After graduating from Georgetown University in 2012 as an NCAA Champion, Ohio-native, Emily Infeld, moved west to join the Bowerman Track Club, coached by Jerry Schumacher. Nine years ago there were few women on the team, but given the success of Shalane Flanagan, it was a leap well worth taking. And by all accounts, it paid off. Emily would go on to take the bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships and qualify for the Rio Olympics in the 10,000m. However, on January 1st of this new year, Emily announced that she is no longer a member of the Portland-based group and will be pursuing new opportunities. Enjoy this short Q&A with her about that decision:
Spending nine years with a single group and coach is quite rare in this sport. What was the main motivation behind exploring new opportunities at this point in your career?
I honestly haven’t been totally happy in this situation for a while and have lacked consistency in my training. I kept rationalizing that this system has worked for me in the past and that if I could stay healthy at the right time I could run really, really well. But just because this system worked for me in the past, doesn’t mean it still works for me now. I realized as I had less healthy months out of each year that I was losing what I love about running and this sport. I have big goals and I realized that you can only go so far when you don’t have any consistency. As much as I really love the people of the group and respect the coaches, I knew the training hadn’t been working for me and I needed to make a change.
Since 2017 it seems like staying healthy has been the major challenge. What sort of specific changes in your approach do you hope to make in training that will make that difference?
Much of the last four years I feel like I was either injured, coming back from injury, or on the verge of injury. I know injuries are part of the sport but it became overwhelming for me. I never felt like I could get in a rhythm to build any consistency. I felt like I was in a constant state of catching up and getting further and further behind. It was emotionally and mentally exhausting. For me, I believe less intensity and more individualized training will help keep me healthy and happy. As professionals, we are all extremely talented but I think what makes most athletes reach that next level and stay at that level is consistency and happiness. I still believe I’m talented and hard-working, but I need to get consistency and happiness out of a situation in order to thrive. I think there is a huge benefit to having training partners, but I also believe that some days you just need to listen to your body. I’m excited to have training that is written for me and to collaborate with a coach on training and racing.
After the Trials, you had a busy summer of racing — running 14:54 and setting personal bests in both the 1500 and mile in the process — relatively uncharacteristic of BTC. Was that just about having fun with it again or do you intend to stay on the track through this next cycle?
I was so disappointed with my Trials race and I have missed so much racing over the years I just wanted to race every weekend. Racing is really why I do this sport. I didn’t want to end the year on my Trials performance and just figured I would throw myself into some different races and have fun with whatever performance I had on that day. After the success I had I definitely want to continue to race on the track but I want to dabble in more road races as well. I have aspirations to race the marathon and I think doing track as well as some longer road races can help me in a possible marathon in the next couple years.
How has training been going? You’re racing at the USATF Cross Country Championships next week — a race you won in 2018 — do you have any expectations going into it?
Training has been going well! It’s definitely different. I was coaching myself for a few months and have been working with a new coach the last six weeks, which has been a blast. It’s a totally different approach to training and I’m really loving it. I’m definitely still in a building phase so I’m using the race as a workout. I’m not backing off training but I haven’t raced in a while, so I think it will be good to get into a race with no expectations and just try to get a really hard effort out of it. I would obviously love to win but it is going to be a very competitive field and I just want to stick my nose in it and compete.
I have to ask about your new training situation moving forward. Are you staying in Portland and with Nike? Is there a new coach yet?
I’m still in the process of contract negotiations so no news there. I am working with a new coach, but will share all that soon!
Photo by Johnny Zhang/@jzsnapz