One of the American track and field athletes to really blow up in 2017 (in a good way) was Seekonk, Massachusetts’ own Johnny Gregorek. The son of a two-time Olympian (his father, John Gregorek Sr.) and a two-time NCAA Champion (his mother, Christine Gregorek), there’s a bad joke to be made about running running in Johnny’s family. While an undergrad at Columbia University and then again during his fifth year at the University of Oregon, Johnny received All-American honors in the Indoor mile and competed in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 1500. After finishing with his collegiate eligibility, Johnny secured a contract with ASICS and put forward a number of notable national and international results that marked him as a member of the American elite, but nothing that placed him in the uppermost echelon of the sport. Until 2017, that is. This past summer, Johnny made waves by placing third in the 1500 at the US Outdoor Championships and qualifying for the World Championships. He proceeded to further impress by becoming the only American to make the final of the 1500 and placed 10th in his first ever World Championships. Given the remarkable year he’s had, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to get the insider perspective on Johnny’s success and how he plans to build off of it.
Special thanks to Athlete Biz* for putting us in contact with Johnny and facilitating the interview.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Honey Nut Cheerios, a banana, and coffee.
You had some excellent races this summer, not the least of which was making the final in the World Championships 1500m. Now that you have had time to reflect, how do you feel about the way your season went?
I’m really happy with the way the season went. It was a ton of fun and just seemed to be one thrilling experience after another. However, I’m hungry for more and think I can get more out of myself. The season, and its high point at the World Championships, really was eye opening. My main goal every year should be to compete at that level and exceed my performance from last summer. Now I have so much validation in my team and my coaches and everyone around me; I know I have the formula for success and just need to keep replicating it.
What is your favorite shoe for racing?
I race in the ASICS Gunlap. I don’t like a very aggressive spike, and that one is just simple and light. I love it. Gets me where I need to go.
You transitioned from specializing in the steeplechase to being a miler. What prompted that decision for you, and is there any chance we’ll see you back in the steeple at some point?
Well I ran the steeplechase at Columbia because I just wanted to try it out. It seemed fun, and I wasn’t exactly lighting up the track at that time. The coaches let me train for it, and I wasn’t bad. I think my PR ended up being 8:52, and I won the Ivy League Title. I just kept getting really banged up because of it. My left ankle is still jammed up from the water pits. So the steeple is a fond memory and probably will remain that way. Besides, I don’t want to have to compete with my old friend Donn Cabral. That would be terrifying.
How badly do you want to take down your father’s PR in the 1500?
I think I might have his official 1500 time beat actually. His mile PR converts to a faster time than my 1500 and is also faster than my mile. So the 3:51 mile he ran would be fun to take down. My dad ran that in a really stacked race, so I hope to get in a race like that. It was the 1982 Bislett Games in Oslo, I think. Maybe I could do it there.
What was the strangest experience that you’ve ever had during a race?
The strangest experience I’ve had during a race would have to be from a cross country race in high school. It was against our rival school, and when we were about a mile into the race the course went out of view from the spectators and into the forest. Here the other team just formed a human wall of sorts while running and wouldn’t let any of my team pass them. This started what was probably the closest I have come to a mid-race brawl. It was wild. We ended up losing the meet.
Do you have any big plans for the offseason?
I’m getting back into hard training now, but the past few weeks have been a ton of fun. I went to Ireland for my good friend Kyle Merber’s wedding and made a vacation out of that. Also, the area in New York where I live has tons of fun things to do because it is right near NYC, but also near a ton of good outdoor activities. Never a dull moment here in Westchester County.
When you’re training with your team, what is your favorite spot to run?
Well we almost always run at Rockefeller State Park. It’s just miles and miles of rolling carriage trails through a pristine nature preserve donated by the Rockefeller family. They still live over there, too. If only John D. Rockefeller knew the kind of mileage we are putting in at his beautiful park.
What is your go-to shoe for daily training?
Who is your favorite person to run with?
My favorite person to run with has to be my high school teammate Sam Spencer. He was there for the beginning of all of my running and was my training partner throughout high school. Always great to have a “day one homie,” as the kids are calling it.
Do you have a favorite workout? Are there specific shoes that you wear for workouts?
My favorite workout is anything that mimics mile race pace or goal mile race pace. I particularly enjoy breakdowns, so 1000 meters, 800, 600, etc. Usually for all of this I’ll wear my go-to flats, the DS Racer. Otherwise, I just wear my spikes. Depends on whether or not I need the boost.
What do you do when you aren’t training?
When I’m not training I’m doing things any other thirteen year old would be doing. Reading comic books, playing video games, trying to learn the guitar, things like that. I also coach a middle school cross country team.
In your opinion, what is the best movie of all time?
That’s a tough one. If you consider watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies (extended edition of course) back to back as one movie then that probably gets the nod. Otherwise, Dumb and Dumber.
Is there any advice you can share with someone who is just getting started as a middle distance runner?
Do a lot of strides, drink a lot of water, have fun!!
Interview edited for clarity.
Thank you for taking the time, Johnny. Congratulations on your stellar outdoor season! We wish you the best of luck with your winter training and racing!
*Athlete Biz is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting athletes who aspire to represent the United States on the world stage. There are several ways to offer your support to athletes, including shopping through an athlete’s store on the Athlete Biz website where portion of each purchase made is donated directly to the athlete in order to facilitate their training. To see Johnny’s profile and shop at his store, click here.
Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.