Chris Derrick is a runner for Nike and the Bowerman Track Club. He ran at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois and at Stanford University where he was a 14 time All-American. As a professional he won the USATF Cross Country Championships 3 times and represented the US at both the World Track and Field Championships and the World Cross Country Championships. Since 2017 he has focused on the marathon. He has personal bests of 13:08 in the 5K, 27:31 in the 10K, and 2:12 in the marathon.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I've had a number of injuries in my career since 2015. As a result, I appreciate running more when I can do it and I feel like I've left a lot of things unfinished in my career. Right now my biggest motivation is to match the fantastic performances my teammates are putting up and feel like I'm a part of, rather than an observer of, their greatness.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
"Do or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
How are you handling training with the current Covid restrictions?
We had to stop having full team practices for a while, which was a bummer. We went to camp in June in Utah where things were a little more open for us. Now that we're back in Portland the restrictions have relaxed in terms of outdoor activities where we can be a little more normal in our training. Gym activity is out, but I have some stuff at home I can use to make sure I'm staying on top of my rehab routines.
What is one thing you look forward to once everything goes back to normal?
First, seeing my family. Second, the NBA.
What was it like to be a pacer for Eliud Kipchoge's first attempt at breaking 2 hours in the marathon?
It was a truly inspirational experience and I'm not one to toss that word around. Even in a room full of the world's top runners, he stands apart. He just has an aura about him. To feel how fast that pace was and then see how easy it looked for him...it was humbling and inspiring at the same time.
Do you wish you were a part of the successful attempt in 2019?
Yeah, that would have been a really cool experience. With each attempt it seems like the pacers themselves developed a really great camaraderie. It's always fun to get together with runners from around the world without the stress of a competition.
What did you learn while finishing 9th in your marathon debut?
Well, I learned that running a 4:40 mile at mile 18 is a bad idea, ha ha.
Do you have any plans for the 2021 Olympics?
After the marathon trials didn't go so well, I'd like to get myself back into track shape and feel like I can compete for a spot on the 10K team.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
My college/pro teammate Elliott Heath and I were chased by a herd of cattle for 1200 meters when we were running on the backside of "The Dish" at Stanford. It may have been some light trespassing. Cows are very fast.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
Gosh feel like I have so many of these but now that I have my chance to get up on a soapbox, I'm at a loss. A lot of them probably have to do with social media use, since I'm too online. In that vein I guess I'll say I have a weird problem when people use the word "humbled" when they mean "honored". As in "wow I am so humbled by the outpouring of praise for this great thing I did!" To be humbled is to be brought low. You are humbled by failures. Watching Eliud Kipchoge run 26.2 miles at a pace that feels like sprinting is humbling. You are honored by awards and achievements. You are honored by people telling you what a great job you did. What people are really trying to say when they misuse this word is: "Wow I did this great thing, but just because I'm pointing this out doesn't mean I'm not humble!"...and I'm here to say I see through your act!
What's it like being on the Bowerman track club?
It's really wonderful. One of the main reasons I joined coming out of college was that the team feels like a true team. As we've gotten bigger we've only grown that feeling. I really love being a coach in the youth program and feeling like I'm connecting with a broader running community. I love the things our team is trying and I really think it's a model for what a great track club can be.
Who would you say is the funniest teammate?
Ryan Hill. He's does great impressions and has a fantastic imagination. Someone will say something and he'll envision a fully fleshed out comedy skit and act it out, but not in a showy way. Gets me every time.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I'm very much a homebody. I really like cooking, reading, and being with my girlfriend, Sara. A great day for me would be running in the morning, reading in the park with Sara, coming home and cooking dinner and maybe enjoying 1 or 2 adult beverages outside with some friends.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
If you show up every day and try to get a little better, you won't notice much of a change from week to week but you'll look back in 18 months and not believe how far you've come. I ran a 6:03 mile time trial after training for 2 months before my freshman year of high school. 18 months later I had run 9:24 for two miles.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
I've always been pretty good at riding the red line in races and workouts. My teammates always tell me that they hear how hard I'm breathing and assume I'm about to get dropped but I just keep going like that. My speed is, and always has been, pathetic. The women's team often works out before us and on speed days I'm usually anxiously listening for their splits and hoping I can go faster. I do not always succeed.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
Well I mentioned Kipchoge earlier, but I think I'd have to say a lot of my Bowerman Track Club teammates. Moh Ahmed, Shalane Flanagan, Amy Cragg, Evan Jager, etc. When I came out of college I had the idea that passed a certain level, everyone works hard and the differences between athletes are more about talent and luck than anything else. I've seen differently since. There is a level of dedication and craftsmanship that some of my teammates bring that has opened my eyes to what's possible.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
We haven't been able to train together for many years since he retired, but Elliott Heath was my training part for a long time at Stanford and with Bowerman Track Club and we still live together, so I'd pick him.
If you could compete in one Field event, which would you choose?
Assuming I'm actually good at it? I think I'll take the pole vault. They seem to have a great esprit de corps and they are all chiseled and proportional like Greek statuary.
Did you ever imagine you'd be where you are today in the sport?
It's an interesting question because if you'd have asked me that when I started running and was 21st at Freshman/Sophomore conference, I'd have said I could never imagine being this good. If you'd asked me 5 years ago I'd be devastated I haven't accomplished more. Perspective and narrative are funny things. No future is a given, good or bad. All you can do is show up every day and try to make the most of it.
What's next for Chris Derrick?
I'll be 30 this fall and I really want to take one last shot at lowering my 10K personal best on the track. So that will be my focus through next track season.
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