After AR, Yared Nuguse Discusses His Dream of Olympic Gold, Training with OAC, and…. Racing to McDonald’s and Dental School?
“I want to be able to win gold at the Olympics”
February 2, 2023
After running 7:28.24 to break Galen Rupp‘s American record in the indoor 3000m last weekend, Yared Nuguse of the On Athletics Club (OAC) joined us this week on a special American record edition of the LetsRun.com Track Talk Podcast (Woody Kincaid, who just ran 12:51.61 to set the American indoor record at 5000m, is the other guest on the podcast).
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In our 44-minute talk with Nuguse, he reflected on the record, explained how it’s caused him to adjust the timeline for some of his future goals, and shared his dream of Olympic gold.
Nuguse gave insights into his training with the OAC and why he has found immediate success since turning professional last summer. He discussed his unorthodox start in the sport where he transitioned from the bowling team and running to get McDonald’s, to now being a star. Plus, he already has a retirement date from running in mind.
Written below are some of the highlights of our talk with Yared, but if you want to know everything about Yared, including more about his training with the OAC and why he thinks On’s super shoe is better than Nike’s, you need to listen the full Nuguse podcast here or in the player below.
What it means to get American Record #1
Highlights edited for brevity and clarity.
LetsRun.com (LRC): The race on Friday was incredible. 7:28, you’re faster than any American ever, not just indoors, but outdoors as well. Does having those numbers next to your name change your expectations at all for the rest of the season or the rest of your career?
Nuguse: I definitely kind of expected to eventually reach this point, but I think reaching it so quickly has kind of allowed me to move my timeline up a little bit where I thought I would be in terms of things I thought I could accomplish. So now I think I’m going to be in a place where I think I will be expecting a little more out of myself coming forward through indoor and outdoor and whatever I do. I knew it was going to be great however it was going to happen. But I think now I will hopefully be surprising myself less that I did with this 3k performance.
LRC: The 1500, it’s a fascinating event because you need the speed to be able to kick, but increasingly with the way the event’s being run in these global championships, you need to be able to run 3:28 or 3:29 in a fast race if you want to get on that podium. So coming out of college, was there an area you specifically felt you needed to improve on to make that next step in contending for medals in a championship final?
Coming in, I didn’t think there was anything specific that needed to happen. Just kind of bumping up everything that I’ve always done to another level, I’m still doing the same kinds of things that I did in college. It’s just I do more of it and I think that would definitely increase my strength to a point where– I was already a very strength-based 1500 runner before, but now I can keep up with some of the world’s best, which is definitely what I’m going to need to do.
Also, there is that like speed component that I’ll still need, that I think we’re training very well for too. You have to be able to run like 3:30 or something. But you also have to be able to close in a way [to win the race], in those championship races because everyone’s going to be there and you know that.
So you still have to have that speed part too, which I usually have. I don’t really need to really train for like a kick. But, I just got to hope that mine’s the best on the day.
LRC: What’s your 800 PR right now?
Well, like, 1:48. I only ran it once in college. It was just for fun. It was like the beginning of outdoor.
LRC: Do you think you need to get that PR down to like 1:44 or 1:45 to be competing against the best in the world, or are you not really as worried about that as you think, ‘I’m going to be able to kick with these guys no matter what’?
I think I’ll be able to kick with them no matter what. I don’t need to go run an 800 to really prove that. Like I might run an 800 maybe, I don’t know. But, I don’t have a plan for any 800 right now, so it’s just more I’m sure I could run that time, so I don’t need to go and do that to really prove it to myself. I have trust in my training and how things are going to where I can kind of feel like, ‘yeah, I’m ready to do this’ and ‘yeah, I’ll have the kick that I need’ versus going out in a race to make sure that I do have that.
Plus 800s are weird. I don’t like the whole positive splitting that everyone always does. It’s always weird to me. I never really understood that.
LRC: You’re a strength-based 1500-meter runner. So how many miles a week were you running in college and how many miles are you up to now as a pro?
So in college, I pretty much peaked out at like 80 in like cross [country], but was kind of definitely more in the seventies for most of it. Especially in track season, I think I was more like 70, 75-ish range. Now coming here, I think I’ve been doing like a lot more, like at least 86-mile weeks, 86 to 88, kind of that range has been the general standard for the winter training that I’ve been through.
And it’s kind of weird cause at first it felt like a lot, but I think I kind of quickly adjusted in a way to where I think I’ve been [handling it] just with more doubles.
I’d never doubled this much before. I only would do maybe one double in college and even then, not as much as I probably should have. And now I have a team where it’s like we basically have to double all the time and that’s really encouraging since we’re all doing it together. It’s definitely a lot easier.
His Start in Running
LRC: I was reading an Indy Star profile of you right before the Olympics. Your parents are from Ethiopia. You were born in Washington, DC. You’ve got a bunch of older siblings, it doesn’t sound like they were doing track and field. This article said someone spotted you and thought you were talented and then the coach was trying to figure out who you were. Would you come out to practice, would you be interested and they tracked you down in some sort of science class and they said, ‘Hey, what extracurriculars do you do?’ And your answer was something like ‘science team and bowling.’ So a) is this story true? And b), where did he spot you to think that you would be good at running if you’re on the science team and the bowling team?
That story is very much true. It wasn’t really a science team. It was just more of an extracurricular based around science. And I was also on the bowling team, cause I thought that would be good for college apps and easy.
But what happened was, I took PE, everyone was required to take PE in high school. And I thought, well, this is dumb, but whatever. Our grade in PE was based on these miles that we did every month or so. And so we’d go out to like U of [Louisville] and they had this half mile loop thing. You do two laps of that and then you get graded based on how fast you ran. And so I would, in my head I was kind of just like, well, I was sort of competitive, but mostly just wanted to get an A, so I would just run as fast as possible. And the nice bonus was you could also get to the McDonald’s first before everyone.
Because we all went to McDonald’s after the race, and then if you went first, you don’t have to wait in line behind all those other kids. So my main motivation there was just got to go get McDonald’s. But, I ran like, 5:30s or so, off of like basically no training at all whatsoever.
I was just me sprinting or what felt like was sprinting, at least back then. And the PE coach told the cross country and track coach, he was just like, ‘Yo, there’s this kid in my class. He’s kind of fast, doesn’t seem like he does anything. You should talk to him.’ And so he came to me in my AP Human Geography class and pulled me out and was like, ‘I think you’d be a good fit for the track team.’
And I was just, ‘Nah, I don’t think so.’ But eventually he kind of kept pressing and I was like, okay, okay, fine, I’ll do it. And I quit bowling because I was kind of bad at bowling anyway. And, then joined the track team.
LRC: So what grade was this in?
That was my freshman year. Yeah. Like in the winter. So I didn’t do cross country. I didn’t even know what that was. And it was kind of fun just learning everything and being very surprised when cross country was not on a track. I was very confused.
Dental School and Retirement from Running
LRC: You’ve said for a while that your plan was to go to college and then to go to dental school and seems like things changed once you turned professional, now you’re a professional runner. When did that plan of going to dental school change?
It was basically my senior year, kind of in the winter. I think that was when I felt like I had to make a decision because I’d already started applying to some schools and did some interviews, and so I was kind of just like, okay, I kind of feel like I should make a choice before I truly go through with all of this. Just talking with a lot of people, it kind of came down to I’ll be able to do dental school later, so why don’t I just do it later, try this running thing for a little bit and see how it goes. So I just withdrew the rest of my applications and went full-fledged into running, still knowing in the back of my mind that I will eventually get back to dental school.
How long do you envision running professionally?
I really don’t envision it past the ’28 Olympics. I think maybe ’29 Worlds. I just feel like when I’m 30 I’m going to be very like, ‘okay, I need to stop.’ Hopefully, I will be like decent still at that age [as a runner]. But for me, I think 30 is like, ‘Okay, we’re done having fun running. It’s time to kind of move on a little bit.’ At least that’s how I think of it.
(Note: Nuguse turns 30 on June 1, 2029)
Dreaming of Olympic Gold
LRC: All right. How about some track and field trivia? There’s a guy, he’s one year younger than you, I think. Like you he is a strength-based 1500-meter guy. He’s run 7:27, you’ve run 7:28. His 800 PB is not very good. It’s only like 1:46. His name’s…Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
[Laughing] I like how you phrased that. I was like, who’s run 7:27?
LRC: You’re not that far off [Jakob’s times]. Obviously, at some level you guys are kind of similar. Do you dream of winning Olympic gold? What motivates you?
Yeah, for sure. I think those are definitely goals I have in my mind. I never really had those goals before, but now that I’m at this pro level, I’m going to be put in these situations where I’ll hopefully be going to the Olympics and Worlds again.
In my mind, the goal has to be like winning, you know? If that makes sense. I think there’s a lot of other smaller goals you can build up to, but you know for me, at my level and where I feel like I am at, no matter what kind of competition I go to, I kind of come in thinking I can win this, like no matter what.
So, I think definitely I want to be able to win gold at the Olympics one of these days. Either this one or the next. So we’ll see how that pans out though.
Video Clip of Nuguse talking about Olympic gold:
Can He Get the American Record in the Mile at Millrose? “I think that is a very reasonable goal”
LRC: Well, looking ahead for more immediate goals, you just ran the American record, you’re running Millrose in the mile. Can we get an early game plan? Is there going to be a rabbit? Is the goal to run fast?
We’re definitely going to have a rabbit. I think we’re kind of pacing it towards like 3:48 or something. So I think the goal, I think the definite goal is get under the American record (3:49.89 by Bernard Lagat).
I felt that was definitely more likely than getting the 3k record and I somehow came away with that. So I’m feeling relatively confident in my abilities. As long as I don’t get caught up or some racing whatever happens, then I think that is a very reasonable goal and that can happen.
I just to make sure I’m in the right place where I need to be and I’m able to execute that.
After that, I’m going to Madrid with Mario [Garcia Romo] for the Madrid Indoor World Tour. I think we’re running the 1500 there and I think that’s just another race where it’s just like kind of competing more than anything.
Um, I don’t really know any indoor 1500 records since I’m not European, but I think that’s more of a whatever it takes to win kind of race, but we’ll probably still end up being quite fast and rabbited.
LRC note: The American 1500m indoor record is 3:33.34, which Lagat ran en route to his record in the mile.
Rivalry with Cole Hocker
LRC: Cole Hocker is also in the Wanamaker Mile at Millrose, and you’ve got some history with him. You battled back in 2021. Both made the Olympic team together. What kind of relationship do you have with Cole?
I think we have like a good relationship. We’ve kind of hung out every now and then, just like talked to each other in a way to where I at least feel like we’re very similar in just a lot of respects in how we regard running and just our general personalities just felt kind of similar whenever we talk.
I definitely see him as definitely like probably my top American rival. Rival, I don’t like the term rival, but it, I think he is definitely some of the best America has to offer. And so, whenever I come to the line with him, that’s kind of me racing the best of America. And that’s kind of how I feel like it’s going to play out. I think he’s going to come in really strong in that race. And so I think he’s just going to be ready for that. And, you know, he has in my opinion one of the strongest kicks that I’ve ever met, because I feel like I’ve rarely, really rarely been kicked down like that.
I respect that completely and I’m always excited to race him whenever I can.
LRC: One last question. Do you think eventually you might start racing the 5,000 at a championship level?
I think I will, but not anytime soon. I think that is several, several years in the future. Because I don’t really relish or like the 5K that much. I think I will try my best to get out of it until I’m quite older.
LRC: Fair enough. It’s my, my least favorite event when I was running. I hated it. So hard. It’s hard from the get go. All right. Take care. Good luck. Hopefully, get another American record next week.
Yeah. Fingers crossed.
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