The 27-year-old is having a breakthrough year.
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
NEW YORK — The last three months have been quite a journey for American Ben True. The 27-year-old Saucony-sponsored athlete won the USA National 15K championships in March, placed a surprising sixth at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, set a 1,500m personal best at the Mt. SAC Relays in April, then nine days later won the Payton Jordan 5,000m at Stanford University, timing a World Championships “A” standard time of 13:14.44.
Confidence, he said, has been the key to his success this year.
“Things are definitely going well,” True said with a chuckle, speaking to reporters here on the eve of the Diamond League’s third meeting of 2013, the adidas Grand Prix. “I can’t complain too much.”
Working with 1996 Olympian and Dartmouth University head coach Mark Coogan, True has developed into one of America’s most consistent distance runners in 2013. Currently the world leader at 5,000m, he is primed to continue his recent success tomorrow in the 5,000m, when he faces Olympic silver medalist Dejen Gebremeskel and 19-year-old Ethiopian sensation Hagos Gebrhiwet.
True credits his rapid development to another year’s experience and Coogan, who has helped reel in the competitive True and adjust his mindset.
“I think physical fitness wise, I am fairly similar to where I was last year,” True explained. “I don’t think I was able to really put anything together in a race last year. This year I am able to put things together; this year I think my confidence is a lot higher whereas last year I doubted myself a lot more.”
After his sixth place finish and team silver medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, True’s outlook on competition changed. Rather than doubt his ability –like he says he did last year– True now believes he can compete with the best athletes in the sport.
“Going to USA’s [the 2012 Olympic Trials], people kind of already had in their mind an idea of who’s going to make the team. I think that got in my head a little bit too much,” True said. “This year, that’s not there. I have the confidence to be able to run with anybody. I think that’s a big change.”
Also new is the philosophy Coogan has brought to the table. In training, Coogan will harness True’s workouts, trying to avoid working him to complete exhaustion.
“One of the biggest things that Mark definitely does is he holds me back a lot more in workouts,” explained True. “I think I am able to recover more. I think I have a little more energy in my step day today.
“He doesn’t want me to ever kill a workout for instance,” he continued. “I’m such a competitive person that when I used to train with people I think I would be too competitive and race workouts rather than fully back off a little bit and get what I needed to get out of the certain workout.”
With training going well, True’s focus is the U.S. Track & Field Championships in Des Moines next month, where he will compete in the the 10,000m, hoping to make his first IAAF Outdoor World Championships team. Having already achieved the World Championships 10,000m “A” standard thanks to a top-15 World Cross Country finish, True is going through the outdoor season more relaxed than ever. On Saturday, he will race the 5,000m without any worries.
“I’m not chasing anything, I’m just there for fun, having a good time in the race,” he said. “They’re [the other competitors] going to go for it and it’s a perfect opportunity for me to tuck in and see what I can do on that day. I think I can run fast.”
Speaking with reporters, it is evident that True believes he is in the best shape and mindset of his career.
“When I toe the line, I feel like I can run with those guys, whereas before I didn’t really know,” he reiterated. He will be the only American in the field of twelve on Saturday.
True believes that if he continues to improve and “chip away,” as he puts it, breaking the 13:00 barrier for 5,000m could be in his future.
“I definitely think so,” he said with a smile. “I think 63’s [seconds per lap] is not a very difficult proposition for me to run. Hopefully down the line I’ll be strong enough to be able to run the consistent 63’s and close hard.
“As long as I am steadily improving, things are good,” he adds. “I think there’s a lot more in me for even this year. Hopefully the next few months I’ll chip away even more.”