Breakthrough seasons don't happen every year for a professional track and field athlete. They are rare. It's that season where so much goes right, an athlete comes up big time and time again, finding not only a new level of fitness, but a new level of confidence. When a breakthrough season happens, you must embrace it.
Such a season just wrapped up for Oregon Track Club Elite's Jordan McNamara. McNamara, who's been on of the best middle distance runners in the U.S. the past few seasons, turned his racing up a notch, claiming numerous big wins throughout the 2014 season. Here are just a few notable performances:
3:51.0h (mile) - NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile - Champion
3:55.0 (mile) - Front Street Mile - Champion
3:52.89 (mile) - Pre Classic - Runner-Up (only lost to Olympic medalist Leo Manzano)
1:47.16 (800m) - Portland Track Festival - Runner-Up (personal best)
3:54.27 (mile) - Festival of Miles - Champion
4:03.0h (mile) - Liberty Mile - Champion
3:39.03 (1,500m) - TrackTown High Performance - Champion
We had a chance to catch up with McNamara earlier this week, discussing his big season, the reason for his jump forward, flying drones and much more.
Portland Track (PT): What a year you've had! A handful of wins, a new level of success, you have to feel pretty darn good about your 2014 season right?
Jordan McNamara (JM): I'm definitely a man with few complaints. I was fortunate to really come into my own this season, constantly stringing together wonderful performances. I'll always look back at 2014 as a true breakthrough; now I need to draw a line in the sand and focus on continuing this momentum through to Rio 2016.
PT: Not too long ago, you won the prestigious NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile over a stacked field. What did that race teach you about yourself and where you stack up in U.S. 1,500m running?
JM: Going into 5th Ave, I knew the potential was there. My workouts were going very well, and my racing reflected that. I didn't expect to win, but wasn't surprised either. I had learned a great tactical lesson, twelve prior, at the Pre Classic. In that race, I gave myself way too much to do in the last 100. I worked my way out of a box, kicked very well, but ended up second to the great champion Leo Manzano. After that race, I knew I had the tools to win, but in order to do so, I needed to really give myself a fighting chance. After that, I really tried to be "in the hunt" with 100m to go, to at least give myself a shot to roll the dice in the kick.
Today was a great day. #5thAveMile champion: 3:50.91. Hard work counts. Believe.
PT: You concluded your season with a big win in Hawai'i. What was it like racing in such a sweet location?
JM: Racing in Hawaii was incredible, though it certainly presented it's own unique challenges. Arriving days before, my wife and I really had to resist the urge to spent every waking hour on the beach. I took a low key approach going in, looking to really enjoy my time whilst putting on a good show.
The race itself was incredible. Held on a narrow out and back road, the supportive crowd got to get up close and personal, interacting with the elites and really getting us stoked to run. The humidity was incredible. Even after racing for four minutes, my jersey was soaked to the bone. A marathon was held the next day on Maui. I was quite thankful to have only had to race one mile in that heat!
PT: You saw what many would consider a big jump this season, both in overall performance and consistency. What's your secret?
JM: My secret is hard work. I love what I do, I pour my heart into my craft, applying every lesson I've learned into my daily pursuit. At the end of the day, confidence for me comes from knowing that I've sacrificed to get to where I am. As a 4:17 high school miler, I'm a prime example of what determination and consistency can produce. High schoolers, I hope you're taking note!
After two years of runner-up finishes, I finally got the win at the Liberty Mile!!! This one was definitely the most emotional win of my career. Massive thanks to the @pghmarathon, Liberty Mile staff, folks at @runnerspace and @bringbackthemile, and great people of Pittsburgh. It's been a magical night.
PT: Training down in Eugene as part of OTC Elite, what's the group and Coach Rowland been like for you as a professional?
JM: I owe so much of my success to Mark Rowland and the OTC. Coming out of college, "Row" took a gamble on me. I lacked the resume of some of my peers and was fortunate to join a truly world class program. Row quickly introduced me to a level of structure that put me totally at ease. It's so comforting that know that your coach is working just as hard, if not harder than you are.
The group itself has an electricity to it. We all have our ambitions and show up ready to work. Running 13 miles a day tough, but it becomes easier when endured amongst the company of close friends. Ultimately, each runner is responsible for his or her selfs, but training with such a high-level group adds a level of beneficial accountability.
PT: You grew up in Washington and shined at the University of Oregon. What do you think makes the Pacific Northwest such a special place for distance running?
JM: The Pacific Northwest has so much to offer the running community: mild weather, extensively running trails, the Dempsey in Seattle, Hayward Field in Eugene, numerous elite and sub-elite groups. It's a cultural thing. Running in the upper left corner of the country is cool. I've travelled across the country for races and quickly find myself missing the accessible trails of Eugene or the frenzied energy of Hayward Field.
PT: Last question...the season is officially over, which means you have a little down time now. Any fun activities planned before you have to start ramping up training again?
JM: My wife and I kind of counted Hawaii as our big vacation. We've spent my break enjoying life outside of sport. Aside from that, I'll fly my drone around (check out my Instagram page @JordanMcNamara to see my work), drive my car (under the speed limit, of course), and stain the deck of my house. I've been putting that one off for too long! After having to always be so disciplined because of the "next morning workout", it's been nice to kick back and thankfully reflect on a job well done.