I have to admit, I am not the first in my family to take on the #MileProject. Two years ago my daughter had a class assignment in which she decided to train and test herself at running the mile over a 6 month period. She is a dancer by nature, and running was way out of her comfort zone. As research for her final presentation, I urged her to connect with a few local runners and ask them about their experiences. Here are her questions and answers from the 1500m World Champion Jenny Simpson.
1) Why do you like running the mile?
My favorite thing about running the mile is that almost everyone has either run one before or they can relate to the distance. Sometimes when I talk to people about racing other distances such as the steeplechase or the 5000m it’s difficult because they don’t have much experience with the race and maybe not much to compare it to. Since the mile is such a familiar measurement of distance, it’s fun for people to talk about how fast different people can run it. I also love it because it’s so competitive on the world scene right now. The competition is fierce and that makes a win so much more satisfying and meaningful.
2) How do you maintain your energy to keep going even when you’re tired?
The most important thing is to fuel your body for the job it’s doing. Today I ran a workout in the morning and so I made sure I had a good breakfast of oatmeal and tea with an hour for my stomach to settle before the workout. Then, immediately after I was finished I had a protein bar and when I got home I had a nice lunch. That fuel helped me bounce back so I could run again later in the day. I also put a big emphasis on sleep. I try to get 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is the time when your body can truly recover and begin to repair and rebuild your body after a long day. It’s so important.
In the middle of a run, when I’m tired I try to remind myself that when the run is over I have all day to lie around and recovery from the run. Sometimes knowing a rest is coming helps me push through the run and finish on pace.
3) Do you have a favorite memory about running the mile?
I primarily run the 1500m also known as the “metric mile” but for true mile experiences, my favorite would have to be the indoor Big 12 championships in 2009. So much came together that day that it’s hard to describe in just a few sentences. I had been working so hard for four years to try to beat my biggest competitor, Sally Kipyego. She and I were friends (and are great friends to this day) but I trained everyday knowing she was my target and in that way she made me a much better runner. I had been running so well in the 3k and 5k so it was a little surprising I was racing the mile. I lined up and from the gun I took the lead and never looked back. I ran a really hard effort the whole way and held everyone off for the win. It was the first and only time in college that I ever beat Sally and I had to run a collegiate record to do it! It was such a great race because I felt so confident and trusted my training.
4) Who are some of your mentors that you look up to?
I have always been close to my dad and he has always been an example to me. He went back to school when I was a child and worked really hard to provide for his family. I grew up watching my dad’s amazing work ethic and I like to think it rubbed off on me. I also remember vividly watching Deena Kastor run into the Olympic stadium in Athens to win the bronze medal in the marathon. I was going into my senior year of high school and I wanted to be a serious runner. Watching Deena achieve at that level fueled my own dreams.
5) What is your favorite race that you have ever ran?
My absolute favorite race memory would have to be winning the world championships in 2011. When we went into the warm up area I told my coach it was a beautiful night and I was so excited to see how everything would turn out. Little did I know, I was a few hours away from the race of my life! I didn’t have any pressure to medal, I was just happy to be in the final and so I think I ran a really calm and smart race and when I saw the win was within reach I went for it. Standing on the top of the podium the next day was surreal. I love remembering that whole experience.