Raised to Run: Josh Cox
Josh Cox, the 50k American Record Holder (31 miles), is a 4-time US Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier and 3-time US National Team member. In 2009 and 2011 his 50k was the fastest in the world, the latter effort was the second fastest in history, and missed the world record by a scant 7 seconds. Cox starred on ABC’s Bachelorette show and currently offers his professional perspective for NBC Universal’s marathon broadcasts. You can get tips, giveaways and be inspired by following him on Twitter and Facebook
Josh Cox is one fast, cool runner. I remember the first time I met him. He came to visit the TV studios before the Chicago Marathon. We talked about his high altitude training in Mammoth Lakes, CA and how he would take "natural ice baths" in the freezing cold waters of local creeks after runs. Josh is easy to talk to about running and he's a curious guy who was interested in the weather. I thought I'd give him a challenge in front of the green screen - but then again, is there anything a quick guy like him can't do?! (See photo at the end of this artile of Josh in front of the weather wall!) As you might imagine, he was a natural and has gone on to have some assignments of his own calling races on TV Broadcasts! Since then, I've seen Josh race, met his beautiful family and shared time with him at the expo talking to other runners about race preparation. His life on the run is motivational to me in more ways than one! For this year's TEAMABC7 blog Josh took time to answer some of my questions about his current career and shared insight on how he was "Raised to Run."
JOSH COX: My first response is to maximize the gifts entrusted to me, to discover what I can get out of the machine, to push limits. But in reality, running is so much more than that... it’s my outlet, my alone time, my thinking time, my praying time, my creative time, my time away from the calls, social networks and the busyness of life. Running has always served as my daily reset button – my therapist. It’s an easy thing to take for granted but dealing with an injury this year has brought it all back to why I first fell in love with running in high school… I love it for the act itself.
This past January, I injured my foot at mile 8 of the Olympic Trials. I tweaked my left plantar fascia in December, had some therapy, and never thought it would be a limiting factor in the race. The race went out hard, I reached 8 miles in 39:20. At that point, there was a 180 degree turn and in one stride it felt like a knife was thrust into the back of my arch near my heel. With every stride I felt the same pain, for a moment I thought about stopping but I stayed in the race because at this stage in my career I know the Olympic Trials is one of those races you always remember. I finished, in 2:13:50, but it came with a price. I couldn’t walk without limping for a month and couldn’t run for the next two. Initially, all I could think about was the next race, the next marathon I could run where I could pace myself to a PR but eventually I just missed running. Not the intervals, the tempos, the long runs and races but running the roads with friends, running the trails with my music, the feeling of the lungs burning, the heart pounding, legs light in flight and heavy in labor; I missed reaching the mountaintop and taking in the postcard perfect views that serve as the reward for the climb... I missed it all. I don’t intend to romanticize it but I really, truly just missed it, it was like losing a close friend. This was just my third injury since I started running my freshman year in high school back in 1989, so I don’t have too much practice with the whole injury thing. Normally when I have any sort of life issue I head out the door and running seems to bring clarity to just about everything, but when your issue is “you can’t run” – well, it’s problematic. Having an ElliptiGO allowed me to get outside and experience running without the pounding. It was really the only thing that kept me sane.
AMY FREEZE: How did u start running? Did someone or some event trigger your running?
JOSH COX: I was a soccer player, I started playing year round in 5th grade. My first race, the first race that mattered anyway, was that same year, the Presidential Fitness Testing. This year, the sixth graders were the first to go. When I heard the result I was mortified, a girl had beaten all the boys, but that wasn’t the bad part, the bad part was the girl was my sister, she took first place in 7:15.
I grew up in a family of six kids – 3 older sisters, and 2 younger brothers. Our family was divided, girls had one bathroom, guys had another, girls had certain chores, guys had the others. My sister, Merae, is 11 months older than me. Growing up, we were close friends, in that I love you but there’s no way you’re going to beat me at anything sort of way. For a time, our sibling rivalry was intense. This race was about one thing and one thing alone, beating my sister’s time. If I didn’t, life as I knew it would be over. She would own me. The race finally came. We started out on the far side of the field; it felt easy, as starts always do. I made a left turn toward the sandbox, ran off the grass and onto the blacktop, and heard someone was shouting from the street, “Goooooooooo, Josh!”
I looked to my right and saw my mom’s large brown station wagon; she was right outside the chain-linked fence. She came to watch me race. I still have no idea how she knew what time we’d be running, but she was there. I was leading but we were only 30 seconds in, lots of race left. There I was – all 53 pounds of mean, lean, ten year old soccer playing machine – tearing around the sandbox and soccer fields. Faster… faster… faster… head down, arms pumping, knees driving, feet pounding. I finished in 6:05. I was exhausted but excited. I gave my mom the thumbs up.
We returned to class and after fifteen minutes or so the secretary came on the PA system, “Congratulations to Joshua Cox for setting a new school record in the mile this morning, he ran 6:05. Great job.” My buddy Mike patted me on the back. I was all smiles, not because I broke the record, and not because the secretary announced my time over the PA, but because I knew my sister was in the next room over and had just found out she was not faster than me.
When I got home that day I was as gracious as a 10 year old could be to his older sister. Mainly, I just smiled a lot, Merae was actually impressed and told me good job. For years I had dreams of playing professional soccer but I soon realized running was the road to take.
AMY FREEZE: What are your current running habits – are you training for a race?
JOSH COX: I’m currently in the base building phase of training; a good base is the foundation for everything we do. Everyone wants to know the secret to running fast, and certainly there are lots of tips, specific workouts and diet but if you want one tip it’s this: lace ‘em up and get out the door for weeks, months and years and you’ll start reaching your potential. The truth is, most of us don't need more information & inspiration, we need more implementation & perspiration. We know what we need to do, we just need to do it.
As far as races go, I’d like to run another marathon PR (aren’t we all), and would like to make a run at the World Records for the 50k, 50 mile and 100k – I’d like to do all that in the next two years.
AMY FREEZE: What’s your most favorite running/race experience? When/Where, etc.
JOSH COX: I’d have to say representing the United States is always a huge honor, I’ve had the privilege on a few occasions and there’s something humbling and incredibly awesome about representing a nation. I always enjoy the major marathons, Mary Wittenberg and the entire NYRR crew put on amazing events at all their races, and I love the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series, they’re relentless in their pursuit of providing a fabulous race day experience. On a personal level, I love getting really fit and running for hours on the trails near our home in Mammoth Lakes, California. It’s a runner’s paradise.
AMY FREEZE: How do you overcome challenges in your running life – when you hit the wall, when injury strikes, when your life gets busy and it’s hard to get a run in, and all the other obstacles of life --- what helps you keep running!
JOSH COX: Obstacles: no one wants them but they’re a fact of life. Tough times are transformational, either for better or worse, and we each have the power to choose which path we take. Successful people learn from their mistakes, they get better not bitter. My biggest breakthroughs have always come on the heels of my toughest times and greatest disappointments. Now when dark times come, in running or in life, I see it as God’s way of preparing me for something bigger, something better. It’s in the tough times that we’re molded and shaped into the men and women we’re destined to become.
With respect to working out: don’t let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can. Don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others, be better than you were yesterday, be the best you, you can be. Don’t let being short on time keep you from working out, it’s not an all or nothing proposition. The shortest workout is infinitely better than no workout. Make your daily workout a priority, an appointment you keep everyday. Good health is the greatest gift we can give ourselves; without it we can’t enjoy anything else.
Thanks Josh! See you... on the Run! Check out Josh’s Gear Bag:
Favorite shoe: K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Light
Long run fuel: Double Latte PowerGels
Water when I’m in NYC: Poland Spring
Recovery: CEP Compression
Headphones: Polk UltraFit