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Emily Infeld: “I’m in the Best Place I’ve Been in the Past Few Years”

The Olympian talks about her new coach, training program, and why she’s feeling better than ever.

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When Emily Infeld steps to the line on Friday at Hayward Field for the U.S. 10,000-meter championships, it will be the first time she’ll compete for a national team as an independent athlete, no longer a member of the Bowerman Track Club, which she departed at the beginning of the year.

Now Infeld trains with coach Jon Green, who is developing the Verde Track Club in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Infeld and her husband, Max Randolph, have recently bought a home (they will split time between the high-altitude base and Portland, Oregon). Other members of the group include Molly Seidel, 2021 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, and Grayson Murphy, a mountain running world champion and steeplechaser.

Infeld, 32, is one of the veterans in the deep field of women contending on Friday to make the world championships team. She comes in with the second-fastest time (31:08.57), behind her former BTC teammate Karissa Schweizer, a 2021 Olympian in the 10,000 and 5,000 meters. Alicia Monson, also a 10,000-meter Olympian in Tokyo, is competing, alongside standouts like Weini Kelati and Natosha Rogers.

Infeld, who is a 2016 Olympian and the 2015 world championships bronze medalist in the 10,000 meters, spoke with Women’s Running about how all of her life changes have brought her to a new competitive season feeling refreshed and happy.

Women’s Running: You’re in a new training environment for the first time in your career. Simple question to start: How is it going?

Emily Infeld: I’ve been working with Jon now since the end of November and it’s really nice. For me right now, just having flexibility to split time between Flagstaff and Portland has been really nice. I love altitude—having a home base and feeling a little more settled in that sense is really nice. When we’re in Portland, Jon has been phenomenal with communication and that, to me, has been really wonderful. I can do what I need to do, we can adjust plans. Overall the communication has been good and it’s been fun. Jon’s learning about me as an athlete and I’m learning about him as a coach and the biggest thing is that it’s a collaboration, which has been nice. During my pre-race workout, he had something on the schedule and I felt like I wanted to do more at race pace, so we compromised for a happy medium.

WR: What are the biggest training adjustments you’ve made? What are you doing differently now?

EI: I’m really thankful to have my husband to help me in workouts. With Bowerman there were always lots of people, so you always had someone to work out with. When I was coming out of [hip] surgery, I had a really hard time coming back from that and I’m competitive. I think anybody who is competitive, you want to be training hard and I think I sometimes trained too hard, pushed myself over the limit trying to train with certain athletes in the group. They’re phenomenal athletes, but for me right now, I like focusing on myself and knowing my workout on the day is going to be whatever feels good on the day. If Jon sets paces and I feel good, I can go a little faster and if I’m not feeling great we can adjust that, too. Being in an environment where somebody in the group is going to feel good and if you’re not, it’s just a little too much—I’ve done that in the past and pushed myself too hard.

Having Max to work out with so I’m not solo has been wonderful. He’s done all but maybe three workouts with me this year. Altitude is something I always struggle with, so having him there helps me be relaxed and comfortable. For a lot of the workouts, I can chill out and hang [while he paces] and for the faster stuff I can lead, knowing that I have someone there. It’s been really windy in Flagstaff—I’ve never been here in the spring. He’s wide and a body I can run behind. I can hit paces without thrashing in the wind.

WR: What have the challenges been in adjusting to a new program and life changes?

EI: I have a hard time with change and I think most people do. It’s not like I left [Bowerman] because I hated anyone or anything like that. I stayed there so long because I really liked everyone, even when the training wasn’t clicking for me. It took me a while to come to that realization that I needed to make a change. I’m excited to focus more on myself and have more individualized training. It’s still hard. The sport can be lonely at times—I love my husband so much, but we are spending a lot of time together. I’m thankful for that, but it’s hard going from having limitless training partners to just mostly training by myself. That’s probably the biggest adjustment. It’s good and bad. I sometimes miss the people who I loved and loved to train with and be around.

In a new program, you also have those conversations like, “I feel like I need to work harder” or do this or that. It’s just a different training philosophy. It’s great and I feel like I went into Mt. SAC [in April] doing zero speed work and was kind of nervous, but was pleasantly surprised [Editor’s note: Infeld placed second in the 5,000 meters in 15:05.80].

Jon’s really smart and I trust him—it’s just different after nine years of a certain program. At times it’s taken a bit for me to stop questioning, “Is this the right thing? Are we doing the right thing?” I asked for something different, but there are still thoughts sometimes at the back of my mind because I’m used to doing things a certain way. It’s hard to change the thought process, but it’s made me grow and learn about myself. There’s not just one way to get to your goal. If what worked for me when I was 25 wasn’t working for me at 30, it was time to make a change.

WR: What are some of those bigger changes? Is your mileage the same? Are key workouts different?

EI: My mileage is higher than it’s been since I had surgery [in 2019], which is good. Last year I really struggled with doing the intensity and getting the mileage up high. I was in the 70s [miles per week] and I did a 10K that February. From that race, I think I got super jacked up and had to take a chunk of time off and had one long run that was 14 miles, but outside of that they were all like 12 or 13 miles. I just couldn’t recover and my body just wasn’t able to hit the miles. But this year, I’ve been consistently doing 80-90 [miles per week]. I feel confident that I can hit those miles again and still work out hard.

One of the other differences is that we’d do pure speed workouts with Bowerman—all out speed. I never do that with Jon. The fastest I’m running is end-of-workout reps, like the last 200 meters of a 400. We’ll do something like the last rep is a 400 and we close every 100 faster. That’s where I’m running my fastest 200. As I’m getting older I need to work on my speed, but also have to remind myself that speed is strength. You can do different things—I’m still getting in the work, it just looks a little different.

WR: You just announced you re-signed with Nike. What can you share about that renegotiation?

EI: I’m really thankful and lucky to be sponsored still. I never want to take that for granted. I’m pretty realistic. I know that I want to make teams. I know that I want to be a world-beater and I haven’t been there. Last year I was running PRs, but I’m also getting older in the sport. There are women like Sara Hall and Keira D’Amato who are still crushing it, but I still have that in my mind. Am I too old? I still want to be doing this so I feel really thankful that I was able to negotiate with Nike. We were back-and-forth as I think most negotiations are. I wanted to be signed through 2024 and I feel like I had good, candid conversations with Brittany Melrose [Nike North American women’s running/track and field sports marketing director] and she really worked with me to support me and help me get what I wanted in terms of the length of the deal and the structure that I wanted.

WR: You and I have talked about mental health a lot in the past. You’ve been through a lot in recent years, including going public last year about the horrific stalker situation you were dealing with. This is a check in. How are you and what do you attribute your mental health to these days?

EI: Mental health is something most people struggle with at some point in their lives. In our sport, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and that is really hard. I am definitely not perfect and I don’t feel good 100 percent of the time, but I’ve been really good. Jon is really great, asking and connecting with my mental health, which has been really wonderful. He makes sure my stress levels are at a reasonable level and communicates through that. Any stress is stress on the body. Talking through that and adjusting workouts appropriately, making sure we’re not over-stressing the body, has been really great. And having Max as a support, I feel really lucky to have him. He’s my number one fan and that’s been really great.

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I love therapy. It’s different from person to person, so it’s hard to say this in any way, but I have been on and off anti-anxiety and antidepressants for a lot of my career. I’m not on anything now, not for any reason other than I don’t need to be at this moment. That’s been really exciting in terms of feeling better and like I’m working on myself. I’m talking to people and feeling like I have the support that I need. Medication has been so, so helpful the past seven years. I’m not saying I’ll never be on them again, but I am feeling good right now. I think continuing to talk and be open about mental health—whatever it is for you, it can change, is important. I feel really supported right now.

WR: Let’s turn to this 10K on Friday. How do you approach these big races differently than you may have earlier in your career?

EI: In 2015, I was super new to the 10K and honestly really naive. I think that was a benefit. I was just running. Now I do a little race visualization and I visualize it being really hard. I don’t visualize it being easy and feeling wonderful and the race of my life. That’s not realistic. It’s going to really, really hurt, as it should when you’re pushing your body. U.S. women in general have so much depth in so many events that it’s hard to make any team. It’s an insane amount of women whose times are getting faster and getting those standards. In 2013, the world standard was 31:45 and now that’s the U.S. time. That’s incredible how far we’ve come. Knowing that it’s a stacked field and it’s always going to be really hard, I know I’m in a good place. I feel like I’m in the best place I’ve been in a few years. I really want to make this team and I’m going to compete hard. Wherever I end up, I end up. I’m competing against some of the best women in the world. It’s exciting, but I definitely know what it takes. I need to be kinder to myself and remind myself that I’m as prepared as I can be. I have to have confidence that I belong here and see where I end up.

WR: That said, how do you define success for yourself right now, whether specifically for the 10,000-meter championships or in the grander scheme of your career?

EI: It can have lots of different meanings. Making the [world championships] team would be a success for me, but if I’m fifth and I know I gave it everything I could, I can’t be disappointed with that. Thinking about training long-term, knowing it’s an accumulation of work and not beating myself up when one workout doesn’t go well or if I have to take a day off. When I was younger, I’d think it was a failure if I didn’t do exactly what was on the schedule, but now I know it’s months and months built upon each other. It’s not one make-or-break day. And getting treatment for my body and making sure I’m moving in the right way, that to me is success. I’ve been able to stay healthy for this amount of time and feel strong.

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