The Ohio State alum is relishing the opportunity to compete in this weekend’s national championship meet.
A year ago, Jake Edwards hung up his track spikes and got a job.
“I thought I was giving up the dream,” the miler says of the moment he took a position with JPMorgan Chase. “After some disappointing races last year, I thought I had to make a change. It was time to grow up.”
In 2013, Edwards started working long hours behind a desk in Columbus, Ohio. At the end of each day, he’d sneak in an hour run before heading home for dinner. That hour was all the time he gave himself to think about running. That hour was a massive departure from the time Edwards had once poured into his training.
“I was way too neurotic about my training. You can’t control every little detail, but I was trying to,” the Ohio State alum says. Edwards battled injury and inconsistency through most of his collegiate career. “I was really strict about things, going to bed by 9 PM. My old roommates still make fun of me.” He saw solid results intermittently, but he struggled at the end of most seasons. “I was just plagued with injuries,” he says.
Edwards qualified for the 2011 NCAA championships in the 1500m after a season that included personal bests of 3:46.49 for 1,500m and 13:55.53 for 5,000m. At the championships, he finished eighth in his heat, missing the final. His collegiate racing days were over, but the desire to compete was far from gone.
“I had planned on running (post-collegiately) all through college. That’s what I wanted to do. I thought I’d have options like ZAP and groups like that, but all those groups want guys coming out on top, and I was always injured.”
Edwards spent some time training on his own. He experimented with a training group in northeast Ohio. Nothing seemed to work. He wasn’t making any money, and there was no safety net in the post-collegiate world. That’s when he decided to take a desk job.
“I couldn’t feed myself,” he says. “It was time.”
A funny thing happened once Edwards started working long hours and devoting less time to his training. He found himself enjoying those 1-hour runs. A few summer road races went well. Without any real structure to his training, things started to click. He started to dream about pulling his track spikes back out of the closet.
“In the back of my head, breaking four [minutes in the mile] was always there,” he says about his unfinished business on the track.
With a renewed desire to compete, Edwards joined the CRC Elite, a local team sponsored by the Columbus Running Company. He’d coached himself his senior track season in high school, winning a state title with the help of a copy of Daniel’s Running Formula that he’d read in study hall that year. He found that coaching himself worked best, and Edwards returned to his roots.
“I just need to relax and let the training present itself,” he says. “I’m so much busier now. If something goes well, that’s great. If something doesn’t go well, I don’t really have time to worry about it. But I haven’t had any bumps in the road this year. That’s always been what’s kept me from being really good.”
Returning to the indoor track this winter, Edwards has been on a tear. At the SPIRE Midwest Open on February 1, he lined up alongside Canadian Olympian Nate Brannen — a runner he’d long idolized — and finally notched that elusive sub-four minute mile, clocking 3:59.47 to qualify for his first USA Track & Field national championship.
“I will always distinctly remember the middle few laps of the race, running right off (Brannen’s) shoulder, feeling incredibly relaxed, and I’m just staring at the Olympic rings he has tattooed on his shoulder and thinking to myself, this dude has run in the Olympic Games,” Edwards recalls. “Twice.”
On Sunday in Albuquerque, Edwards will toe the line in the 1,500m at the USATF Indoor Championships, and he’s confident of what he can do. Ohio State milers have fared extremely well historically at the indoor championships, with Rob Myers winning titles in 2004, 2008, and 2009 and Jeff See winning the championship in 2011. And, just last year, Corey Leslie finished third.
“I know I can compete on the national scene because I’ve trained with those guys,” Edwards says. “Ohio State really has a great history there.”
For Edwards, it’s all part of a dream season that he’s enjoying every step of the way.
“I’m hoping to take full advantage of my current fitness and use the opportunity to travel to meets and races I haven’t been to before and just soak up as much of the culture as I can. The opportunity to compete at this level is not going to last forever, so I really want to take advantage of the time I have.”