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Joey Berriatua on His Sub-Four Mile Chase, Taking A Leap of Faith with Tinman Elite

“I just kind of wanted to write my own narrative of what it meant to be a professional runner. I knew coming out of college, I just didn’t want to give up on that dream. It was super important for me to do what I was passionate about and take a chance on myself. That meant moving to Boulder instead of moving to San Francisco and going to work at a 9-5 tech job. Basically, it’s been not giving up on myself knowing I have a lot more to give to the sport…”

My guest for today’s episode is Joey Berriatua. This is actually the first podcast episode that I recorded in person in a while and I’m glad it’s with someone who has an appreciation for CITIUS MAG from its start in 2017. Just a few years back, Joey was a diehard Citius fan. He’d buy all the merch we’d put out. He’d listen to all the podcasts, DM us and he was running some solid times at Santa Clara. Sometime around 2018 and once his eligibility was over, he decided to continue his running career and he connected with Sam Parsons and Tinman Elite. He’s seen some big improvements since his move to Boulder and he’s on the cusp of breaking four minutes for the mile. I believe he’s running a mile this weekend, which would be cool to see him finally get under. We talk about how we got to this point, why he took this risk on himself, some people give Tinman a hard time and how he takes that criticism plus what’s the endgame in this pursuit. It’s funny because when I showed up to the Tinman house, I didn’t know I’d be sitting down with Joey so there were no notes and no questions written down for this one. Just two of us having a candid and honest conversation. Enjoy!

SHOW NOTES

– “For me, personally, I see myself as an underdog in anything I do and with any group, I’ve been with. I love the idea of being able to build a program rather than join a program that’s already well established and just keeps getting top five at nationals. There are not really many places to go up from there. I love the idea of being those guys who aren’t supposed to be doing what they’re doing yet they’re still doing it anyway.”

– “The idea switched from being ‘I’m going to be Derek Jeter’s back up for a couple of years and be the Yankees’ shortstop’ to ‘I’m going to try and be an Olympian one day.’”

– “I reached out to everybody and obviously didn’t get a response from anybody except for Sam. I DM’ed him after Regionals and I said, ‘Hey! Look, I love Tinman. You guys are awesome. I love how you guys are more focused on the team than having great times. Here are my times, which are not good but I do think I could be a great add. I’m not a good runner right now but I’m going to be really good. You just have to trust me.’ And for some reason, Sam just decided to respond to that message that day and said, ‘Contact coach. Two requirements of being on the team are that you have to live in Boulder and be coached by Tom Schwartz.’ Two months later, I was in Boulder messaging Reed saying, ‘Hey! I’m here. It would be great to go on a run with you guys.’ From then on, I was practically running with them every day…It was definitely a leap of faith in terms of somebody is going to take a chance on me. I just have to find out who it’s going to be. It just turned out to be Coach Schwartz and the Tinman guys.”

– “There were a couple of things that kind of earned my spot in terms of officially being on the team. We can argue all day about what it means to officially be on the team. A while back, it was mainly when you are on the website. I wasn’t on the website until after I ran USAs last July in Des Moines. I think there’s a couple things leading up to that and got me on the team technically. The first one was at the UW Preview Indoors in 2019, I was in the second heat of a 3K and I was pissed that I wasn’t in the first heat. I won the race in 7:59, which was a 20-second PR. I think that was the little flash of brilliance where they thought ‘OK, this guy is improving. From the team’s perspective, we’re getting our return on investment in terms of taking a chance on this guy, giving him a couple pairs of shoes and some workouts to run with.’ After that, they thought maybe this guy could be good if we actually keep investing in him. Then it was actually making USAs was the second one. It kind of gets overlooked on how I did that basically on one adductor. I tore my adductor in April and continued to run through July. I couldn’t physically run afterward. That was earning my pinstripes. I talked to my parents about this a lot and some other close friends but I had no other option but to make it to that USA meet instead of calling it a day and trying to treat this adductor. There’s just a lot of things from a financial standpoint, from a confidence standpoint and all these other factors that got me to that place. It turns out that this whole recovery process has been a new light in my running career. I was able to hype myself up for four months straight from staring at the bottom of a pool and telling myself, ‘You’re going to be a better runner when you come back.’ I think I’ve earned my pinstripes but I still think I’m that backup shortstop in regards to being on the team. Obviously, I’m not running that world-class caliber time but I’m working my way to that point. I’m on the team but in no way am I the starting shortstop in the World Series.”

– “I think I kind of put away the idea a long time ago that guys were questioning why I was on this team outside of our team because I know that the people who trust in me and believe in me are going to invest in me. That’s why I moved out here in the first place because I had guys who believed in me and trusted in me. I put all my energy into those guys. In terms of what the guy from sports marketing for On is saying that it’s great that they have this marketing but not the talent to back it up, he’s not wrong. Granted up front, we have three world championship qualifiers. That’s a pretty good amount compared to some other teams. Granted it’s not like the former Oregon Project, Pete Julian’s group or Bowerman. Even the Oregon Track Club has that. Compared to like Brooks or New Jersey-New York and a couple other teams that I can’t think of off the top of my head, that’s the same amount that they’ve got. Up front, we’re super talented. We have three 13:20 guys on the team who are potentially faster. It’s just a lack of depth. It’s my side of the team that I think he’s referring to and what everyone points at when they say, ‘Tinman sucks because they have that guy over there who is not running well over there.’ For me personally, it’s not really fuel to the fire. It’s more like OK, I’ll keep that in my back pocket. At the end of the day, people can talk all that they want but I really do think that everyone has their own path. For me, it’s just staying on my path and knowing what I need to do on an everyday basis in terms of being able to compete with Joe Klecker and Ollie Hoare. Those guys are really good runners and I would love to be at 200 meters to go next to them. They are going to be world-class talent. Ollie already ran 3:34. Joe has run 3:37 as a 5K and 10K guy. These guys are good runners. At the end of the day, it’s going to be really funny when the bottom half of this group – in essence me and a couple of other guys – are beating some other really good runners because we just know, we have to wait for our time. We’re due for a big one. Me specifically, based on how my training has been going and how this whole progression has come along since the injury, I just know it’s the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think I would ever want to beat Joe or Ollie or Carlos or any professional runner out of pure spite but I know Steve from On – there may be a day when I do actually beat them and he’s going to have to think to himself, ‘OK, they’re actually world-class talent now.’ I don’t think that really affects us in a huge capacity. Obviously we know about it and recognize it but we keep going on our path. We have so many people nowadays who keep taking shots at us and it’s just like who cares? We don’t really care.”

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