give it your best that day.
Note: this interview has been edited and condensed.