Chris Derrick On The Olympic Marathon Trials, Pro Running Being A Sweet Part-Time Job, The NY Jets, And The Decreasing Marginal Utility Of Income
January 14, 2016
One month in advance of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, three-time reigning USA Cross Country Champion Chris Derrick joined LetsRun.com for a special Olympic Marathon Trials edition of Track Talk.
You can listen to the entire podcast below or download it here via iTunes and other platforms. (The podcast is 1 hour, 45 minutes. Derrick was on for the first 54 minutes.)
At the 2012 Olympic Trials, Chris missed making the Olympic team by one spot, finishing fourth in the 10,000m. Chris has yet to fully decide if he will run the 2016 Marathon Trials. Long-term he feels the marathon is his best event, and has been training this winter anticipating making his marathon debut at the Olympic Marathon Trials.
He’ll make his final decision in the next couple of weeks after he runs a few more key workouts. If he “can come out of those feeling healthy and good we’ll go for it,” he said. If he doesn’t think he’ll “have a strong run” at making the Olympic team, he’ll pass on the Marathon Trials and prepare for the trials on the track at 10,000m.
Chris also revealed while Matt Tegenkamp is helping him train for the Trials, Matt will not be running the Marathon Trials himself because of injury setbacks this fall.
We covered quite a bit with Chris and the highlights are below. We guarantee it’s the only running interview of the year where the “decreasing marginal utility of income” is discussed (Chris was an econ major at Stanford).
On how he came to considering debuting at the Trials:
“In the long term we think the marathon will be my best event. Or at least the possibility [is there that it is my best event], as the marathon is a little harder to predict….We felt there was somewhat minimal risk of making a go at it. The worst-case scenario is I go out there and it goes badly. I’ve never dropped out of a race, but if it goes really badly and at 20 miles I drop out, [then] I’ve had a long run and I can go get ready for the track.
“There are only so many Olympic years and if this is possibly going to be my best event we should take as many chances as we can.”
When he’ll finalize his decision on whether to compete in the Marathon Trials:
“I’m still doing the training, and I have a key workout coming up, and we’ll judge off that and health, whether it makes sense [to run the Trials]… [If I] can come out of those feeling healthy and good we’ll go for it.”
On finishing 4th in the 10,000 at the 2012 Trials his senior year at Stanford:
“I don’t think I really went for it in how I structured my season.”
Chris pointed out he doubled at conference in 2012, and got plantar fasciitis that spring. A day after the Trials he said he thought, “Wow I was really close to making the Olympic team. I did some really dumb things over the last two months and probably should have thought about this differently.
“[In 2012] I was afraid to go all-in to make the team… I regret that… It informed my opinion that there are only so many chances to do something like this…
“In some ways it does sort of define your career if you make an Olympic team.”
On how he is handling the long runs for the marathon:
“I’ve really enjoyed them. We knew that coming in [that that was my strength].”
On both he and Galen Rupp living in Portland, both being sponsored by Nike, both being 10,000m runners and potential marathoners yet being rivals: “I don’t think it’s super weird [that we’re rivals]. Kevin Durant and LeBron James are both sponsored by Nike and both compete for the United States and play on the same team at the Olympics… [Yet at the same time] I’m sure they have a very intense rivalry and no one would question it if one wants to beat the other.”
On the men’s field at the Trials:
“I think it’s a pretty wide-open and interesting field. I think if you were going to bet on anyone to make the team, you’d probably bet on Meb [Keflezighi]… But I think it’s a pretty wide-open and interesting field and that is part of the reason we were motivated as well (to contemplate running the Trials).”
On whether he was tempted to make his marathon debut at a big city marathon where he would get a big appearance fee:
Chris was confident he could get appearance fees in the future. He said the only way that he wouldn’t is if he wasn’t good at the marathon. He said, “There is a scenario [where I don’t get future appearance fees and it is] I totally suck at the marathon and the one time to get paid is in my debut, but I think more optimistically than that.
“I’m very fortunate in that I have a contract (with Nike) and I make enough money to support myself and save for the future. To bring another economics term into it, there is a decreasing marginal utility of income, so past a certain point if I’m making money and saving money in this sport and getting to do something that I love, I think in the long run that money isn’t super important to me, whereas having that memory of making an Olympic team would be.”
(In an earlier part of the interview Chris used more economics knowledge saying, “I was an economics major, life is about trade-offs sometimes you’ve got to face the opportunity cost.”)
On whether people understand what it means to be a runner:
He said people see him during the middle of the day getting his hair cut and think, “You are a prime-age working male, why are you not employed right now?
“There are three things you can do in that conversation to earn someone’s respect: make the Olympic team, run a marathon, run sub-4. I’ve only got one of the three (Chris ran 3:59.13 in 2012). If I could complete the trifecta in one day I think it would make the conversation a lot easier.”
Chris was on the podcast for 54 minutes. The first 34 minutes were about the Trials, in the back part of the podcast we discussed the doping crisis in the sport, the ticking clock on 60 Minutes, Twitter, the New York Jets (Derrick is a fan), and how he “was” a big fan of LetsRun and thought it was awesome.
Chris’s thoughts on the doping crisis and the January 14 WADA Independent Commission Report:
“This seems to be all bad, especially [IAAF President Seb] Coe‘s reaction to it,” Chris said, saying he has heard some say Coe is instead playing a long game but Chris doesn’t see it.
On whether something positive can come out of Thursday’s WADA report:
“Systems tend to respond to crisis. Generally it is the crisis that creates the wedge that causes the change…If you look at those emails the most charitable way you could interpret them is that these guys are just really worried about the image of the IAAF and the sport and they are missing the forest for the trees. They don’t want to deal with a crisis so they are pushing things aside…
“People do still test positive and get banned [in track and field] which is good. This isn’t like the NBA where no one gets caught doing anything.
“I still believe most athletes don’t want to cheat… It is disheartening the level of complicity and apathy at the top.”
On what he does when he’s not running:
“On a productive day I spend time reading, playing guitar, cooking, doing something useful, productive, some sort of skill-building activity. On a non-productive day I’m sort of mindlessly flipping through Twitter.
“It’s a great irony to me, if you look a lot at runners’ social media there is a lot of stuff about the grind, the dedication, and blah blah blah, and most people at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday are either taking a nap or watching Netflix or reading Twitter. It requires a certain level of discipline, but it’s pretty much just a part-time job which is pretty sweet.”
On his high school days when LRC’s founder Rojo tried to recruit him to go to Cornell:
“I was a big fan of LetsRun. I stopped reading the message boards when people I knew were being talked about. It made me too angry. I wasn’t rational enough to deal with it, so I had to stop [visiting the forums].”
On who will make the women’s Olympic team:
“Obviously Shalane [Flanagan] and Amy [Hastings Cragg] will make it and who cares about anyone else, right?” Chris said with a chuckle, talking about his two teammates.
Talk about the podcast and Trials on our messageboard. MB: The Olympic Marathon Trials are One Month From Today: Who You Got?
Want to know about how the Hanson-Brooks team is doing? Read this: LRC Less Than a Month From LA 2016, Kevin Hanson & Desi Linden Talk Marathon Trials, Bobby Curtis & Galen Rupp