Grant Fisher Explains His Decision to Leave Bowerman, Reuniting with Coach Mike Scannell, & Opening 2024 at Millrose
Fisher set American records in the 3k, 5k, and 10k at BTC but wanted more control over his trainingBy LetsRun.com
The last six months have been eventful for Grant Fisher. Among the contenders for a medal at the 2023 World Championships, Fisher finished 4th in the 10,000 at the US championships in July and failed to qualify for the team. Three days later, he announced he would not contest the 5,000 meters due to a stress injury in his femur. But after a few weeks off from running, Fisher returned as fit as ever at the end of the season, running 12:54.99 to finish 3rd in the Zurich Diamond League 5,000 and 7:25.47 to smash the American record and finish 3rd in the Diamond League 3,000 final in Eugene.
Then, in October, Fisher announced he had left the Bowerman Track Club and coach Jerry Schumacher after four years. Fisher had joined the team in 2019 after graduating from Stanford, and under Schumacher’s guidance developed into one of the world’s best distance runners, finishing 5th in the 10,000 at the 2021 Olympics and 4th in the 10,000 at the 2022 World Championships in addition to setting American records in the 3,000, 5,000 (12:46.96), and 10,000 (26:33.84). It was a bold, surprising decision — a top athlete coming off one of the best races of his life electing to leave the Bowerman Track Club in the prime of his career. And heading into an Olympic year, to boot.
On Monday, Fisher spoke with LetsRun’s Robert Johnson and Jonathan Gault for over an hour in his first public interview since announcing his decision to leave Bowerman. The 26-year-old explained why he left, shared details on his new training setup — he will be based in Park City, Utah, under his high school coach, Mike Scannell — and revealed he has begun experimenting with double workout days and double threshold training.
(If you want to learn more about Fisher and Scannell’s relationship, which dates back well before Fisher’s days as a two-time Foot Locker Champion at Grand Blanc High School in Michigan, check out this LRC profile from 2014).
Fisher also revealed that he will open his 2024 racing season in the 2-mile at the Millrose Games on February 11, where he will feature in a mouthwatering matchup against 1500-meter world champion Josh Kerr of Great Britain. (Millrose organizers helped arrange this interview with Fisher. Get your tickets here).
Below, we’ve included some highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Running Millrose and his 2024 winter racing schedule
JG: It should be a really exciting Millrose Games, as it always is, and you haven’t run there since 2019 when you won the 3,000 as a college senior at Stanford. So why was this the right year to return?
GF: I’ve always wanted to run Millrose again. It’s a great event – in my opinion, the best indoor meet that they have in the US. It’s a gold label meet. You always have really good competition. And I love racing at the Armory, I’ve raced there since high school.
It’s fun popping over to the big city and having a crack against some really good competition and not worrying about time too much and just racing. I really like the timing of Millrose this year.
So, yeah, I’m excited to head back and, and two miles will be fun. You have more of a 10k guy like me stepping down. You’ve got 1500 guys stepping up. You have more pure 5k, 3k guys in their sweet spot. So it’s gonna be fun.
JG: You say you’re not thinking about time, but Josh Kerr has already said he wants the world record in this event. It’s 8:03.40 by Mo Farah from 2015. You’re just going there to race or is that in the back of your mind at all?
GF: I mean, it’s certainly in the back of my mind. When you’re in a field where people are talking like that, you kind of have to set your expectations for that. But the nice thing when someone else is talking about time is you don’t really have to think about it that much. If everyone else is looking at the clock, looking at the time, making sure it’s fast, then all I have to do is race.
I don’t think this race is necessarily set up for me. I think I was kind of a late add to it. So I’m not dictating the pace at all. If the guys wanna try to run 8:03, I’ll hang on as long as I can and try to kick at the end. If the pace slows and we end up running 8:15, I’m gonna try to win anyway. Things usually work out when you just race.
JG: You mentioned before we started this interview, you were gonna be doing a 5K at Boston University five days after Millrose. So is that your full winter racing schedule – Millrose, BU, The TEN?
GF: As of right now, that’s the plan. Millrose is on February 11. The BU 5K I’m planning on doing is February 16, so I’ll just stay on the East Coast in that time, just kind of have a little sea level block. And then back up to altitude for about a month leading into The TEN [on March 16].
Getting the 10k [Olympic] standard is by far the main target of this winter season. I have the 5k standard already, so I don’t have that hanging over my head, which is nice, but I want get some hard efforts in, have a little time at sea level as well, and then get used to two races in a short little block like that. You’ve gotta do that at USAs. Ideally everything goes well and I’ll be doing that at the Olympics too. You’ve gotta be able to race hard and then a few days later, race hard again.
On why he won’t be running World Indoors or World XC in 2024
GF: If you want people to care about a meet, you need good athletes there. In order to get good athletes there, you have to incentivize it. And right now for me and most people in the world, the incentive, the big carrot in front of you, is the Olympics.
In the 10k, the standard is really aggressive. I mean, 27:00, that’s really, really steep. So you need to be pretty careful about being pretty tuned up for that race. It’s a 10k as well, so you don’t have infinite opportunities as far as different races where you’re gonna have a 27:00 race or times when you want to put your body through that kind of stress as well.
As an athlete, you have to look at, what’s my goal? And you work backwards from there. My goal is to be on the podium in Paris. In order to do that, I need to make the US team. And in order to make the US team, I need a standard or points. And the points are a little more of a shot in the dark. The standard is a little more solid.
If I didn’t have that in front of me having to get the standard, yeah, US indoors, World Indoors, World Cross, all those things would be on the table, and those would be really fun. It’s a shame that not the very best athletes are at every single one of these events. But it’s an incentive conversation, even boiling down to our contracts. You’re not really allowed to talk about contracts, but I guarantee everybody’s contract incentivizes the Olympics the most over World Indoors or World Cross. So nobody’s gonna take big risks in an Olympic year like that. In an off year where there’s no world outdoor track championship, no Olympic championship, those events can flourish a lot more. Or maybe the timing can be a little better or the qualification system can be a little more malleable to allow athletes to race at the championships without sacrificing those standards that we need to get.
JG: This is skipping ahead a couple years, but the US is hosting the 2026 World Cross Country Championships. It’s going to be on January 10. Does that fit into a time where you or other [track-focused] pros will be like, Hey, this is a good time for me? Or do you think that makes it like less likely that you would do it compared to its traditional March date?
GF: I think that would make it more likely, actually. Especially being at home in the US. Whether or not there’s a financial incentive, that’s just a big draw. It’s cool to represent your country, in your home country. I really enjoyed that in Eugene [in 2022] and it’d be really fun to do that in cross.
Cross country is something I miss a lot from college. Hardly any pros do it. There’s a few select races that people do, often in Europe. It’s not as big for American-based distance runners, but I would love it to be.
Dream scenario for me would be that you could hit every stop on the Diamond League, hit every championship. Unfortunately it’s really hard to schedule out a training cycle that way in a sport where, by far our biggest publicity and our biggest opportunity is the Olympics and it only comes every four years. So you really don’t wanna mess around too much in those years.
His new training setup in Park City under his high school coach Mike Scannell
Video highlights of Grant talking about his training on the podcast are in the video below:
JG: Obviously you made a change after the 2023 track season, so can you tell us where you’re based right now? Who’s coaching you? Are you part of a team or a group?
GF: After the 2023 track season, I finished that up at the Pre Classic, so that was mid-September. For a little bit after that I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do and ultimately decided to make a change. I moved out to Park City, Utah, so I’m based there now. I’ll base there basically year-round except for right now — January and February I’ll be in Flagstaff, because it snows a little too much in Park City to train there in those months.
I’m working with my old high school coach, Mike Scannell. I have a really good relationship with him going back to before I was even running when I was a kid. I really like his approach to coaching and it’s a really collaborative system that we have and I’ve really enjoyed it so far. We were just talking about risks in an Olympic year, not deviating from the plan in Olympic year, but I was ready for a change and I haven’t regretted it at all so far.
I miss training with the Bowerman guys quite a bit. I’m training almost all alone right now, most of my workouts are solo. When I’m in Park City, Matt Centrowitz lives up there, so we’ll hop in together quite a bit. And now that I’m in Flagstaff, there’s so many runners up here, I’ll hop in and out with stuff. But it’s not the same as having 10 dedicated guys with every workout. The changes come with challenges, but I think the pros have outweighed all the cons so far and it’s been really, really good.
JG: Can you go into detail about that? What have been the benefits you’ve seen compared to when you were with Bowerman and what are the drawbacks?
GF: I guess the drawbacks would be I just don’t have 10 bodies around me at all times to drag me through a workout. You don’t have the social element of going for an easy run and just chatting it up for 70 minutes and the run flies by.
There are other infrastructure pieces that I had to sort out on my own, like track access and gym access and what am I doing for physio? What am I doing for strength work? Things like that that when you’re part of a very complete club like Bowerman, are kind of sorted out for you. But I’ve gotten all that stuff sorted and I like where it’s at.
The pros have been the training is very customized. It’s just me. So if a pace is a little fast, we’ll tweak it. If it’s a little slow, we’ll tweak it. If the volume isn’t quite right, if I feel like I can handle a little more, a little less, it’s an instant tweak. It snowed a little bit in Park City, so I drove to Flagstaff. There were no logistics involved. If it snows too much in Flagstaff, I’ll go to Phoenix.
When you’re on your own, what you lose in the social setting and the advantages of just having guys to drag you around, you do gain quite a lot in flexibility. And I feel like at this point in my career, I was ready for that. I don’t think I would be ready to go out on my own when I first came out of college. But several years in the Bowerman system and I feel like I had a good sense of what worked for me and what doesn’t. Certainly there were challenges. Being an individual, there were things that I took for granted when I was at Bowerman. But, all those things are mostly sorted out now. So I’m smooth sailing.
The Training / Double Workouts
JG: What about the training itself? How different does it look to what you were doing under Jerry?
Gf: It’s similar. I ran really well under Bowerman. Jerry is a fantastic coach and he got me to incredible levels, levels that I never would’ve expected when I first came out of college. There were things that I thought were really effective for me and things that were really effective for other people in the training group and less effective for me. That’s where the little tweaks come in.
As far as fall training, it’s not rocket science. You have threshold work, you have long runs, you have easy runs, you have hills, maybe some speed endurance, some strides. Nobody’s inventing new pieces to that puzzle. It’s how you put them together.
So I’m putting them together a little different than I did at Bowerman. I’ve kind of embraced a lot of the double workout stuff. Sometimes it would be a double threshold session, but sometimes it’ll be hills and speed endurance on the track in the morning, and then more of a threshold session the afternoon, so technically not the double threshold buzzword, but double workouts.
That was something I’ve been curious about for a while, about trying out. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s also helped being alone. It’s hard doing big, massive one-block sessions when you’re solo. When you’re with 10 guys, it’s easier to do 10 miles of strength or 12 miles of strength in the morning. But when you’re alone, it’s easier to do seven in the morning and five in the afternoon, something like that.
The way we set it up has been very collaborative with me and Mike. We’ve been writing out like a month of training at a time and then, after every workout, tweaking things here and there, making sure everything’s right.
RJ: Is Mike there or is he remote? How does that work?
GF: Mike lives in Phoenix. Now that I’m in Flagstaff, he’s at every single workout, because I’ll work out in Sedona a lot and Cottonwood or all the way down in Phoenix sometimes. And then when I was in Park City and when I will be in Park City, Mike was at almost every session. He probably missed maybe three or four sessions.
A lot of the threshold stuff I can do on my own very easily. Some of the more aggressive sessions, it’s better to have a coach there. Sometimes as an athlete you can grind yourself into the ground if there’s not someone there to hold you back.
Deciding to leave Bowerman
RJ: When you decided to leave [Bowerman] and you told Jerry [Schumacher], what was the conversation like? Did he try to talk you out of it? Did he say, I understand? My other question is, if you propose things to Jerry, like, Hey, I don’t think this is working for me – is it just like no? Does he ever listen to athlete input or not? Jon seems to think it’s really rigid, but having coached myself, I would always consider what someone said. I mean, when you’re coaching a team, it is a little bit different. But if Grant Fisher says something to me, Grant Fisher’s my best guy. I think I would take some of that into the context.Embed from Getty Images
GF: When I decided to leave the team, I wasn’t in Eugene at the time, so I tried to call everyone on the team in one day so that they could all hear it from me. I flew back to Eugene so I could speak to Jerry in person. He was very understanding. He didn’t say, hey, I think you’re making a big mistake. Jerry’s a great coach and I know that, and he knows that. And in a way, the conversation was me thanking him for four great years and saying, hey, I’m moving on to a new chapter now.
I think he understood, and I know he still wants the best for me. I don’t think there was any bad blood in the conversation or is any – there’s no bad blood now. It felt a little weird. It did feel kind of like a breakup conversation. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to at all. But I owed it to him to have the conversation in person.
To the second piece of your question: Bowerman, when I’ve been on the team, has been anywhere from 12 to 25 athletes. And each one of those 12 to 25 people all probably have slightly different requests. So you can’t accommodate every single person’s request. And like I said at the beginning, there is a massive advantage to training as a group. But the thing you lose when you train as a very big group is that individuality, that really fine-tune tweaking for an individual’s needs. Because if you’re in a group of 10 guys and everyone’s doing mile repeats, but their reps are one second per mile different, what’s the point of having the group in the first place if everyone’s running individually with minor variations?
I see both sides. As a professional group, Bowerman for the men’s 5k has had more success in the US than pretty much any other group. If you look at the list of sub-13:00s, you look at [World/Olympic] teams as of late, the Bowerman system has produced tons of really good athletes in my event. And there’s a reason for that. It’s a system that works. And when you have a system that works, you can’t change it based on one person’s request. I understand that. But I was ready for those little tweaks in training. So that’s one of the reasons why I’m trying something new.
RJ: The training tweaks, the double workouts – was that the primary factor [for leaving] or was it like, I don’t like being in Eugene? Or all of the above?
GF: Again, a variety of things. I wouldn’t say there was any one big thing. One of them was the training piece, I wanted to try slightly different stuff. I’ve been to major global championships before and I’ve been close to the podium, but I’ve never been on it. And those margins are really, really slim. And so in my head I was thinking maybe these little tweaks, these little changes will be that extra little thing that I need to be half a second quicker over the course of a 10k and get on the podium.
Another piece was just overall happiness. I wasn’t the happiest athlete over the past year, and I think that reflected itself quite a bit in my training and my racing and getting injured in the middle of the year. It’s a cliche, but stress is stress. Life stress or living stress, all those things do add up and affect your training.
If I weren’t a runner and I could choose anywhere in the US to live, I would not have picked Eugene. But it is a good place to train and that’s where the group is based, so that’s where we had to move. If I could choose anywhere that I could live as a pro runner, I would’ve chosen Park City. And so that’s why I chose Park City. I really like altitude. I respond really well to it. I wanted to spend more time at altitude, and when your group is based at sea level, that’s really challenging to do. So that’s another factor, was the altitude piece.
At the very beginning of this conversation, I listed out my race schedule. That’s something I’ve never been able to do as a pro, to know a race schedule that far in advance and really have it concrete and laid out. Under the Bowerman system, you have a very good idea of what your races are going to be, but things are a lot more fluid. Now that I’m individual, I can map out exactly what I want to do, map out training exactly how I want it to be, put my best foot forward. So, yeah, man, a lot of things going into it.
JG: You talked about making tweaks to your training, and one of those is double sessions. Were there any other specific tweaks that you really think could make the difference between, being 4th [at Worlds] a couple years ago and being on the podium this year?
GF: Yeah, a little bit of big picture programming, macro-cycle stuff. I think last year I was a little overcooked by the time USAs came around. I got injured as well, but I think even before that injury, just the timing of the cycle and the peaking wasn’t 100% perfect. So this year took a little bit of different approach to the fall. A lot more strength-oriented. I wasn’t in spikes until I think [January 7] was my first session where I put on spikes or maybe [January 6].
JG: When would you do that previously?
GF: I would throw on spikes for part of a workout at least, by mid-November. And by December we would be doing some pretty aggressive stuff on the track in spikes. And I think that gets you really fit. A lot of those workouts I’ll be taking inspiration from because they’ve worked well for me in the past. But just being a little more gentle in the fall, a little more intentional about a buildup into the winter season.
We’ve done it a little differently each year I’ve been on Bowerman, but I think the way that works best for me going into the outdoor season is taking a pretty big down cycle come March/April and getting back into kind of that fall base training and then building back up for May and June. So, you know, big-picture stuff like that.
And then really small-picture stuff like splitting a workout into two on a day. Getting the volume right as far as workouts go, as far as total volume goes, making sure easy runs are easy. That’s another thing when you’re on your own, you can easy run whatever pace you want to go. You’re never really dragged into anything.
JG: Around this time last year, we were talking about Woody Kincaid. He broke your American record in the indoor 5,000 meters, and he did it a few months after leaving Bowerman and staking out on his own.
Did Woody leaving Bowerman and then immediately finding success – running fast, winning the US title at 10,000 meters – did that play in your mind at all when you made your own decision?
GF: I mentioned that I tried to call everyone on the team to let them know that I was leaving. And I called a few people that used to be on the team too that I care about and stay in touch with and I’m friends with, and Woody was one of those people.
I was kind of just talking out loud with him, but I was wondering, would I be as confident making this change if he hadn’t made a similar change in the year before and been just as or more successful? It’s hard to say 100% but it didn’t hurt.
When I first joined Bowerman, I thought that was where I was going to retire, because that’s what people did. People signed with Nike, signed with Bowerman, and laid out their whole career there. There wasn’t much movement off the team, other than retirement, when I first joined in 2019. Leaving when you were still in your prime was pretty unheard of.
So yeah, when Woody left and found great success and chatting with him throughout that process and hearing what he liked about the change, what he didn’t like, what were growing pains, what were struggles, what he missed, what he didn’t, that was all good information. So that I wasn’t the first person to see am I good at running because of Bowerman or am I good at running because of me? Or a combination? Can I find similar success or better success with a slightly different system?
And the answer is you don’t know. But having Woody do that just a year before me definitely gave a little bit of confidence. If I’m doing something that makes me happier, that I believe in, I think I can be just as good or better. Obviously time will tell. There’s no guarantees. But I’d say it definitely had an impact.
JG: That’s the interesting part about this decision. When I heard the news in October you were leaving, I was like, wow, he’s done some really impressive things the last couple years. All those American records, your most recent race, you ran 7:25 and smashed the American record, and now you’re choosing to leave going into what I would say is your prime Olympic year, but it sounds like you’re in a happier place now. How much of a risk do you view this leaving your old setup – one that you knew you were pretty good in – for something that’s unknown?
GF: It’s hard to quantify risk, but it’s certainly a risk. The safe thing to do is to stay. The safe thing is to say, okay, I’ve done all these great things with Bowerman. It’s gotten me on teams before, it’s gotten me American records, it’s gotten me US titles. The safe thing to do is just try that again.
But even that isn’t guaranteed. This past year I was with Bowerman and I didn’t make a team. So going into 2024, there’s no guarantee that staying would get me on a team. I knew that I wanted a little more control over everything that I did, and the easiest way to do that was to do it myself. That kind of summarizes a lot of the reasons why I left.
Of course it is a risk. But I felt in my heart that it was time to go. It gives me a lot of peace knowing that whatever happens this year and beyond, it was my decision. There’s a lot of things in my control that weren’t before. If they work out better than before, then that’s awesome. That’ll feel really nice. But if they don’t work out, then I gave it my best go as well.
Risk or no risk, when you know deep down that it’s the right time to do something or you want to make a change, I don’t think making that change is ever the wrong decision.
Adjusting to double workouts
JG: Can you tell me what the adjustment was like to starting double workouts? Had you ever done that before in your career? What was the learning curve like?
GF: I’d done that in high school. I’d done that in college. Never done it as a pro. So it’s stuff that I’ve done before and I’ve always liked it. From an intuitive sense, it does seem like a good idea. If you can do X amount of quality a week doing singles and then you can do X+5 miles of quality a week if you do doubles, the double system is probably a little better.
There’s a time and a place for them. If you’re a marathon runner, you’ve got to run 20 miles at marathon pace. There’s no way around that. If you’re a 10k guy, you still need to be doing pretty big volume in one session to get used to that pounding and that time on your feet. But, especially because I’m doing this alone, it’s nice splitting it, mentally and physically. Doing a 10-mile tempo, it just kind of wears you down mentally in a way that it doesn’t when you only have to lead one mile of the 10-mile tempo when you’re with a group.
The double system, it’s stuff that I’ve done before. I’ve liked it, especially with how open the Ingebrigtsen brothers have been with it, Marius Bakken has been with it. A lot of people are adopting it. A lot of different sports do similar systems. Triathletes do similar stuff, cross country skiers, cyclists, swimmers. Most other endurance sports will do a lot more sessions. They often have the advantage of a little less pounding than running. You can get away with working out every day if you’re a swimmer, you can’t really do that if you’re a runner. But the ideas are good in my mind, I’ve liked it a lot, and my body’s responded really well to it.
(For more on double threshold training, check out our deep dive on it from last year: LRC From Norway to Flagstaff: How Double Threshold Training Is Taking Over the World)
JG: One of the first things I wrote for LetsRun was a profile of you and your coach back in 2014. You were still in high school then. He struck me as a smart guy. But I’m wondering, what’s the best runner other than you he’s ever coached and was there any concern on your end, throwing him in with one of America’s top distance runners heading into an Olympic year?Embed from Getty Images
GF: It’s certainly unproven. It’d be kind of ridiculous for me to say it’s a proven formula here. I trust Mike a lot. I think he trusts me. I have a very good idea of what works for me. And he has been very collaborative in our setup.
Mike has worked with a lot of athletes. Has he worked with someone of my caliber before? Not really. Not to say this the wrong way, but I don’t think there’s many coaches out there that have worked with someone of my caliber. So the options are rather limited if you’re looking for that specific thing.
Another thing I liked about Mike is he’s been doing lactate-based training for the past 20 years. So he understands that well, the nuances of it. Whereas I did it for four years when I was in high school running for him, but I’m far from understanding every nuance to it. You can poke your finger and see the number, but there’s a lot more to it than just the numbers.
But it is a really nice system. I like it a lot, and I have high confidence in it. So in my head that’s all that matters. There will be a lot more data in the coming months on how it’s going.
Should we write off Centro in 2024?
RJ: All right. One last question, not related to you. It sounds like you and Centro are buddies. After the December mile race (the Merrie Mile in Honolulu, where Centrowitz finished 9th in 4:03.64), I had to write him off. I said, Jon, I would love for Centro to come back. I mean, he won a goddamn gold medal. But no. I’ve been holding on for too long.
JG: You run 4:03 in December in a road mile, you’re done. That’s Robert’s rule.
RJ: I had to stick a fork in him. Jon’s still holding out hope. My favorite phrase is, talent doesn’t go away. How is he doing? How is he feeling?
GF: Yeah, Centro’s a good guy, and it’s been super nice having him in Park City because he’s just pure entertainment all the time. He’s a great storyteller, very chatty, he makes a run go by really quickly. He’s been really generous with showing me the ropes in Park City while I was out there.
It’s December. Is the mile generally a young man’s game? Yes. However, I wouldn’t count him out. There are certain people that you don’t count out. There are certain people that are gamers. And based on what I’ve seen from Centro over the years, he really doesn’t need that much [to get in shape]. I don’t think he needs a super long build.
4:03 in Hawaii? I don’t think you can draw too many conclusions in December from that. I’m sure he would’ve loved to have run 3:58 instead or 3:57. But there’s a lot of year left and the 1500, it’s a bit of a crapshoot. You never know, when it actually comes down to it, who’s gonna make a team, who’s gonna medal? And I’d say Centro’s done a good job of proving that he can turn it on when he needs to turn it on. So I’d say hold off a little longer.
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