Series02 Jun 2014

Work, rest and play – Jenny Simpson


USA's Jenny Simpson leads the 1500m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene (© Getty Images)

US middle-distance runner Jenny Simpson answers our work, rest, play questions.

The 2011 world 1500m champion, who landed a silver medal for the distance at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, is in the form of her life, having set a 1500m PB of 3:58.28 at the recent IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene.

Here she reveals a passion of equestrian, her favourite training partner and why her perfect training day would involve lousy weather.


What is your favourite training session?

JS: I love the long runs. I like the rhythm of them and the sense of accomplishment when I'm finished.

What is your least favourite training session?

JS: Any time I have to work through a small injury and I have to bike, swim, or run on the Alter-G (anti-gravity treadmill). I absolutely loathe not being allowed to run a normal training day.

What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

JS: The first is travelling the world and running through so many amazing cities. The second is that health and fitness are my daily focus, not something I have to do after a long day at work. The third is the team of people I have around me. Through every single phase of my career, I've had incredible coaches, teammates, and trainers by my side. Their friendships are the greatest gift running has given me.

Who is your favourite training partner?

JS: That's easy! I love training with Emma Coburn (Olympic 3000m steeplechase finalist). She is always so calm and funny in every circumstance. She's a hard worker and never whines about anything. I also do some training with my husband, which is amazing, but I think choosing him is a cop-out!

Where is your favourite training venue?

JS: I work out most days at the track at University of Colorado, where I live and train, but my favourite training venue is probably back in Orlando where I went to high school. It's always fun to go back and it blows me away that a life I once dreamed of a decade ago has really come true.

What is the worst thing about being an athlete?

JS: The inflexibility of my yearly schedule. When it comes to family gatherings, I'm always either travelling to a race or committed to training. When I do get to see family during holidays I still have to carve out time for running and that can be challenging when all I want to do is relax and catch up with my loved ones.


What is your favourite music to chill to?

JS: I listen to whatever Jason (Jenny’s husband) has on. He listens to a lot of music while he works as a graphic designer, so he's way more trendy than me when it comes to music selection.

Describe your perfect day without training.

JS: I’d wake up to coffee and a big breakfast with zero fear of a heavy stomach for my morning run. I would hope the day would have terrible weather, so I'd be glad to be stuck indoors and not wasting a beautiful day by not training. I’d hope to read a good book and if Jason had the day off of work that would make it just about perfect.

What is your favourite stress reliever?

JS: Am I allowed to say running? A good, pain-free run where I'm just a little faster than expected would be the greatest stress reliever!

Where is your favourite place to relax?

JS: My mother and father-in-law's house. They totally spoil my husband and me when we are home. It's so restful to go to their house.

What TV shows do you like to relax to?

JS: The West Wing. I love that show. I also like Suits, Shark Tank, and Downton Abbey.

What is your favourite meal?

JS: Salmon and mashed potatoes with fresh greens. My mom does it best.


Can you explain how your passion for equestrian started?

JS: My mom grew up with horses and our family had horses for as long as I can remember. It was just always part of my life from childhood. My parents still have horses on their property today.

Did you ever compete in equestrian?

JS: I did and I competed in everything from western pleasure to show jumping to dressage. I never competed at a very high level but I was a very competent and confident rider. I spent many hours in the saddle, not just training but also riding trails.

How do you feel your background in equestrian has helped your athletics?

JS: There are so many things, but to give one example: I have an appreciation for what is out of my control. You can work with an animal for years and be surprised at how they spook entering an arena or how difficult it can be loading them on to a trailer going into an event. In riding, training and competing are very different experiences. I’ve found that’s a good lesson to remember if things have not gone so well in running. There is always an element of the unexpected, so when the pressure is on it’s important to stay calm.

Which athlete do you think would make the best equestrian rider and why?

JS: That’s a great question. I think Lisa Uhl (four-time NCAA distance champion and London 2012 Olympian) would be great. Last I heard she was going to veterinarian school, so she would be good around animals. She seems to be committed and a hard worker and being a good Iowa girl she would be a great equestrian rider (laughs).

When was the last time you sat on a horse and do you miss it?

JS: I’m embarrassed to admit that it has probably been a few years since I went riding. I don’t miss the competitive element because running has replaced that, but I do miss being around the animals. I miss trail-riding adventures and the affection you receive from a horse you’ve grown up with.

Steve Landells for the IAAF