January 12, 2023
“I think I was ready for a change and I wanted to really see where I could keep growing as an athlete…I wanted that team environment. I took a visit to the On Athletics Club in October and my gut just said, ‘This is where you need to be to be successful.’”
Josette Norris was previously a guest on this show back in October 2021 but she’s back now after signing a new contract with On and has joined the On Athletics Club. We talk about how the move came together, why she’s excited to workout with Alicia Monson and Sage Hurta and how she overcame some mental battles during last year’s outdoor season. She is making her OAC debut at the Dr. Sander Invitational on Jan. 28 and then racing the women’s Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games on Feb. 11.
NOTABLE QUOTES AND NOTES
Why did you decide to join the On Athletics Club?
“I think I was ready for a change and I wanted to really see where I could keep growing as an athlete. When I signed with Reebok three years ago, I’m a completely different athlete now. I’m so thankful to Reebok and coach Chris Fox and coach Adam Smith for taking that chance on me when no other companies were looking to sign. I’ve made such tremendous leaps in those first two years and I think I was ready for a new change to grow. I wanted that team environment. I took a visit to the On Athletics Club in October and my gut just said, ‘This is where you need to be to be successful.’
How does a deal like this come together?
“Everyone knows each other in the running world. You’re seeing each other at races. I got to know Dathan a little bit in Europe when the On team was racing out there. When you can actually start talking to other companies and when that window opens up toward the end of the year, that’s when you can plan visits and go and look at professional teams – kinda like a college visit but you’re a professional looking at different companies. You’re just a lot older. It was really special to be out on the OAC visit because it was actually during their summit. I got to meet with a lot of people who work for On and the behind-the-scenes. They weren’t showing me everything too much because if I didn’t go there, they didn’t want me to know all the secrets. But just seeing how invested they were in the athletes and developing new spikes and shoes. It was cool to see a behind-the-scenes glimpse at that. The actual process involves a little bit of talking here and there and then the agents start to take over.”
How are you approaching this upcoming indoor season?
“It’s definitely been a little different. Last year, we knew we wanted to go pretty hard on indoors and try to make that Worlds team. That was a big goal of mine and we were able to accomplish that. Coach Fox and I definitely shifted more toward the 1500m in my training because before I had really focused on the 5000m. I really wanted to explore that 1500m and get on that World team. This year, with so many changes, we’ve just been focusing on mileage, getting stronger and adjusting to Dathan’s workouts. We’re going to transition soon to do more track things but we’re definitely being smart and I’m just focusing on being stronger – it’s the biggest thing I’m working on right now. I’m still planning to do some indoor races. There’s not an indoor team to make so it doesn’t feel like there’s as much pressure for this indoor season. The races I do is all a build-up to make the team outdoors and go to Budapest. We see the vision of the whole year. The OAC team is going to do a couple of races indoors but it’s going to be fairly early on. I’m excited to run Millrose again. It’s going to be exciting to be out there again in New York City but then we’ll just shift gears and get ready for the outdoor season.”
What do you make of this Millrose Games field? It includes Laura Muir after she crushed everyone at 5th Ave. Sinclaire Johnson had a great season too. The depth has gotten stronger but we have to remember that you were in the mix there last year.
“I’m going to approach it like I do any other race. You’re going to show up, ready to perform, do your best and put yourself in it. I’m excited. It feels like the outdoor season just ended recently because so many events have happened in between but I’ve just gotten stronger. Although outdoors didn’t go as planned, I’ve been able to put in such a big foundation of work and I know that’s going to help me. I’m excited to use that into this next year and just keep building.
1500m vs. 5K. How have those early discussions gone with Dathan on your focus for the year?
“We’ve had a couple of conversations about it. Ideally, we’d be able to run both events but of course, that gets hard. It’s nice to be able to run the 1500m back-to-back, especially on the Diamond League circuit. It’s a lot easier to run a 1500m and then do another one a couple of days later compared to how much a 5K takes out of the body and the opportunities for it. I feel like I didn’t really get the opportunity to run the 5K much last year so I’m excited to have that chance to be able to run that. To be good in the 1500m, you have to be good in the 5K. To be good in the 5K, you gotta be good in the 1500m. So I have to be able to run both. We’re going to train the same way because I do get to the 1500m from a strength standpoint. That 5K work really helps me in the 1500m. So then, it’s just a matter of when we really decide what we want to focus on, that last month of training shifts more toward one or the other.
I’m really excited to work out with Alicia (Monson), Sage (Hurta-Klecker), Sinta (Vissa) and Carmela (Cardama Báez). I feel like I’m the perfect mix. You have Sage in the 800/1500 and then Alicia in the 5K/10K. I can be the middle person who can do workouts with Alicia and then shift in with Sage. It’s gonna be a fun group to workout with. Sinta’s been crushing it already in her first year. Carmela is coming back from her injury but it’s going to be a really awesome environment to thrive in.”
You raced Sage and Alicia quite a bit in recent years. What impressed you the most about them as competitors?
“Watching them run and seeing what On was creating and building, it made me think, ‘Wow. That would be really cool to be a part of. I think the biggest thing now is that I feel like I belong in this group. They’re such great competitors on the track and they’re gonna be ready to go in every performance. Especially, the guys too. They all perform on the day. That’s really important and cool to see. Now, I get to train with them and it feels normal. We’re putting in the work and when we show up to the line, we know we’re ready. Because I’m working out with Alicia and Sage, I can be confident to step up and perform for On.”
You had a long season last year. A full indoor season and then raced all the way through September. Although you didn’t make the team for the World Championships, were there any major lessons that you took from last year?
“I came off the indoor season, took a couple of days down and was feeling really good. We spent all of April just building back up to get ready for the 5K. Unfortunately, I strained my hamstring in the first week of May. I had a few races lined up but delayed my season. I ended up opening up at Prefontaine, which is a hard way to open up the season but it was mostly because my body wasn’t ready yet coming off the injury. In an ideal world, if I hadn’t strained my hamstring I would’ve had that chance to transition and do the speed work that I needed to get ready for May and June. Having that setback really set me back in trusting my body. I was strong but I wasn’t ready for the 1500m.
Looking back, maybe it was because we focused hard on the indoor season but also it was due to the injury and not trusting myself. I felt like maybe the whole season was kinda tense and forced. That’s why I wanted to extend it late into the summer. I felt like I hadn’t hit my rhythm for the outdoor season and I didn’t have the time to. It never fully clicked. Coach Fox and I felt like something was always 1% or 2% off. We didn’t really have that breakout race that I was training for. My body was training to be ready to run a fast 5K or a fast 1500m but it never really happened in the racing season. Looking back, it was a hard outdoor season but I was able to grow. That’s what I’m taking from it into this next year.”
It takes trust in yourself to mentally stick with it even when the results aren’t lining up. How did you mentally prepare yourself to do that each time out?
“We were just focusing on doing it one race at a time and making a goal for each race, executing that goal and moving on to the next one. It was hard to see the full picture. It was definitely draining. At one point over in Europe, I almost wiped out in the Poland Diamond League and I ended up hurting myself in the final lap. I flew back to the U.S. to get treatment and then went back over to Europe for some more Diamond Leagues. Looking back, my body was just exhausted both mentally and physically from not being able to catch a break. It was hard. I had to do some mental battles. But, we also switched things up and I ran an 800m and I had some fun with that. I also learned that it’s OK to not race at 100%. No racing build-up is going to be perfect. In 2020/2021 – my breakout year – everything felt like it was perfect or falling into place. In a weird way, I feel like I learned more this past year than I did before. In every race that I jumped into in 2022, the field, race and stages were elevated. Maybe I wasn’t on my 100% game but I learned a lot as an athlete to be able to step on the line and go through those battles of performing on that top level when things haven’t gone perfectly.”
The 800m you ran was a 2:02 personal best. You’ve gotta be thinking sub-2:00 now.
“Definitely. I hadn’t run sub-60 (for 400m) in practice or anything since I-don’t-even-know-when. When I ran a 58, my body was in complete shock. But, as a distance runner, your body just feels better in that second lap. I could’ve been in dead last and then maybe passed eight people in the second lap and was able to run 2:02. I finished that race and said, ‘I want to run it again!’ My agent, Emily Pritt, said, ‘People usually don’t want to run another 800m after running one.’ That’s the distance runner in me. That’s definitely one of my goals: To be able to have that sub-2. Maybe I’ll do a few workouts that are geared toward that and jump in with Sage. I have to see if Dathan will let me. To be on that list of sub-15, sub-4 and sub-2 is a pretty elite list to get on.”
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Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.