By Jonathan Gault
April 7, 2015
This time last year, Chanelle Price was the toast of American middle distance running.
Coming off an indoor season in which she shockingly became the first American to win World Championship gold at 800 — indoors or out — she seemed primed for a strong outdoor season. Price dipped under 2:00 for the first time in Doha on May 9 (1:59.75) and was part of the U.S.’s victorious 4×800 squad at the inaugural World Relays in the Bahamas on May 25. But a nagging foot injury caused her to withdraw after the first round of the U.S. Championships in Sacramento in June; she wouldn’t race again until March of this year.
The 24-year-old Price has gone three-for-three so far in 2015, most recently running 2:00.62 for 800 at the Florida Relays last weekend, the fastest time in the world outdoors this year. I caught up with Price — now based in Connecticut with college coach J.J. Clark — over the phone on Tuesday to speak about that race, overcoming her injury and her plans for 2015.
Jonathan Gault: You ran a nice race last weekend, 2:00.62 at the Florida Relays. How did you feel about that performance?
Chanelle Price: I’m super excited, it’s a great start. I’ve just been training, training, training. My coach and I decided to send me somewhere where the weather was warm and just see where I’m at. We really didn’t know what to expect. We just knew with [NCAA indoor champion Natoya] Goule in the race it would be a fast time. I felt really, really good, it was executed well. I’m super excited about the remainder of the season.
You looked set last year for a big year outdoors but we didn’t see you after the USA meet. What happened there? Was there an injury that ended your season?
Yes, I actually had surgery on my navicular bone in my foot. It’s an injury that’s been bothering me for years. It finally got to the point where I wasn’t able to get through races without popping a lot of ibuprofen. We just figured it wasn’t worth risking it at USAs or the rest of the season, it being an off year. I actually stayed out in California that week and got the surgery then and there. That’s why you didn’t see me much indoors because I was just trying to come back slowly.
You ran the first round at USAs [outdoors in 2014] and withdrew after that. Was that a breaking point? Why did you go to the meet if you were dealing with the injury?
I’m very hard-headed. My coach didn’t want me to go, but I convinced him that I would be okay. In that first round, I felt something pop in my foot. Still, I’m very tough. Even after that, I was like, “No coach, I’m fine, I can run, I can finish. And he was like, “No, Chanelle, it’s not worth it.” And Nike (Price’s sponsor) said the same thing. They said we want to see you on that world team next year, so just sit out the rest of this season and take care of yourself. It was hard, but it took for my foot to actually pop for me to sit down.
When did you get over the injury? When were you able to start running again after the surgery?
The surgery was on July 3. I went home with my family in Pennsylvania for four months, from July to November. I was just rehabbing and cross training, a lot of pool work, a lot of bike work. I was able to start AlterG-ing in October, and I moved up here to Connecticut in November and started slowly doing my base work. I would say training began in November when I moved up here to Connecticut with Coach Clark.
You only ran one race indoors this year (a 2:40.36 victory in the 1000 at the Boston University Last Chance Meet on March 1). That was just to give yourself more time to come back from the injury?
I was so used to racing indoors and I was going crazy. I knew my training was looking good, I just wanted some indication of where I was heading into the outdoor season. And so Coach agreed, he was like, “Okay, well you can go run the 1000, have fun with it.” I ran a decent time by myself and that was a good confidence booster heading into the outdoor season
How are you feeling fitness-wise compared to this time last year? Are you back to 100%?
I feel so strong and so — I guess fresh would be the word. In college and these past two years as a pro, I had really taken indoor seriously and run a lot of indoor races. [This year], I’ve really just been training and not having to travel and not having to do those races. My legs are really feeling fresh, I’m feeling strong and just really, really excited.
Obviously not running indoors was a change. Have you changed anything in your training this year compared to previous years?
My coach is just really smart in November, December, even January, just keeping me out of my spikes and focusing more on getting a really, really good base. Not much has changed.
I guess [the only thing is] me being much more mature and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right. Now when I feel tired or when my foot may bother me a little bit, just being mature enough to tell Coach, “I think I should rest.” That was my problem in the past — I would just never want to make excuses, I would never want to speak up. I guess I’m just maturing and realizing I have to take care of my body.
Is that a lesson you learned in the wake of the injury?
Yes, absolutely. Those four months of just being home and watching everyone run such fast times and knowing that I was supposed to be at those Diamond League races. That was hard and I don’t want to have to deal with that again just from being stupid. So that was definitely a lesson I needed to learn.
So you followed your coach, J.J. Clark, up to UConn. What is it about him that you like so much?
We’ve really started to click these past few years. I ran 2:01 in high school and he got me [at the University of Tennessee] and people were confused why he wasn’t able to take me to 1:59 or 1:58 right away.
But it wasn’t Coach, it was me. I wasn’t really buying into his training. It wasn’t the same as what I was doing in high school so I wasn’t really trusting in it. We didn’t really click my first few years in college. These past few years we’ve really clicked. I’ve bought into everything he tells me to do. I really trust him and I think that’s the biggest difference. I believe in him and I believe in my training and I really can’t see myself with anyone else.
I saw on your Twitter feed a few tweets about classes. Are you taking classes at UConn?
Yes I am. I can’t just be all track, I become too consumed with it. So I decided to pursue a graduate degree, my master’s in public administration — my MPA. I’m just taking two classes right now, just something to do when I’m not training. Because like I said, I’ll go crazy if I’m just focused on track.
Do you enjoy running relays as a pro? (Price was initially entered in the 4×400 at the Florida Relays but scratched from the event after her 800 went so well)
Oh, absolutely. Another reason I ran in the Florida Relays was because I’m trying to prove my fitness to be on that team for the World Relays. Whoever has the job of picking the USA team, it has to be hard because there are so many dominant 800 runners. But I wanted to go ahead and show my fitness early so that I could be picked because that World Relays team was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a meet. It was amazing.
Really? Even more fun than your world title indoors?
[laughs] Maybe second-most.
The women’s 800 is one of the strongest events right now with you, Brenda Martinez, Ajee Wilson, Alysia Montaño, Laura Roesler and several others. Would you prefer it were easier to make the team to Beijing or does that kind of depth and strength in the event excite you?
I love it, I love the challenge. I love the fact that when we step on the line, it’s anyone’s day. It’s who’s the best that day. Like you said, you have Alysia, you have Ajee, you have Brenda, you have Laura, you have Molly [Beckwith-Ludlow], you have Phoebe [Wright], you have Maggie [Vessey]. It just goes on and on. I love the fact that it’s who’s the best that day, it really brings out the best in you. I love the challenge. I guess we’ll see, but it’s crazy how much depth the U.S. has in middle distance.
What is your upcoming competition schedule like?
I will train until the Drake Relays [on April 24]. Drake is exactly two months out from USAs. My coach and I thought that would be a good time to see where I am exactly two months out. The field is basically the U.S. final. It’s stacked. It will be an awesome race. Then from there, hopefully I’ll go to the World Relays if I’m picked for the team, then the Hoka One One meet in California, then maybe some Diamond League races in New York and Eugene after that. Every race from now on is going to be a very good race.
This interview has been condensed from its original form.
Discuss Price and this Q&A in our messageboard: A Q&A With Chanelle Price.