Jessica Beard, part 1/2...some insights into relay running...

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IMG_1292.jpgJessica Beard, 2018 USA Champs, photo by Mike Deering / The Shoe Addicts

This interview, by Stuart Weir speaks with Jessica Beard, one of the best 4x 400m relay runners in the U.S.A. This is part 1 of two parts...

Jessica Beard

Jessica Beard has won five gold and a silver medal in world championship relays! In this article she gives some insights into relay running.

Beard was a basketball player in high school. One day in ninth grade she was asked to guard a girl who was a state runner at 400, who was too fast for most people. When shewas able to keep up with the state runner, the coach suggested that she should try running track, adding that it could help her basketball. As they say the rest is history and as Beard puts it "that's how I got started as a late bloomer in track".

In 2011 she won the Bowerman, of which she says: "That was pretty big. I wasn't sure that I would win it because of some of the other ladies in contention - one had broken a collegiate record, what Kimberlyn had done have never been done before and I hadn't won the conference. So, I didn't know if I would win it because I hadn't gone undefeated all year. When I heard my name called, it was an honor to be acknowledged at that level as the best woman athlete that season was a really big deal for me. It was 'Whao, I won it'. Winning nationals was my main goal but I never thought 'I have to win the Bowerman' but just concentrated on accomplishing my own goals then this was the icing on the cake".

IMG_1318.jpgJessica Beard, 2018 USA Champs, photo by Mike Deering / The Shoe Addicts

As far as relays go, she won world championship gold in the USA 4 by 400 team in 2009, 2011 and 2013. In 2015 the US only took silver. In 2019 she was a double gold medallist, women's and mixed.

We talked through those relays with her:

1. Do you enjoy running relays?

I do. I think it's a great way to bond. It forces you to put aside any personal differences you might have. One day they are your competitors in the individual and the next day you're a team.

2. What do regard as your career highlight?

That's hard! I think it changes. The 2009 Berlin World Championships were big because that was my first senior U.S. team, running the open 400 and running the 4 by 400 with the extra significance of Berlin being where Jesse Owens had run and what he represented and what he did, especially with me being from Ohio. I was 20 years old, still in college, and that was a really big deal for me. 2011 in Deagu stands out as well because in 2009 I had only run the prelim but in 2011 I run the final with Sanya, Allyson and Francena. So to run in the final and get the gold medal, I was thinking I want to experience this every time I run.

3. What was your biggest disappointment?

In 2013, although we got the gold medal reallocated, we didn't get to stand on the top of the podium. But in reality we won, because we ran with integrity. That's not so much a personal disappointment but as a disappointing moment in sport that I was involved in.

[In 2016, Russia's anchor runner Antonina Krivoshapka's samples from the 2012 Olympics were retested and found to contain turinabol. In 2017 she was given a two-year ban including this race and Russia was disqualified. All teams advanced one place.The IAAF conducted the medal ceremony at the 2017 World Championships.]

But none of that matters for it's now all about unity and running together for one cause to be victorious.

4. Do you have a favorite leg ?

Not really. I think it changes. If you had asked me in college, I would've said the anchor leg. But as a pro I never get to run the anchor leg! So perhaps first or second because that's what I get to run most often. Perhaps because my style of running suits the first leg but it's hard to run first leg and then have to watch the rest because you can only do your part. Second is fun. But if you're looking for a challenge, first and anchor are the serious legs. There is a strange thing with the first leg - you have to run past the line. I know it isn't but it seems further and I'm asking myself "did I just run 405?"

5. In Doha which did you enjoy more - the women's or the mixed relay?

Doha was my first mixed relay and I loved it. I was thinking I should have done this sooner. It was fun. I don't know any other way to put it. Not that other relays aren't fun but they are always very serious. I don't mean the mixed wasn't serious but I didn't know what the expectation was. It was strange having a guy running towards me and I was wondering should I leave a little early because he's faster?

6. In Doha 2019, in the women's four by 400, none of the athletes from the prelim ran the final. Did that surprise you?

It didn't surprise us because it was a conversation that we'd had prior. To me it made sense that you had a world record holder and second place in the 400 hurdles and fourth and fifth place in the open 400, they had earned the right to run the final. I know some people didn't think that Dalilah would be there, that they would just use the 400 flat athletes. But why not use the world record holder? And she's run 50+ on the flat. I think it was the right thing to do.

In part two Jessica Beard talks about the challenge of the US selection trials and her 2020 season.

IMG_1281.jpgJessica Beard, 2018 USA Champs, photo by Mike Deering / The Shoe Addicts

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