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Grant Fisher On Why Bowerman Track Club is Running So Fast Right Now

I’ve covered Grant Fisher’s career since he was running for Grand Blanc (MI) High School and won the Dream Mile at the 2015 Adidas Grand Prix. He went on to become the seventh U.S. high school runner to break four minutes for the mile. He was a 12-time All-American and an NCAA champion in the 5,000 meters while at Stanford. He turned professional and signed with the Nike Bowerman Track Club in 2019. He’s thriving under Jerry Schumacher’s training with personal bests of 13:02.53 for 5,000 meters and 27:11.29 for 10,000 meters. He’s got both Olympic standards in his back pocket ahead of the trials. We unpack those recent performances. We look back at his high school career and career development. Of course, we discussed shoe technology. As a bonus: We discuss the famous LetsRun thread saying: “Grant Fisher is not the best kid in Michigan.”

Grant is also a podcaster now. Check out and subscribe to The Half Step Podcast that he co-hosts with Connor Lane.

Photos by Talbot Cox.

You can catch the latest episode of the podcast on iTunes so subscribe and leave a five-star review. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!

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SHOW NOTES AND QUOTES

Why run so fast right now:

“Going into this year, I was a bit more confident in my strength and I was talking to [Jerry], “Hey, I think I think I could get this standard.” And he thought a few of us could get it and. From then on, it became a group discussion of, “We’re at altitude camp right now in Flagstaff and by the end of this thing, we’re going to rip a hard 10K and try to get the standard.” That was honestly, for me, kind of the focus of the camp: Getting the 10K standard and getting that thing in my pocket. I didn’t really anticipate going after the 5K standard. Honestly, I didn’t think I would do a 5K until May to try to get the standard, but we felt pretty good coming off of that 10K. Jerry had mentioned, “Hey guys, let’s see how we come off of this race. That was a very hard effort on the track. It’s a lot of laps, a lot of toll on your body. Let’s see how we feel. Maybe we’ll do this 5K in two weeks.” And after a week of being back at Portland, we all kind of like ‘I think I think we’re pretty recovered. I think we can do it.’ And that’s how that race came about.”

Bowerman Track Club’s race plans 

“[Jerry] is always kind of tinkering and looking at ways to get the team better. He’s often tinkering up to the last minute, I think. Sometimes that is why our race plans change pretty suddenly or we decide we’re racing a week before. Like that 5K for example, we decided a week before that we were going to do it. With the 10K, we knew quite a ways in advance so that one was a little more planned. And the 3K we probably knew like three weeks in advance that we were going to do that. So I can see totally from the track fan perspective that sucks…I can see that being so, so obnoxious. Absolutely. You can look at, for example, old races that they had at Madison Square Garden back in the day and all the big names are there every week, just ripping miles on that eleven-lap-to-a-mile track or whatever they had in there. That seems awesome. Like that seems so cool. You can build storylines. You can build momentum and rivalries and stuff. Is that the best for making Olympic teams or optimizing your performance in the summer? Maybe not. But from a fan’s perspective, that’s awesome. And I think we as a team are incentivized to do what’s best for us and not what’s best for the fans.”

“It would be interesting if there were some sort of governing body that imposed a schedule on everybody and you just had to show up and do it. That would be really interesting…When I talk to people that don’t know running about how I’m a professional runner, they’re like, “What’s the league like?’ I’m like, “Well, there’s not really a league. It’s not like the NBA or the NFL where we have a schedule in a league.’ They’re like, ‘Oh well, when are you racing the next?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know? The trials? That’s kind of the only thing I can say definitively.’ So I can see from the average fan coming from another sport that they would be like: Why am I following this thing? It’s too hard. There’s no consistency. There’s no continuity to it.”

The Famous Donavan Brazier/Grant Fisher LetsRun Thread

grant fisher letsrun thread

“I’d see Donavan at tons of races in Michigan. At all the little invites, he would be there. But usually, I could avoid him in these races because I would do the 3,200m and 1,600m and he would do the 400m/800m or 4×400/800. So we really didn’t cross paths that often, but I knew he had way more speed than me. He had more speed than everybody. There were races I would watch where he would win the 800 and come back in the 4×4 and split 45. You know I couldn’t do that. I can’t do that now. Very few people can. Donavan was and continues to be one of the most talented runners that I’ve ever seen. He’s so smooth. He has the speed. He was third in our cross-country state finals for Division I so he has the strength. He’s an incredible athlete. 

And the thread that you’re referencing, I think, has been validated. Donovan is a world champion. He’s an American record holder. I can’t really compete with that right now. Those are some pretty nice things to have attached to your name. But I do think, anyone that watched him in high school knew that he was going to be good. You could just tell the guy just had so much power. He was so smooth. He would anchor races for his team and relays and go from tenth place and then win it or 10th to 2nd or something. I think he did that at our state meet during our senior year. The guy’s lights out. I take zero offense to that thread. To say that the world champ and the American record holder is more talented than you. I’m OK with that.”

Handling the pressure of chasing sub-four for the mile as a high schooler

“I tried to ignore it as much as I could. I think my coach at the time really tried to make me ignore it or just shield me almost from the attention. I do think I had a slight advantage over kids now because social media wasn’t as much of a thing then. It was just in its kind of infancy. It’s kind of funny looking at old screenshots of what Twitter used to look like or Instagram because it looks so elementary. It’s just different than how it is now. 

My senior year was actually interesting. I would argue that Matthew Maton opened the floodgates rather than me. He ran sub-four maybe in April out in Eugene. He and I were kind of trading back and forth and a lot of races at that time. I think that took a lot of pressure off me knowing that it’s not the spotlight to see if someone can break for this year. Someone already did. I was always playing catch-up at that point, so that took a decent amount of pressure off. I think toward the end of my senior year, the pressure did kind of get to me. I was so focused on breaking four. That was all I cared about. After I did finally do it, I was just fried. I had felt like I had done all I could. I knew where I was going to go to school next year. I’m pretty sure I lost my next two races after that and then just shut the season down. So I wasn’t immune to the pressure. I was a high school kid. It was definitely there but I do think it was a little easier without the media pressure that that maybe exists now.”

Struggles While Altitude Training with Bowerman Track Club

My very first camp was right after the NCAA season of my senior year. I went up to Park City and those guys had been at altitude for about a month and were getting ready for USAs. I was pretty fried mentally and physically going through NCAAs, graduation, taking my finals right before that, signing with an agent, signing with a shoe company and going through all that stuff. Two days later, I put my stuff in a storage unit and flew up to Park City to work out with Matt Centrowitz, Woody Kincaid and Lopez Lomong, who were all very fit at the time. And so I got slapped around that workout and at that camp.

The next camp was in Colorado Springs. I pretty much immediately hurt my Achilles up there so I didn’t really work out much. 

The spring of 2020, we had a camp in Park City and I just kind of worked my way into a hole, which is very easy to do at altitude I learned…I had a few people comment on that thing I said on my podcast about not finishing workouts. To be clear, what was happening was Jerry would assign a workout and we would all be doing it. Then I’d get dropped, which was what would happen. It wasn’t a voluntary “Hey, I’m I’m hurtin. I’m going to pull myself out of this one.” That was not how it went. It was painful and would happen every workout. It was either that or Jerry would realize I was blowing up and just say, “You’re not doing the last mile.” 

It was not until two and a half months ago that I finished my first altitude workout with the team, which was a great feeling. I remember the first one. I was like, “Wow, I’ve never done that before.” I was so happy just to finish. I actually finished every single workout at altitude and felt in control for a lot of them. My confidence was soaring. I knew that coming off of the Park City camp I mentioned, where I was in a hole, that I was able to run quite well coming off of it in some of those summer time trials. I thought to myself, “Hey if I can not be in a hole coming out of this camp and be hitting these workouts and feeling good, I think I can run pretty quick.” So it was definitely a confidence booster. Those struggles would have been awesome to share with people. I think people were kind of surprised to hear how much I had struggled at altitude camps. I was just bad at altitude and I wasn’t that fit.”

Were those struggles unique to you or did you also see some other people on the team that had bad days where they’re also pulled back?

“People have them every so often. Maybe not like the top-end guys so maybe not like Moh and Lopez. Maybe this was my own bias but I appeared to be the worst one at altitude on the team. Not a great feeling because I was doing really well at sea level before some of these camps. I had some really good training. I was hanging with the top groups. I was feeling well within myself. But altitude’s a different beast. If any of the guys on the team listen to this, I don’t think there’s an argument for this past Park City trip that I was struggling the most out of anyone on the team. It is interesting to look back and see that camp vs. this one just how different I feel now.”

Sizing Up the U.S. 5K Field Ahead of the Trials

It’s becoming pretty entertaining. We have a lot of depth in the men’s 5K right now. The amount of guys that have run 13:10 or faster in the past year or year and a half is more than I can remember. I know I haven’t been in the sport for that long, but it’s more than I can certainly remember. Sure, there’s the argument people are training better than ever. People had a whole year to prepare. People are wearing better shoes now. But the depth is astounding. It’s going to be really interesting. 

If the Olympics had been held last year, I think I would have had a pretty outside shot of making the team. Maybe if things went perfect, I could have maybe snagged a third or something. But at the same time, I didn’t even have the standard. It’s tough to say but I do think this extra year has kind of served me pretty well. My confidence is much higher that I can make this team. It’s going to be incredibly hard. I don’t think you should count out anybody in this situation. I know after Paul Chelimo’s most recent race, a lot of people were talking like maybe he won’t be ready, but I think that’s a massive mistake to count someone like that out. People will continue to come out of the woodworks. It’s an Olympic year. People are going to show up and they’re going to be ready. I think from a fan’s perspective, that’s really exciting. The situation with Lopez and Paul is very entertaining. It’s cool to follow. You don’t get that too often in the sport with two top dogs barking at each other. Anything can happen on race day.

Shoe Technology

“The shoe debate is nuanced and complicated. I think it’s a mistake to simplify it too much. The Dragonfly, which is this spike that I ran in for my 5K and 10K, are incredibly comfortable. They’re the most comfortable spike I’ve ever put on. The foam, the plastic plate and however the proportions are set up, it is really nice. They hit a home run and found a sweet spot with the Dragonfly. It’s the spike I wear during hard reps in workouts. It’s the spike that I choose to race in. It’s tough to pinpoint one thing that makes these spikes different or where a potential advantage lies – whether that’s a training effect, potentially staying healthy with a little bit more cushion, being a little more comfortable or if it’s strictly a racing effect that it’s able to save your legs because of the comfort and because of the cushion so you’ll have more of a kick at the end. It’s tough to say. I would love if there were a study that came out, like a legitimate study, that compared running economy or efficiency or injury rate or something for the Dragonfly vs. the old Matumbo or another company’s spike because right now it’s so hard to tell how much these things are helping or if they’re just kind of hyped-up or not helping. People are just kind of assigning random numbers and times to it like, “Oh, you get 20 seconds over 5K or you get 30 seconds over 10K.” I don’t think that’s how it works. But the counterargument to that is that the only company that’s probably going to sponsor a study on that would probably be Nike sponsoring their own study. So people will probably just say, “Of course, they say they are really beneficial.” Or if the study concludes that they don’t do anything, then people will say, “Of course, Nike found that they don’t do anything. They don’t want them banned.” So it’s nuanced. 

I love them. They’re super comfy. They’re such a different feeling than the old Matumbo. And I’m sure the old Matumbo is a different feeling than the spike that came before that. Technology progresses. I don’t fault Nike – I mean, of course, I’m biased here – but I don’t fault Nike for innovating and trying to make a better spike. I think every shoe company is trying to do that. Nike was just the first mover in this situation and the first mover in the VaporFly and AlphaFly situation as well. I think if you’re not sponsored by Nike, your bias would lead you to say that’s not good for the sport, but I find it hard to believe that if another shoe company created the same technology and they did it first, that they wouldn’t roll it out and create the spike or create the shoe. I know a lot of people have biases against Nike these days. I do think that if you create a good spike, you’re going to release it. It’s not Nike’s job to regulate the spike market. It’s not the athlete’s job to regulate the spike market. But if the spikes are good, they’re good. It’s a governing body’s decision to make those regulations. So until those are made, that can be another debate on should there be regulation? Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the Dragonfly. It’s foam and a plastic plate. Other companies have their own foam that is very similar to the ZoomX film and they know how to make plastic plates and they know how to buy a Dragonfly spike and dissect it and copy it if they so desire. I’ve heard great things about some of the prototypes that other shoe companies have right now for these spikes. I think I think shoe companies will catch up. But Nike has a first-mover advantage and I would guarantee that they’re already trying to improve the DragonFly.

It’s the day of the U.S. Olympic Trials. You’re forced with the decision that you can’t wear the DragonFlys and you have to wear the spikes you wore from two or three years ago. The other guys on the line are still wearing DragonFlys. Would you still feel confident in your ability to make that team?

I think you’d have to or you’d have to convince yourself of it. Different people I talked to are varying levels of believers in the shoes like “Is it the shoe or the athlete” type of debate. I genuinely feel that I’m in good shape and potentially the shoes help, who knows how much or how little, But I do think I would still do well in a regular spike. But of course, I’m going to say that, like, I’m not going to say like I’m trash, but the shoes are the only things that make me good. Yeah, if I had to race in the old spikes, I probably would race in the old Victory or the Mamba. I do like the Mamba quite a bit. It would be an interesting thing to go through right before the race like if you forgot your spikes and all you had were the Mambas, how confident are you? It would be really interesting.

On Dathan Ritzenhein’s 12:56:27 5K record for the fastest person from Michigan

“I was talking to Ritz after the race. I had gotten drug tested and so did Joe Klecker. I had just gotten out of drug testing and Ritz was sitting there so he mentioned that I had taken his Michigan native 10K record two weeks prior, but that he still has the 5K Michigan native record. That’s a tough one to beat. If I were to get that, it would put me pretty close to the American record I guess. So that puts it in perspective of how hard it is to run that time, you’ve got to be in pretty good shape. I’ve got some ways to go. I think I had a pretty perfect situation in that 5K. We had perfect pacing. We had perfect weather. We had a great lead-up. We had an understanding from all the athletes that we were going to try to run fast. And again, I have to say, we had nice shoes on. I think down the road, it would be something to shoot for. I don’t know, the next time we’ll get in a situation like that. I don’t really remember what the context was to Ritz’s time, if that was more of a time trial thing or if it was a championship race. I forget exactly where that time came from. It’s a lot harder to run under 13 minutes in a non-controlled setting. The same thing for running fast 10Ks. It is a lot harder. It’s back and forth. That zaps your legs. I think the pacing was a huge, huge factor in how fast we ran. In a lot of the times that people are running really fast, like indoors for example and the mile that some of the Oregon guys ran, They had really good pacing. Obviously, they’re incredibly fit and you have to be super fit to do that. But I do think the pacing is a big factor that maybe gets attributed to the shoes sometimes now.”


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