Qualifying for the Olympic Trials in one event is not where HOKA fan Jocelyn Todd sees her running story ending. After qualifying in the marathon with a time of 2:39:23 at Grandma’s Marathon in 2018, Jocelyn decided to pursue her next goal of qualifying in the 10K. A PhD student at the University of Utah, Jocelyn chases her running goals in her free time because she continues to surprise herself when she just gets out there and tries her best.
We sat down with Jocelyn to learn more about how her seemingly relaxed, “Why not give it a try?” attitude has pushed her to keep dreaming and chasing impressive goals.
HOKA: Have you always been an athlete?
Todd: Pretty much! I played soccer and basketball growing up, and I always loved running. In elementary school, I would always try to beat the boys in our gym races (and was mostly successful) and knew then that I wanted to keep racing.
HOKA: Why do you run?
Todd: There are so many reasons why I run. Personal growth and community are the biggest reasons. It’s fulfilling to see how you can improve yourself and running is so obvious in that regard because you can compare your times so directly. There really aren’t many chances in life to get such clear benchmarks of your progress. Then there’s community – most of my best friends I’ve met through running. Of course, there are obvious health benefits. Plus, I think it’s one of the best ways to explore places. There are also so many different feelings that you can get from running. It can be meditative and personal – a clear and isolated headspace to think – or it can be social and connecting. You usually get to know someone quite quickly when you are running and only have conversation to pass the time.
When I moved to Utah for graduate school, I didn’t know anyone. I was fortunate enough to be able to compete with the Utah Cross Country and Track team for my first year (due to remaining NCAA eligibility) and I consider that team to be one of the most uplifting and supportive groups in my running career. They were focused, diligent, and strong women – even though most of them had been training together for at least three years and I was sort of an outsider, they recognized my drive and welcomed me in with open arms. When I joined the team, I wasn’t confident in myself as an athlete. But through the support of that team and the coaching staff, I was able to grow and develop with the team and within myself.HOKA: What is your biggest motivator?
Todd: I find motivation in so many different people and experiences and I generally hate superlatives, but if I have to pick one I would say myself. I know that sounds selfish, but at the end of the day the person who is most disappointed or most proud of what I do in running is myself. I’m not running to prove anything to anyone except myself.
HOKA: Do you have a mantra you use to fight self-doubt?
Todd: Personally, the best mechanism I’ve found in dealing with self-doubt is humor. It may sound counter-intuitive, because I care fiercely about living up to the standards I set for myself, but bringing levity to a situation helps me put it in context. The bigger picture is that I’m lucky to be continuing to pursue my running goals at such a high level and it’s amazing that I get to do it. When I remind myself “Hey, you just flew hundreds of miles to get timed running a distance in circles or on some random streets with a bunch of people,” it makes me laugh and it makes me grateful.
HOKA: What is your proudest running accomplishment so far?
Todd: I’ll never forget when I qualified for the Olympic Trials in the marathon. I was running Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN and I figured I was in shape to run about 2:42. I started the race at a smart and relaxed pace and by mile 18 I was still feeling surprisingly smooth and was under goal pace. At mile 20, I passed my training partner. We had a short conversation that ended with me surging ahead as I said “I am ready to go hunting!” Not only was the Olympic standard in reach, but now top 10 was starting to look possible. Someone on the side of the road called out that I was in 15th place and I went into full focus mode as I started clipping off faster and faster miles. There was a clock at mile 25 that read 2:36 and I realized I was about to break 2:40 – a time barrier I was afraid to even consider when setting my goal. Then, as I ran up and over the last bridge and around the cornered the last turn of the course, I literally sprinted into 10th place in the last 200 meters of the race. Someone handed me my bag and I called my coach immediately – she chastised me for doing this later – but my finishing time was 2:39:23 and I was 10th place. I still get a stupid grin on my face when I think about it.
HOKA: Why are you chasing the 10K Olympic Trials qualifier?
Todd: The short answer is because I can! But really, the theme of my running journey so far is that I can truly surprise myself and accomplish things that at one time I would never dream to do. With my marathon progression, I went from trying it out and running 2:56 to running 20 minutes faster in a matter of two years. I feel like I have so much to learn and I’m excited to keep pursuing exciting and scary goals. I didn’t run the 10k until my last year of college and it scared me – to be honest, it still scares me, but it’s a hungry type of fear that motivates me to keep pushing forward with everything I have.
HOKA: What is your advice for people who are interested in running but might be nervous about setting new goals?
Todd: Keep it simple, take it easy, and find others to help guide you. Running is arguably the simplest sport we can do, so don’t feel the need to overcomplicate it with the fanciest stuff right away. Those things can be fun, but if you can figure out running without it, I think you will have a deeper understanding of the sport. Taking it easy is important to staying healthy. Don’t worry about how fast you are or how many miles you are running right off the bat. Those things will come with time and training! Running can be jarring to your system, so give your body time to react to the new stresses and recover. Finding new people is definitely helpful to keep you motivated and accountable to stick with it. If you don’t have people around, an easy tip is the “10 minute rule.” Run for ten minutes and if you still want to stop, then allow yourself to do so. More often than not, that’s all it takes to wake up and realize you really did want to be up and moving after all.
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