Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Joey Elaskr and the Olympic Trials in the Marathon

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Last year, in a post about personal finance, I mentioned my friend Joey Elaskr, who is completing a PHD/MD program at Vanderbilt University. In late 2019, Joey qualified for the Olympic Trials at the Monumental Marathon in an impressive 2:18:57 (5:18 per mile for 26.2 miles). On February 29th this year, just a couple weeks after successfully defending his dissertation, he competed in the Olympic Trials in Atlanta. You can read a bit about Joey's running on Lets Run and on Money & Megabytes. While the tie to "business law" is admittedly stretched, I do think our readers can learn a good bit about juggling demanding responsibilities from Joey, and I am glad he agreed to answer a few questions below the break.


Qualifying for the Olympic Trials is a lofty goal, especially for a full-time graduate student in an intense program. When and how did you settle on this goal?

I think it was sometime after my first marathon in November 2014. I ran 2:24:20 there and was really happy with that. I think because I had a great experience and ran well in my first marathon, it really motivated me to keep perusing improving my marathon time. At the time the OT standard was 2:18, which I knew was a long way off, but still seemed achievable. I also enjoy working toward a long term goal and getting there gradually. Fortunately they eased the standard to 2:19 :). 

Will you tell us a bit about your average week leading up to qualifying for and then running the Olympic Trials?

This is an easy question, because most of my days looked exactly the same! During peak training, I'd wake up at 6ish, stretch, run, go to work, come home and do some physical therapy exercises, second run, cook/eat dinner, relax for maybe an hour or so and go to bed at 945ish. And repeat. Most of the running is at an easy pace, but 1-2 weekdays would be a harder run or interval workout. On Saturday morning I'd do a longer run +/- a harder stretch at close to marathon pace. And sometimes a second run on Saturday. Then Sundays were my lightest days with just one afternoon run. Overall I was running up to 110 miles a week (I had a 14 week stretch leading up to qualifying where I ran just over 1400 miles) and doing 12-13 runs per week. It sounds bad, but after a while you kind of just settle into the routine. I've been fortunate to have grain training partners to run with too, which makes things a lot easier. 

What were the best and worse parts of the training process?

I'll give multiple if that's ok. It's really, really satisfying to know that you gave something your all. And I can't say that about many other parts of my life, but leading up to qualifying I did pretty much everything I could to get better. Ran lots of miles, stretched, saw doctors and physical therapists to prevent injury, got lots of sleep, etc. Going through that and realizing you put in an honest effort to achieve your goal is a great feeling. I'd like to think I'd feel the same way even if I didn't qualify, but who knows. The other great thing is that even though this is individual sport, it really brings people together. I worked with an awesome coach (Scott Wietecha), bonded with training partners over many hard miles, and made new friends along the way. The negatives are really just the opportunity costs: missing out on social gatherings because you need to sleep, feeling tired/drained from the training, etc. And still have to run in crappy weather! 

The actual Olympic Trials Marathon was tough for a lot of runners due to significant wind and serious hills, but I imagine being a part of such a high profile running event was special. How was the Olympic Trials weekend and race?

The weekend was great. Staying at the hotel downtown with all these fast runners, getting free stuff, dinners at the Coca Cola factory and Aquarium were all a lot of fun. But what made it really special was all the people who came out to support me. My parents, family friends, sister, and cousin all came to watch and made t shirts and signs to cheer me on. My girlfriend Jennifer organized this 20-person Airbnb so our friends could come see the race and made it a really special weekend. I got so many notes, texts, and kind words of support throughout the weekend that made me realize how fortunate I was to have this group of people around me. 

The race itself was a little rough. Training hadn't gone super well because school got really busy and then I got sick. On top of that the course was difficult due to hills and wind and I probably started way too fast. But the overall experience was incredible. Just being on that start line and then running past tons of screaming spectators throughout the course was unlike any race I've run before. Obviously running well would have made it even more awesome, but I'm happy I got through it and finished, and got to be a part of this great event. 

What are your future plans with regards to running?

I've been saying I'm going into "retirement" for a while now, and I think that'll be at least partly true :). I'll definitely still be running a good bit, but I'm looking forward to some time without any serious races planned where I can be flexible with it. But maybe I'll make a serious comeback for Boston 2021! 

Congratulations on this massive accomplishment, and thanks for sharing some of your thoughts with us. 

My pleasure, thanks for the questions!

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