Interview with world record holder, CJ Albertson

1) How did you get your start in running? What other sports did you participate in aside from Cross Country and Track and Field?  
I started running in 4th grade at Copper Hills Elementary School.  Growing up, I played most sports --including baseball and basketball.  I continued with basketball through my freshman year of high school, but from sophomore year onward, I focused only on running.

2) As a freshman, your team qualified for Nike Cross Nationals. Tell us a bit about that season and your transition to high school running on one of the best teams in the country. 
Joining one of the best teams in the nation was definitely a fun transition.  I've always been very competitive, so joining a team that was focused on winning a State championship was very fun for me (we ended up 2nd).  I remember running 16:07 at Woodward Park my freshman year and thinking that it wasn't very good because all my teammates were much faster.  So that season really set the tone for having high aspirations.

3) Aside from that season, what are some of your other highlights and proudest accomplishments during your high school career in both XC and TF?  
In my junior year at the State meet, I PR'd by ~28 seconds to run 14:51 and finish 4th.  It is still the junior-class record for Woodward Park.  I never really had a great track season to be honest.  My sophomore year I ran 4:12, 1:55, and 9:20 in a qualifying meet which I think is a pretty good triple for a sophomore, but I never made the podium at State. 

4) What do you remember about your high school training? At your peak, how much mileage? Longest runs?  
I didn't specifically keep track of my mileage in high school, but I ran about 35 mpw freshman year, 45ish sophomore year, ~50 junior year, and ~60 senior year.  My first three years I think my longest runs were ~12 miles or so.  Senior year of XC I added in some 15 mile runs @ ~ 6:00 pace.  Our training was fairly intense though.  We did a lot of VO2 max training and what we called VO2 + training (which is basically just anything faster than 2 mile pace).  We didn't do a ton a tempos but I remember running most of my runs at ~ 5:50-6:00 pace with the last few miles faster.

5) Who were your high school coaches and what did you learn most from them? 
Marty Simpson, Brian Weaver, and James Soares.  They have been at Buchanan for awhile lol.  I think I mainly learned a balance of discipline and having fun.  Looking back, our teams were pretty structured and disciplined, but it never really felt like that in the moment.  To me, it always just seemed like we were having fun and getting fast in the process. In addition, now as a coach, I learned what it takes to create a good team.  I haven't mastered it yet, but I have one of the best blueprints you could possibly have from my years at Buchanan.

6) What about your college experience? How did you end up choosing Arizona State? Highlights? 
I don't have a specific reason for choosing Arizona State; it just seemed like the overall best choice.  I liked the team, liked the coach, liked the campus, and the financial aid package was good.  Like high school track, I never really had a fantastic college season (in terms of my own goals).  Some highlights were qualifying for Nationals in the steeplechase and setting our school record in the Indoor 5k.  The best highlight, was that I met my wife, Chelsey (who is also a runner) and we got married while in college.

7) Who was your college coach and what did you learn from him?   
My college coach was Louie Quintana.  Similar to my high school coaches, I think I learned some balance from him.  He is a very competitive guy, but also very laid back most of the time -- especially at races.  I think this is one of the most important qualities to being GREAT.  You can be a good runner by being crazy structured, obsessive, and doing every little thing right.  But to really transcend to the next level, I think you need some sense of casual confidence.  This allows you to quiet your mind, so you can let your body do the work you've trained it to do.  And it also allows your competitiveness to kick in.  I don't think I truly mastered this until after college, but Louie was setting the example for me for 5 years.

8) From HS: Favorite cross country Invitational? Favorite XC course? Favorite XC workout? Favorite TF Invitational? Favorite TF event? Favorite TF workout? Favorite long run? 
Woodbridge (probably because I won lol).  Course: Woodward Park. (I now live right across the street from the park).  Workout: Simple Mile repeats or 20x400m.   TF: Arcadia.  TF Event: Probably the mile in high school, or anchoring the 4x4 back when I had speed.  TF Workout: Elvis Mile. You and your partner trade off 400s and attempt to complete the 2 mile in under 8:00 (so you each run 4x400).  I think Cody Brazeal and I ran 7:53.

9) What led you into coaching? What have you learned from your coaching experience that you wish you could have changed about what you did in high school?  
I've just always liked coaching and the process of understanding the 'why' behind things.  If I could go back to high school, I would try to be more relaxed my junior year of track and whole senior year.  I was a bit obsessive about running and was always trying new things to get better. (Which isn't bad, but I just overdid it at times).   I still experiment with new things and do some odd workouts, but it's done with a lot more joyful approach.

10) Over the past year or so, you broke the world indoor Marathon record (John Nepolitan photo below) and this past weekend, you broke the 50000m world record on the track. What led you into attempting these world record attempts and how much planning went into both events? Is there another world record attempt on the horizon?  
I heard about the indoor marathon/signed up about 4 weeks before the event.  So there wasn't a whole lot of planning.  The 50k I had a lot of help from Brooks Running (my sponsor) and the Buchanan High coaching staff.  I basically just said I wanted to run a 50k, and they made it happen!  Training-wise, I didn't have to change much because I train for those long distances anyways- and running on a track doesn't bother me mentally.  I don't know what I'll do next.  The 100k world record sounds fun to me, but that would be a ways off.  Setting the record at Comrades (downhill year) would be very personally satisfying, but both of those will be incredibly hard, take a lot of specific training, and would be years down that road.  I mainly just want to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.

11) From your running and coaching experience, what is your advice for a talented runner in high school with the ambition to compete in college and beyond? 
 I would just recommend that they find that balance of working hard and being incredibly disciplined, but also having fun and being laid-back or relaxed about their running. Running will have its up and downs- and so will life- but you just have to believe you'll end up being good.  For example, 3-4 weeks before this 50k, my training really wasn't that good at all.  But I still knew I was going to break the 50k record.  I had to make a few changes, but overall I stayed calm and relaxed and just trusted I'd be where I needed to be on race day.

12) Anything else you want to add.  
"Running is easy" :)