Evan Jager is an American middle-distance runner who specialises in the 3,000m steeplechase. He hails from Algonquin, Illinois, which is a town with a population of 30,000 and is located approximately 70 kilometres northwest of Chicago.
The 25-year-old Jager is the American record holder in the steeple, with his best time of 8:06.01. In 2009 Jager raced in the USATF Championships, finishing in third position, the two athletes that beat him are teammates, Chris Solinksy, who is a former American record holder in the 10,000m distance and Matt Tegenkamp, who owns the American two mile record; he was in good company.
All three athletes train under Jerry Schumacher at Nike, along with approximately 15 others including Simon Bairu, Chris Derrick, German Fernandez, Ryan Hill, Andrew Bumbalough and Elliott Heath. The Nike team recently underwent a rebrand and is now named the Bowerman Track Club, formerly the Nike Oregon Project.
Jager’s Personal bests:
1500 m – 3:36.34
Mile – 3:53.33
3,000m – 7:35.16
3,000m steeplechase - 8:06.01
5,000m – 13:02.40
Christopher Kelsall: At what age did you discover running?
Evan Jager: I first started running when I was in 7th grade. That was the first time that I was part of any sort of team or race or anything.
CK: Now apparently you were quite the soccer player. Did you get a chance to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup?
EJ: I did. My house, which includes Chris Derrick, Elliott Heath, German Fernandez and Ryan Hill and I all watched at least one game each day while the World Cup was going on.
CK: Once the US was out, did you have a back-up team to cheer for?
EJ: My back-up team has been The Netherlands for as long as I have been watching the World Cup. My dad is 100% Dutch and proud of his heritage so “being Dutch” has been something that I related to even as a kid. And it also helps that the Dutch soccer team has been consistently good for the past few World Cups.
CK: Indeed they have been, did you get the opportunity to watch the Glasgow Commonwealth Games?
EJ: I did not get to watch much of the Commonwealth Games aside from a couple races (men’s 800 and 5,000m).
CK: Are you intrinsically motivated? For example were you able to get out the door during the Illinois and Wisconsin winters with regularity?
EJ: I am very intrinsically motivated; I think you have to be in order to make it this far in any sport. Throughout my running career I have always been looking to the future and setting big goals for myself. With that being said, I don’t think I could have become as successful as I have so far without the help of having teammates to go out for a run on a daily basis
CK: The Badgers were a fantastic team. Has Jerry (Schumacher) or yourself experienced a continuation of the team-like environment post-collegiately to when you were a Badger?
EJ: I definitely think that we have continued that since moving out to Portland. The older Wisconsin guys (Matt Tegenkamp, Simon Bairu, Chris Solinsky and Tim Nelson) were the core of the group when we moved out and they definitely had the biggest influence on creating a team atmosphere.
CK: How does that manifest down to the younger guys?
EJ: I think that the trend has definitely continued as more guys have joined the group. The younger guys saw how the group worked when they first joined and keyed off of that in certain ways but they have also brought in a lot of new personality and changed the dynamic of the team since joining.
CK: How much weekly volume of training to you get up to in the off-seasons?
EJ: During the off-season I will keep my mileage around 85-95 miles a week (137k to 153K).
CK: Can you describe a typical off-season and typical in-season week of training?
EJ: At the end of the track season I typically go back home to Illinois for about 2-3 weeks, which is perfect because that usually lines right up with my 2-3 weeks “off.” After those 2-3 weeks off, I start running every day, building mileage for 4-5 weeks until I am at my peak mileage. A typical off-season week usually consists of longer “slower” workouts twice a week, a long run on Sundays, 3-4 day per week with 2 runs and 3 days per week of core/strength work.
CK: Do you incorporate Badger miles into your training?
EJ: Yes, everything except for workouts are counted as Badger miles.
CK: This year being an off-year in terms of Worlds and Olympics, what is 2014 all about for you? Are you building mileage and aerobic fitness or looking for bests?
EJ: For me 2014 has been all about making myself a better competitor in the big time races. This year my two main focuses have been trying to run some personal best times (pbs/prs) and being in contention for the win in all of my races, mainly in the steeplechases. I want to figure out a way to beat the Kenyans and hopefully put myself in position to get a medal at a global championship.
CK: Speaking of bests or perhaps benchmarks, you seem ready to crack the 8-minute and 13-minute barriers for the steeple and 5,000m. What will that take? Is that more of a dependency on the race situation or your sharpness and or fitness?
EJ: It will definitely take a combination of the two. For example, I think that I was in good enough shape to dip under my American record in the steeple earlier this year at Oslo, but I had to run most of the race by myself, which I believe made it a lot harder to run a fast time and I ended up just missing the time by a tenth of a second or two. Track and Field is very much a situational sport. Athletes aren’t able to go out on their own at set World Records without competition so in order for myself to go out and challenge one of those barriers things are going to have to play in my favor a little bit. In addition to that, just because I have been in close to 13:00 or 8:00 shape before doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work hard to get back to that fitness. I am going to need to stay healthy, work hard and make sure my fitness/sharpness line up correctly with the perfect opportunity for me to be able to break one of those barriers.
CK: How about in the middle of races? Do you have a need to practice dealing with sudden anaerobic-like surges like in some of the other distances? What do you need to do to train for lactic-inducing surges?
EJ: Yes, I think that we train for all types of races. Throughout the year we do steadily paced workouts, change of pace workouts (fartleks), and speed in order to try and cover any style of race that could be thrown at us.
CK: At the London Olympics and Moscow Worlds you have come close to medalling, what do you feel is needed for you to get to that next step in your career?
EJ: I think that consistency has to be the biggest thing that I need to be focused on, for example; staying healthy and getting stronger by having another uninterrupted year of training under my belt. On top of that though, I need to get better at running fast over the last lap while I’m tired and still be able to hurdle efficiently.
CK: You seem to be strong from 1500m to 5,000m. Of course your distance at this time is the 3,000msc., will you pursue the other distances to gauge where your strengths continue to lie?
EJ: Yes, I plan to continue running the flat events, 1500 and 5,000m as you said, in order to continue to make myself a better all-around runner. I have run 5000’s and 1500’s the last couple years on top of the steeple and I plan to keep doing that, but I will probably stay away from the 10k for at least a few more years.