New Year Brings Change for Olympian Emily Infeld

The World Championships medalist leaves the training group she has been with for nine years.

15th iaaf world athletics championships beijing 2015 day three
Andy LyonsGetty Images

Emily Infeld had known for almost a year that she would be leaving the Bowerman Track Club (BTC) at the end of 2021.

She made her decision long before the tumultuous month of June—when her former teammate Shelby Houlihan announced she failed a drug test, and when Infeld finished a frustrating eighth in the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials. In fact, with the exception of one workout with three of her teammates last August, Infeld had been doing all her running on her own or with her husband, Max Randolph, since the Trials.

But her departure from BTC became official on January 2, 2022, with a five-paragraph post Advertisement - Continue Reading Below.

Infeld, 31, trained with the team for nine years, and under coach Jerry Schumacher, she won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in the 10,000 meters. She was a 2016 Olympian in that event, and she won the U.S. Cross-Country Championships in 2018.

The highs of those achievements have been tempered by serious injuries, and she had major surgery on her left hip in early 2019.

In a phone call with Runner’s World on January 3, Infeld detailed how her injury problems during the years she was with BTC contributed to her unhappiness with the group—and as early as 2016, she began to wonder if she was in the right place for her. But because she was running well, she thought she should stay where she was.

“It’s really hard,” she said. “I felt like I was struggling to come back from injuries, and I guess the training didn’t feel right for me. That’s something I’ve felt like for the last few years. But I’ve still had it in my mind, I’ve had success in this program when I was younger, so I think it was hard to step away from that.”

She also cited friendships she had on the team that made leaving difficult. As one of the early female members of BTC, she was close to Shalane Flanagan—who started out as her teammate and now is an assistant coach—as well as many of the other women in the group.

“Obviously I was sad,” Flanagan told Runner’s World about Infeld’s departure. “It’s not surprising to me. She and I are very close and we talk, a lot. We all love Emily, everyone loves Emily, she’s like the most popular runner. People love her.”

Training on Her Own

Throughout her time with BTC, as Infeld coped with her injuries and worked to regain her running fitness, she said she was largely on her own with her training and transitioning back to running, until she’d immediately find herself back in intense workouts.

“When you’re injured, you’re not really doing much with the group,” she said. “I have written my own training or had other people help me come back from injuries over the years. It was just the same pattern of getting thrown into the workouts, and some years, when I was younger, I was able to kind of adapt, I’d stay healthy for four months during track season and be able to get into decent enough fitness.”

Over time, Infeld came to realize her body couldn’t handle that routine, and she’d start breaking down again after only a few weeks of the notoriously tough Bowerman workouts. She knew she needed to make a change.

She had success last summer doing things her own way after the Trials. Infeld was told by her coaches to run only the 10,000 meters at the Trials, a decision that was disappointing to her, especially when she found out several of her teammates were doubling in the 5,000 and 10,000. She spent the next several weeks after the Trials training on her own and racing frequently in events of her choosing. She set personal bests in the 1500 meters (4:05.66) and 5,000 meters (14:54.09) and when Infeld finished a frustrating eighth in the 10,000 meters at the.

I think it’s hard to have one program and expect all of us fit into one mold.

“We’re all different athletes,” she said. “I think it’s hard to have one program and expect all of us fit into one mold. For me, honestly, the times I’ve been healthiest in the group are when I’m writing my own training for months. Then I get thrown into workouts and maintain health for one or two months, and then I have to take a couple of weeks off or take a month off. I have realized, this doesn’t suit me.”

Flanagan disputed the notion that BTC never had any individualization. BTC athlete Karissa Schweizer, for instance, is slowly returning from surgery after the Games, and Flanagan is managing her transition to back to the group.

“There is definitely very much a team approach,” she said. “We don’t deviate very much until the end of the season until people really need to hone in the specific skills and pieces of the puzzle to make them shine in their own individual way. But the basics, the foundation is very simple training and very team-oriented. We definitely have people come in and however much they can do, they do; if they can’t, they can’t.”

At various times, Flanagan said, they have split into groups. One group is running a faster pace, while another group is doing a slightly different workout. “But in an ideal world, we like everyone to try to train together,” she said. “That’s the point of a group in our mind, for sure. You get pulled along in a workout you didn’t think you could do. In terms of an athlete and injuries, I am the one who bridges the gap between the injury and handing off to Jerry and having them resume back into what everyone else is doing for training. To say that there is no adaptation to each individual is not real.”

BTC has seen an exodus of women in recent years. Before Infeld left, recent high-profile departures included Olympians Kate Grace, Marielle Hall, Colleen Quigley, and Gwen Jorgensen. Sinclaire Johnson was with the group only a short time before leaving for the other Nike-sponsored training group in Portland, Union Athletics Club. Amy Cragg retired after struggling with fatigue, and Houlihan is serving a doping ban, but she is still listed on the team’s website. Recent new members on the women’s side include Canadians Lucia Stafford and Andrea Seccafien.

Turnover among groups, coaches, and teams is natural after an Olympic year. For instance, Northern Arizona Elite recently lost four of its men—one retired, two decided to try different training situations, and the fourth was not invited to move forward with the group, according to a letter on the team’s website by head coach Ben Rosario, who wrote: “That sounds totally normal to me.”

Successful Base Building

In the months since she has been on her own, Infeld has been healthy. She’s consistently running weekly mileage in the upper 80s with weekly long runs reaching 17 or 18 miles, and she had three weeks when her mileage was between 90 and 95 per week. That consistent base training had eluded her recently.

“The last couple of years, in order to try to do the intensity, my long runs weren’t very long, my mileage wasn’t high,” she said. “I realize now I wasn’t able to stay healthy in that program. I had some good races, but it didn’t seem sustainable. I feel like I was really lacking that base.”

Although Infeld has been writing her own training for several months, she started working with a new coach recently, whom she declined to name. She also declined to talk about her current sponsorship status. Announcements on those issues would be coming soon, she said.

She’ll test her fitness at the USATF Cross Country Championships on January 8 in San Diego. Infeld is not cutting back on her miles for the race, but she does want to get a sense of where she is.

Daily Calories Calculator half marathon in the spring or fall, and she hopes to do a marathon within two years.

But first she has unfinished business on the track. “I still want to focus on the track,” she said. “I love the 10K and the 5K, I think I still have a lot of room to improve in those events.”

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