On the eve of the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, which will end Jenny Simpson’s 2014 season, Alex Mills wrote a piece on how fantastic her 2014 track and field season.
When you’ve had as good a season as Jenny Simpson has then it’s okay to be happy with 4th place. Especially when, in turn you have just ran the 2nd fastest time by an American for that event.
So when she told me: “At this point (of the season) when I’ve done all that I have this season, who cares about fourth? is second all-time in the US, I couldn’t be more happy!” after running the 3,000m last week in Brussels, I was not surprised but merely intrigued. Intrigued to find out what had made her become such a racer and where I could get some of what ever she’s got. (mainly energy)
Because in 2014, we have seen a new side to Jenny Simpson, one who is willing even more than ever to give ‘guts nd all’ to each race and throw all caution to the wind and see how far it can take her.
The obvious explanation for this new approach is of course the fact that this year has been an ‘off-season’ for the American. It has been one without a major championship for her mind to contend with. Instead it has offered lots of Grand Prix’s packed with the best athletes and the best chances to run fast times.
So when Simpson knew coming into this year she was already one of best around, it was an opportunity to go for broke: “This year was all about saying now I’m established as a top 1500m runner now I just want to see how fast I can run.” She told me.
Simpson also admitted what drove her even further was her nagging desire to vanish the belief that she is a 1 hit wonder after her world championship victory in Daegu in 2011,
Most athletics followers know this is only a belief held by the former steeplechaser and not the general consensus, especially after she ran so well to claim silver to claim silver 2 years later at the following World Championships in Moscow.
Nonetheless, it was an attitude she has taken to the track. To prove ‘them all wrong’ whoever they may be. Either way it has allowed her to experiment and in turn learn more about racing and herself: “Itried some different things and I think that when you’re allowed to be creative and experiment in your own racing you can discover knew things about yourself and that was a good thing for me.”
It turned out Simpson’s experiments turned out to be a masterstroke especially in the second half of the season as she took both the Diamond League title and a new 1500m personal best back to America after a highly successful 2014.
Her Diamond League triumph tasting even more bittersweet as it ensures that she will definitely get the chance to regain the her world title next year in Beijing.
As for the personal best, it places her 2nd just 22 seconds behind Mary Slaney in the US all-time lists for the event. Meaning that after her run in Zurich she is now ranked as the second best American in four separate outdoor events. The 1500m, 3000m 3k steeplechase and the 5,000m. Giving her one of the best and most multi-talented track record on the planet, yet no-one wants to be known as number 2: “My whole career is going to be about trying to better my times and getting higher on the all-time lists so all of those things are in my sights.”
Number two is the position, compatriot and rival Shannon Rowbury has held at least domestically for the majority of the seasons with her obvious improvement going almost unnoticed. While Simpson agrees it’s nice to have another American involved in the equation, there is no doubt where she once to place herself: “I’m not surprised she was there, but I’m proud to be the number one American.” She said post-race in Zurich.
The pair’s improvement is part of a resurgence in US middle distance running on the world scene in the last 5 years,something Simpson puts down to the example’s set down by the likes of Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher in the late 2000’s, when they took world championship medals, albeit in different events: “just little by little we’ve had good examples of other good women in front of us. I had people like Shalane and Kara medalling in the 10k making me think ‘American women of course they can medal’ because I never knew a time when they weren’t… so by the time I got into the higher level races in College I thought ‘Why can’t I medal?’ and I just happened to be in a different distance. Shannon in 2009 and medalled and I just think, little by little, American women have been realising they can run just as good as the rest of the women in the world. “
Now with her season almost behind her Simpson can concentrate on having a well-earned break before the preparations for another assault on the world stage begins. Despite now not having to qualify for event, Simpson has full confidence that coaches Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs get her as prepared as is humanly possible by the time August 22nd 2015 and the world championships come around: “I really believe in our training and I have every bit of faith that they’ll get me to that line more prepared than anyone.”
I for one hope that preparation includes another assault on that Amer
ican record and this time a successful one.