By Kyle Merber
March 9, 2022
The one way that Grant Fisher could have topped his indoor 5000m American Record of 12:53.73 was with another one. His 26:33.84 is now the seventh fastest 10,000m of all-time and the guys ahead of him are names like Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat.
The only other American to break 27-minutes for 10,000m beside Galen Rupp (26:44.36) is Chris Solinsky (26:59.60). When that happened back in 2010 it had ripple effects across the sport — that performance took on almost ‘where were you when JFK got shot’ level of significance to American distance runners. To help make clear just how far things have come the past 12 years, when Grant crossed the finish line, Solinsky would have had another 195 meters still to go.
In the words of my friend Aaron Potts from the post-race interview, ‘North America, we out here!’ Just a step behind Fisher was Canada’s Moh Ahmed in 26:34.14. With two global medals and a 12:47.20 5000m best, a run like this has likely been in his legs before, but putting it together on an opportune day is a different thing entirely. In every interview Grant has done, he credits Moh as a huge factor in his own success. The BTC has their willingness to rabbit each other to big performances. I caught up with Grant on Monday to hear more about the race and all the surrounding excitement.
THE LAP COUNT: Did you get to sleep at all last night or were you too busy celebrating?
GRANT FISHER: There was some celebration, but it was a Sunday night. When I got out of drug testing it was pretty late so we got some In-N-Out. You’re tired but can’t sleep. At 3 a.m., I was scrolling through Instagram waiting for something new to pop up.
THE LAP COUNT: I am sure you lined up with the expectation of going after that American Record of 26:44, but it wasn’t even really close. Did you think running that fast was a possibility?
GRANT FISHER: The expectation going in was to essentially try to run the American Record. Leading up to the race, we had a lot of uncertainties revolving around rabbits, but they came together at the last minute. Our original plan was to get a rabbit for maybe 3-4k and then trade off, but my confidence grew knowing we’d have help. I surprised myself with how far under we went — a lot of things had to come together to do that.
THE LAP COUNT: I’d imagine there was some pushback moving the race a day, but it proved to be the right move. When did you hear about that possibly happening?
GRANT FISHER: I first heard about it on Wednesday leading up to the race, so we were doing our final prep workout. Jerry called us over and said the forecast on Saturday night was pretty windy. The plan was to monitor it and talk to Jesse about potentially moving it. That night at about 11:00 pm Jerry sent a text saying to cancel our flights the next day and book hotels for an extra day.
Ultimately you look back and it seems to have been the right call. We’re appreciative of not having wind and I think it was cemented in our brains during pre-meet when you do a stride against the wind and think, ‘I don’t want to do this for 10k.’ I’m sure there were a lot of interesting things behind the scenes that we didn’t see to accommodate the change.
THE LAP COUNT: It’s not really a secret that there’s some level of criticism for these time trials that sort of exist in a bubble. Do you think that’s in any way warranted when you are going for standards and records? In fairness, you have proven the ability to run in championships. But do you hear that noise or care?
GRANT FISHER: I definitely think about that and I understand where it’s coming from. Some of the most exciting moments in track come from head-to-head racing, championship-style stuff where the race isn’t paced and it’s more organic. It’s also fun to test the limits of your body and see how fast you can go.
I would argue that the time to have the championship racing is in the summer and almost always Bowerman shows up for those and performs really well. There aren’t many opportunities throughout the year to run a fast 10k and we knew we were all fit right now, and this was a great opportunity for us. And when you have limited chances, you want to make sure everything’s right. In this case, running in 15-20 mph winds could be the difference between running the standard or not and those are important margins.
I think you see other groups that are running — like Cooper and Cole going for mile American Record or what Josh Kerr did at BU — I thought that was very exciting. I think there’s room for both in the sport. We would all trade running fast now for a high finish at the World Championships this summer and that’s certainly our priority. I personally appreciate both sides: running fast and the racing side.
THE LAP COUNT: The counterpoint is that I thought it was a great race between you and Moh. It looked like he might have had you with like 200 meters to go, but you were able to fight back. What’s the motivation when you’re racing a teammate with 100 meters to go?
GRANT FISHER: I read you guys covering this with the New Balance Boston group. It is an interesting situation where 90-95 percent of that race, we are relying on each other. I needed him there and he needed me. You’re not able to push as much when you’re alone. But at some point, it’s time to race.
At the end of the day, we’re both competitive people and we both like to win. For 95 percent of the race, you’re thinking of each other as teammates, someone that you genuinely need to endure that pace. And It’s good practice to be racing the reigning silver medalist in the Olympics – what better experience is there? He’s been a mentor to me.
I think we do a good job of switching it on and off. It was set up to be a fast race in perfect conditions, with pace lights, pacers, everything was controlled, but at the end of the day, it still became a race. And that was exciting to be a part of, and hopefully to watch.
THE LAP COUNT: I’ve heard that Sean McGorty has the reputation of being the one to take the hardest reps. You now have two American Records so are you going to have to take on more of the burden?
GRANT FISHER: Sean is a metronome. He’s really easy to run behind and he’s a bigger guy than me so he blocks a little more wind. As a team, we do a great job of really balancing the workload. I’m certainly leading more than I did during my rookie season. I’d let the guys know, ‘hey, I just went all out on that last one so I’m not sure about this one.’ But yeah, I think I’m a bit more reliable now.
THE LAP COUNT: Last night at 3 a.m., did you look at the all-time 10,000m list? Your name is next to some legends.
GRANT FISHER: It’s kind of a surreal feeling, you know? My name was kind of out of place when I saw it. I’m not used to seeing it next to those guys up there so it’s a strange feeling. I have some imposter syndrome right now, but it’s an honor to be in that company. It’s crazy for me to say I’m number seven in the world, ever. Don’t worry, the guys on the team are making sure I won’t get a big head.
The Lap Count is a weekly newsletter delivered on Wednesday mornings that recap all the fun action from the world of track & field. It’s a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the sport. There is a lot happening and this newsletter is a great way to stay up to date with all the fun. Subscribe today.
After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.