Natosha Rogers On Her Marathon Debut At The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials: Going To Be A Chess Game

By Kyle Merber

January 24, 2024

In 2012, as a junior at Texas A&M, Natosha Rogers followed up her NCAA 10,000m victory with a second place finish at the US Olympic Trials despite a mid-race fall. Although her time of 31:59 did not qualify her for the Games, running fans took immediate appreciation of her talent. A decade later she finally qualified to represent the United States at a global track championship in the 10,000m in Eugene. Then in 2023, representing her current sponsor and club, Puma Elite, she did it again, this time doubling in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the World Championships in Budapest. Rogers qualified for the Olympic Trials via the half marathon and now holds a personal best of 1:09:36 – it will be her debut at the distance. Given Molly Seidel’s success in her debut at the 2020 Trials, I wanted to hear how Natosha’s foray into the new distance was going.

Natosha RogersNatosha Rogers

Johnny Zhang / @jzsnapz

Hey Natosha, how’s everything going?

Just recovering from a long run – the last big one. It wasn't too hard compared to the rest of them, but it still takes it out of me.

Can you taper now with less than two weeks to go? It’s probably nice to know that the hard work is done.

I am so relieved and I'll be more relieved once I just get there. But yeah, I'm surprised that I made it to this point.

Have you done the distance yet? What's the furthest you've gone so far?

Before this my longest long run was probably 16 miles. So I've never done anything like this. This whole build was discovering what my body can handle. At first it was like, ‘Oh my God – this is for, like, psychotic, masochistic people.’ But things finally turned the corner and these last three or four weeks, I'm starting to like it. I really wish a miracle happens for me so that I can continue on this marathon journey. But if it doesn't, I am ranked third in the 10,000m and 5,000m so I'll at least be super fit going into those.

I have so many questions! First off, you ran a very good couple half marathons considering your longest run was only 16 miles.

Thank you.

That's incredible. I mean between a warm up and cool down that day, you're hitting an all-time high. Is that where the seed was first planted that you wanted to do this? Were you thinking about this in 2021?

No, it really wasn't until I signed with Puma. When I was with the Hansons, we did definitely discuss it, but we hadn’t committed to that path yet – just because there is still promise on the track. If I stayed with the Hansons then I would have probably done Chicago this past year. I think everyone just kind of wanted to milk the track out of me as much as possible, but I'm in my 30s and an old lady now.

Who had the idea first that you could open up your marathon career at the Trials? Was it Amy and Alistair [Cragg, Natosha’s coaches]?

Puma really wants marathon runners, and my contract reflects that, because they made it a focus with their shoes. They didn't used to have such solid long distance running shoes and they really picked up their game in this area – the new ones are great!

But it goes back all the way to 2012, when I raced Amy in the 10,000m as a junior in college – I've had that connection with [Amy and Alistair] and they've seen the talent in me. Obviously they're great at the marathon as Pat [Tiernan] and Rose [Harvey] pretty much having that Olympian title in the bag for this year. Sarah Vaughn ran great in Chicago and it's just performance after performance, like, they know their stuff.

And they really believe in me and that this is my direction. It's pretty easy to put my full trust in them with this. I had to let go of the control factor because for the majority of my career I was training alone in isolation and a lot of things were in my control. But I'm really glad that I did not try to approach the marathon with me in charge, because I did not know what I was doing with this stuff.

I was reading your athlete bio on the Trials website, and you said that you went all in starting in 2023. You've had a pretty good career for not being all in leading up to then! From your perspective, what was that shift and how did things change?

Deciding to join this team took a lot of sacrifice. I moved out of my state and away from my family. I had my cat adopted. I just got sick of doing my career one foot in and one foot out. I have to admit that in my 20s that I lived it up… like I did it all! I wanted to not have any regrets in my 20s and I still don't regret that.

But now it’s just like, “why am I still doing this if I'm not going to be all-in?” It gets embarrassing on the world stage. I am very grateful to have made it to Worlds and stuff, but if I'm not all-in, the performance is going to show. I definitely put it all out there this year and it takes time to experience that caliber. And then when I started this marathon build I had no choice but to seriously be all-in because you can't get away with stuff with this sort of training.

Not to be a psychologist on it, but was the one foot in and one foot out thing a reaction to 2012 and some injuries afterward?

I'm a very emotional runner. I also have a wild side… I'm just going to be honest. But now that I'm getting older it's kind of dying out. Like, I'm too tired.

The mileage is probably a factor as well.

Yea, but I think I'm just getting older now, and this is my career and the path I chose. In your 20s, you don't realize the weight of all of that and you still want to have fun. You still want to be like, a regular person in ways, but enough has happened at this point where I would rather just see what I can get out of this… and make more money!

How has the build up been? If 16 miles was your previous high, what has that or your mileage gotten up to? Has it been a smooth build up overall?

Nope. I was actually supposed to go to Albuquerque with my team and Fiona [O’Keeffe]. After Budapest, I kind of let myself go a little bit just because I had a crazy year. I lived out of two suitcases for the majority of the time and moved three times. When your life is just nonstop like that it's only a matter of time before you have to slow down.

Meanwhile, Fiona was training really hard over the summer because she didn't get to compete at USAs and so we didn't really line up and she was a level ahead for sure. It became clear to us that I kind of needed to separate and be on my own trajectory. I'm just a different athlete.

I start out very unfit, and then by the end start getting some serious traction close to championship time. Our trajectories were different, and the universe wanted me to do this in isolation.

I've had help from some of the guys on the team for long runs and stuff here in North Carolina. But it has not all been smooth. I had a really hard adjustment to the distance, but like I will say, it's really coming around. My odds are a lot lower than the favorites in the field, but the race can play out a number of ways… so it's going to be a chess game out there!

Is there a workout or a performance that you're drawing on for confidence that leads you to believe, ‘hey, on my best day I can finish in the top three here.’

Well, it's hard with social media because you have your Keira D’Amatos and Sarah Halls posting their workouts and like… they're insane. So, no – and this goes for track too – if you looked at my workouts in practice you’d say ‘she won't make the team.’ But I do have a lot of confidence in my ability to pull something out of my ass and grind it out.

My heart is really invested and I have tried hard to surrender and commit to this. And so like, that's all I can really lean on and just do the best I can. Trying to compare workouts would be my biggest mistake.

What’s the best advice that you have received for the marathon? I would imagine anything Amy says should be written down.

I saw Rory Linkletter in Austin for The Running Event, and we had a really good conversation. He told me easy days are the most important and to take recovery days as seriously as you need to. That was one of my biggest mistakes the first half of the block because I am an exercise addict and like to do a lot of cross training. I like to feel like I'm getting ahead and separately outside of practice.

That worked for me in college, and it kind of stuck with me. But then I was doing this new strength stuff that I was taught during the summer and all of that had to go because I would show up to workouts already defeated. You have to be as fresh as possible for these serious long run workouts. And so my easy days are totally relaxing. I’m willing to go slow or not run with the team.

I appreciate you taking the time to chat and I will see you in Orlando in less than two weeks. Have you been in North Carolina this whole time?

Of course! And yes, I love it here so much. Have you been?

I have – the Tobacco Trail is the nicest run possible.

Right? It's so charming and cute here. There's so many trees, and as I said, I lived out of two bags all year. I just needed some stability for this build and wanted to feel like I was at home.

For more of the top stories and analysis from the biggest stories in track and field from the past week, subscribe to The Lap Count newsletter for free. New edition every Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. ET.

Kyle Merber

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.