So I have to ask then, why are the East Africans so competitive at this event? Is it because they have so much depth? Is it, in your opinion, because they have a ton of 3,000m runners who they can throw at the steeple and if there’s fallout from injury, then there are plenty of other guys to fill their shoes?
Yeah. Look at how long they last. Look at Saif Shaheen. He had the world record and then got injured in the last water jump of the world championships. Then he fell off the radar for a while. It’s the same kind of deal. It doesn’t matter how good you are at the steeple or how talented you are or how fast you are it’s going to sting you at some point. If you are a multi-talented runner who can run the 1,500 all the way to the marathon, which way are you going to go? Are you going to pick the race with the greatest chance to end your career? Are you going to go with an event where you can have a very full, long, and lucrative career? With the marathon being more lucrative, I think that is what is pulling people towards the longer distances with the marathon coming in the long term. I think that’s essentially everybody’s game plan. I think all eyes have been on the marathon for a long time for good reason. There’s a lot of participation in the marathon. There is a lot of that coming with it. The thing is, too, a lot of people who have been involved in the marathon, including the New York Road Runners, have given a lot to the sport. So there is no surprise that a lot of guys are gravitating to that.
Have you thought about taking on the marathon?
I have. One of the reasons I was doing 15Ks and half marathons was to see if I wanted to do the marathon based off the training I was putting in. Different things came up and I said, “Let’s just wait.” I don’t need to be impatient. I need to make some important decisions here along the way.
Right now, there are a lot of high school kids who weren’t able to train or compete in the steeple in high school but are now heading to college. They are attracted to the event, but don’t know how to train for it. What advice do you have for this kind of athlete?
I get emails from people all the time about this. I also get asked about it when I go talk to high schools or camps. The number one thing I tell people is the attitude—more than anything else. If you are going to get into steeplechase, you need to show up as a steeplechase runner. There’s no hesitation; there’s no going back to being a 1,500m runner or 5K. If you are going to do it, you are going to do it. You have to have that level of commitment and that attitude going into it. You have to have that sort of aggressive attitude towards the race. Some athletes have that attitude where they can take on that challenge. When the going gets tough in the race, keep pushing rather than hit the brakes. Those kind of athletes are hard to find. I think if you find an athlete like that, you need to keep fostering that kind of mentality, first and foremost. Then work on the fundamentals. They need to work on their flexibility and their dynamic stretching as well as their hurdle drills. For the most part, they need to work on the mental aspect, but not pushing it as far as workouts or different training techniques. They need to learn how to walk over the hurdles the right way. They need to learn what a good trail leg looks like. They need to learn what feels good hurdling, learning timing. Simple things. Then by the time they get to be a senior in high school or in college, they can work on the strength and the other things that come with being a steepler.
A lot of kids don’t have access to the real steeple barrier. And some kids can’t even get an intermediate hurdle to work out on. I know in your video, you made these jerry-rigged PVC hurdles. Do you have any recommendations for people like this who don’t have access to the right equipment?
The ones that I made were sort of flimsy, but you can always use a heavier gauge PVC. If you can find two or three guys on your team that will want to get interested in the steeple, then have these guys chip in. It’s only like $50. You can put together some hurdles and have a little weekend project. And then you are kind of invested in it as a team. I always say that steeplechasing is a subculture within a subculture, because running is a kind of subculture. It’s a subculture in and of itself the way people think and act and live healthy lifestyles the way we do, but also running to the degree we do is sort of detrimental. Steeplechasing takes that to a whole new level where you are taking a lot of risk. It has a certain mentality. Once you have a group of guys that click on that, they feed off each other in terms of excitement and energy. They then start pushing each other as a group. I think, for the most part, that’s what’s been lacking in the steeple, which is a group of guys that want to train together for a long time. But there are only so many steeplechasers and you are all competing for the same top spot. At the time that I was coming up, not everybody wanted to be on the same team, but now there all these groups, so it may be a little bit different. But still, if one group of steeplers are sponsored by one company and another group are sponsored by another company, there is no cross traffic there. You can’t just go join their group and start training with them.Next Page