Catching Up With Gabriele Anderson
Gabriele Anderson, of Team USA Minnesota, finished fourth at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in the women's 1,500m run. While narrowly missing out on a Team USA spot, Anderson remained strong and confident, running new personal best times in the 800m (2:02.83) and 1,500m (4:04.84) events this summer. She takes to the roads this coming weekend in Providence, Rhode Island, where she'll compete in the U.S. 5k Championships.
Scott Bush (SB): The U.S. 5k Championships are this coming weekend. What are your expectations heading into the race?
Gabriele Anderson (GA): I'm really looking forward to testing myself at a longer distance. I was disappointed I didn't have an opportunity to race a 5k this year on the track, and I'm excited to compete on the roads in a championship race. I hope to contend with the leaders and hopefully use my "miler" kick to place well.
SB: You've run a couple mile road races lately. How have those gone for you?
GA: Road miles are very fun, but I'm still learning how to run them! My last two road miles have been my best finishes, both runner-ups, so I think I'm improving. Running fast on the roads feels quite a bit different to me than running on a track, but I enjoy the challenge! It's also a very unique way to connect with and interact with parts of the running community who might not relate to track racing as much.
SB: Do you feel strategy changes much from a mile track race to a mile road race?
GA: Absolutely! Without the controlled, predictable environment of a track, I really think the strategy and tactics change quite a bit. Not only is the surface different with the undulations of most roads -- which can affect your stride and ability to quicken the pace, it's quite a different experience to run in one straight line and have the ability to run 4-6 runners side by side. The cues for when to kick or when it's safe to push the pace are different on the roads than on the track; I almost feel like it's a different sport.
SB: You're bumping up in distance this weekend, from generally running 1,500m/mile races to 5,000m. What type of tactics will you take into this weekend to put yourself in the best position possible?
GA: I think since I'm a bit inexperienced over this distance, I will be somewhat conservative and try to gear up for a solid kick in the last portion of the race. I don't see myself as someone who will be pushing the pace from the front, but you never know -- some decisions you just have to make in the moment based on how you're feeling.
SB: You finished one spot shy of making the U.S. Olympic Team. How were you able to regroup and focus forward after such a narrow miss?
GA: It was a tough week for me at the Trials, but I'm really proud of my efforts this year to become a world-class runner. Everybody tries to step up their game in an Olympic year, and I'm really pleased that I was able to set PRs this year and give myself a shot at making the team. I knew I would have to have one of those "perfect races" to make the team -- but I felt it was possible. Afterwards, I just focused on the improvements I've had this year, and the consistency of my racing. It was a letdown emotionally, but I knew I had some good races left in me -- so I went to Europe and chased new PRs!
SB: With an eye on the future, do you see yourself staying at the 1,500m distance a while longer, or will you start to dabble more in the 5,000m event?
GB: I like the idea of dabbling in a bit of everything. Variety is the spice of life -- and racing, too, I think. I believe the 1500m is my best event right now, but I also believe that to be a great miler you need to have a solid 800m and 3000/5000m.
I'll continue to work on those events and make the decisions about what to focus on with my coach as we go. I love the 1500m, but I also really enjoy the 5000m training and endurance workouts -- so we'll see.
SB: You're part of Team USA Minnesota, where you have a strong training group and support group. While other training groups get a little more press, Team USA Minnesota has had some great successes. Could you talk a little on what the group is like?
GA: I think our group is special because there's a lot of local talent that we've been able to keep in the area, and it's fun and inspiring to see everybody succeeding without necessarily having to uproot their life here in Minnesota.
Dennis Barker is a great coach and I really believe in his training and his ability to challenge his athletes to be their best without setting limits on them. Since we have athletes training for such a wide range of events, from the 800m to the marathon, it's also fun to have representation across the board.
The running community here is especially supportive, so even though the winters can be less than ideal for training, it's still a place where runners feel valued and can be successful.
SB: You took another big step forward in performance this year, with your fourth place finish at the Trials, then running a new 1,500m PR of 4:04.84 in Italy. What key factor or two do you attribute this year's success to?
GA: Thank you! I think consistency in my training has made a big difference, as well as just really believing in the work I'm putting in on a daily basis. I listen to my body and try to be very intentional about recovery between hard sessions, and that was a big focus for me this year. I have a very supportive fiancé (Justin Grunewald) who often trains with me -- which is also a huge plus. Between him, my coach, my family, and Team USA Minnesota, I feel lucky to have such a great group of supporters!