Who is Joel Reichow? Meet The Dark Horse Candidate For The U.S. Olympic Marathon Team

By Owen Corbett

January 16, 2024

Ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon on February 3rd, CITIUS MAG is sitting down with some dark horse candidates to make the team. First in the hot seat is Joel Reichow, who burst onto the scene with a 14th place finish (seventh American) at the 2023 Chicago Marathon. The 30-year-old Reichow trains with Minnesota Distance Elite in the Twin Cities area, and has set up a training camp in Orlando with his team in advance of the Trials. We talked with Joel about his build-up toward Orlando, his mindset going into the race, and Minnesota running culture, which tends to fly under the national radar.

Joel ReichowJoel Reichow

Kevin Morris / @KevMoFoto

CITIUS MAG: We are just a day removed from your tune-up at the Houston Half Marathon (17th, 1:03:16). How did that race feel, and what were you hoping to get out of it?

Joel Reichow: It was good, I wasn't too focused on time or place. Really the big thing was just getting in an effort, making sure I get used to that race feel, getting used to being uncomfortable. Things felt really smooth – second half of the race I had to use the bathroom and ended up stopping to use the bathroom, so that's not ideal – but it felt really good. I was on PR pace and felt comfortable at that. So I'm happy with where things are at.

CITIUS MAG: We're three weeks out from the Olympic Trials now. How do you feel going into the race? How's the build going?

Joel Reichow: It’s going really good. I think fitness is coming along. I had a few bumps at the start of the build up, but things have been smooth since then. At the start of the build up, I got sick and then had a cough from the sickness, and then I had some rib issues that took a few weeks to get over. But since then, fitness has come around and I'm happy with where things are at.

CITIUS MAG: Flashback to the 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon (56th, 2:20:05). What did you learn from that experience and what have you done differently this time around?

Joel Reichow: I was still pretty fresh at that point, I hadn't done a marathon before. Also, that build up was the first time I had done a half as well, so still a lot of learning in that situation. I definitely – for my fitness level in that race – went out a lot quicker than I should have and paid the second half of the race. I was still experimenting with fueling, and so I took gels without any fluid at the same time. And after mile six when I took my first gel, it was kind of stuck in my throat. I ended up frequently dry heaving. It was just stuck. So it was a little bit of a rough experience. And experimenting with fueling more has been a big help.

CITIUS MAG: What is your confidence level going into the race this year?

Joel Reichow: I trust myself a lot. I just need to get myself into a position to compete and see what happens. Obviously I'm not a favorite or anything, but I think I have a good outside shot. Getting in position is a big thing. Giving myself a chance.

CITIUS MAG: What do you think is the difference in your mindset going into the race compared to someone who is a favorite like Conner Mantz?

Joel Reichow: It's a lot less pressure. There's a lot less focus on me. It’s kind of nice, not necessarily being overlooked, but people aren’t targeting you. So it's nice to just be able to chase people.

CITIUS MAG: This race is one, on the men's and women's side, that often sees a surprise name make the team, and so maybe that'll be you. The good thing is we're getting the fans to know about you before the race, so that they can say they saw this one coming.

Joel Reichow: And realistically top three [compared to] top 25, that’s only three minutes or so out of that, and there's a lot of people that can compete for that spot. Nobody's really safe this time around, nobody can have a bad race and still make it.

CITIUS MAG: I want to flash back even further to your college days for South Dakota State (two-time NCAA Cross Country All-American, finished 20th as a senior). Your college coach, Rod DeHaven won the 2000 Trials marathon. Did he give you any advice going into 2020? Has he given you any advice this year? Have you kept in touch?

Joel Reichow: I haven't kept in touch too much. I'm kind of a quiet person, so I don't have a lot of conversations with people. But I know he's been keeping up with my results. For training and racing in general, we had a very good emphasis on racing smart and not doing anything too reckless, but being willing to take risks when needed.

CITIUS MAG: Back in those college days, do you think there was anything that signified that your talent would be in the marathon someday?

Joel Reichow: Yeah, I've definitely always felt more comfortable in longer workouts and races. So coming out of college, I wanted to do track for a little bit, but I knew eventually I wanted to transition into marathon training and see how that plays out. We have a lot of other guys on this team (Minnesota Distance Elite) who are in a very similar situation. So when I was joining the team [in the fall of 2017], Kevin [Lewis, 39th at 2020 Olympic Trials, 2:12:02 PB] was here, and then we had probably two or three other guys that were in a very similar situation where they're still doing some of the 10,000m work, but starting to get into half marathons and move up a little bit.

CITIUS MAG: Tell me more about your training group.

Joel Reichow: I think our group is up to 15 people now. We're split between some track guys and then some marathon and longer distance people as well. Right now we've got four guys in the marathon and three women. It's been really nice to be able to do workouts with them and trade off leading. Tyler [Jermann, DNF at 2020 Olympic Trials, 2:12:40 PB] – when we were building into marathon stuff – had a lot more experience with it, so getting a lot of guidance from him has been a big help too.

CITIUS MAG: You're training with Minnesota Distance Elite. You're from Minnesota. Last year you won the Grandma's half marathon. Tell me about the running culture of Minneapolis. I think it often gets overlooked in the talk of the big running cities, but what can you say about Minnesota's running culture that's underrated?

Joel Reichow: There's actually a pretty big running culture in Minnesota, especially the Twin Cities area. We have one of the best trail systems and biking systems. Obviously winters are very challenging, but there's tons of trails and training is really good here. And then fall and spring are the perfect temperature. Summers can be a little bit humid, but it's still super nice here in the summer.

CITIUS MAG: How has the winter training been this year?

Joel Reichow: We actually headed down to Orlando in January, so we got out just in time this year. In December, it was super mild. We got one snowstorm the day before I left, so I had to do a 20 miler on the treadmill with some marathon pace, so that was a little bit of a bummer. But it's nice to be down in the Orlando area getting in some little bit warmer training. Good footing.

CITIUS MAG: Obviously we had the start time controversy in Orlando. Now that it has been resolved, do you think it was all worth it? What side were you on?

Joel Reichow: I think moving it up was good because most of the time when you race a marathon it’s in the morning, so racing at noon is a big change for most people. It's just another variable. I think it is helpful in making sure the race is more like it would normally be, and you are more likely to get the best competition out of it. Honestly, I would like it a little bit earlier, but it's not a big issue. So far the weather here has been very mild. Hopefully it’ll be that way, but I know we could get a warm day, we get a cold day, a windy day.

CITIUS MAG: You ran for team USA in the 2019 NACAC Cross Country Championships, but obviously if you're putting on the USA kit this time around, for the Olympics, it'd be a little bit different. Growing up, did you have that dream of being a professional runner and being an Olympian?

Joel Reichow: Definitely. I always wanted to compete. I wanted to push the limits and see what I could do. So it would be huge if that could happen for me.

CITIUS MAG: Take me back to Chicago (14th, 2:10:37, PB). Talk me through the race and how that went for you. How does that build confidence for you going into Orlando?

Joel Reichow: We had a group and I was able to work together with them. I had a calf strain during the build up, so that set training back a little bit, but I was feeling like fitness was where I wanted to be in the area of my goal. I was targeting 2:09 and through 21 [miles] I was on that pace. And then I actually had to stop, pull off to the side of the road, and stretch my calf for a bit and then jump back in the race. When that happened, I was probably still on 2:09:30 pace so fitness was where I wanted it to be. But still I think there is a lot of room for improvement.

CITIUS MAG: In a race like this where top three is the big goal, are you planning on going out aggressively and then seeing how long you can hold on to a top three spot? Or is the plan to hold back and try to catch as many people as you can in the second half?

Joel Reichow: I'm not really huge on going in with an exact race plan. Every time I do that it's thrown out the window right away and very much tends to be more by feel. But I think I need to keep them in range, so if they go out reckless, I probably will let them get a little bit and then trust that I'll be in position by the time I need to be. But if they go out slow enough, it'd be nice to be able to be in the pack right in the hunt from the beginning. But it depends how things play out, then respond and react to that.

CITIUS MAG: The all-important question, what shoes are you planning on wearing in Orlando?

Joel Reichow: Right now, I'm planning on using the HOKA Rocket X2s that I used in Chicago. They're a little bit heavy, but I really like the way they feel. They've been working really well for me. The cushioning feels good, and they still feel responsive, so I've been liking them a lot.

CITIUS MAG: If you do end up making the team in Orlando, what is going to be the reason that it happens?

Joel Reichow: Just keeping myself in the hunt. I think I still have a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully, it's not somebody blowing up and having a bad race. Hopefully, it's me being better than them on that day. I just have to get in the position to compete.

CITIUS MAG: So when everyone's asking who's your top three, why should people be picking you?

Joel Reichow: I don't think there's too many people that are going to put me in their top three, but I think I'm a good dark horse candidate. I think things have been really coming together. I'm usually pretty smart about getting myself in the right position, giving myself a chance, and I usually close the race pretty well.

CITIUS MAG: If you do cross the line first, second, or third, and everyone is asking “who is Joel Reichow”, what is the first thing you want people to know about you?

Joel Reichow: Just that I am relaxed and laid back, but I’m always going to put up a fight.

CITIUS MAG: Good luck, Joel! Thank you for talking to us, we’ll be rooting for you.

Owen Corbett

Huge sports fan turned massive track nerd. Statistics major looking to work in sports research. University of Connecticut club runner (faster than Chris Chavez but slower than Kyle Merber).