Oct. 11, 2011
Redshirt junior Benjamin Johnson will be one of the keys for Stanford men's cross country this season as it looks to return to the podium and potentially win an NCAA title. Last season, Johnson was injured midway through the cross country season and did not compete at NCAA's. He returned for the track season and earned All-America honors, placing seventh at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Albuquerque, N.M., native took some time to answer a few questions from gostanford.com.
GoStanford.com: What brought you to Stanford from New Mexico? What is different about Stanford from Albuquerque?
Johnson: Looking back to senior year of high school, I remember I had a lot of things going through my mind. I think the main reason why I came to Stanford was the belief that if I came here we were going to be really good. I remember talking to Chris Derrick after a race my senior year about the possibility of both of us going to Stanford. Much to our surprise as we were talking, David Vidal, our former assistant coach strolls on by. I am not sure if he heard what we were saying, but I think he suspected something. I felt that Stanford was going to give me and my classmates an opportunity to come together and do what we do best.
At Stanford, there sure is a lot more rain that there was back home. When I first came here, I remember seeing the grove over by the track and thinking that it looked like a rainforest. I defiantly enjoy it here, mostly because of the people, but Albuquerque will always have a special place in my heart. The teams always joke that I like dirt a lot because I talk about the trails that I miss.
GoStanford.com: Talk about how your training has evolved over your time at Stanford. How much has your mileage increased and what is the most difficult part of training at this level?
During my time here, I have gradually increased my mileage from roughly 70 miles a week to 95 miles a week. I think that most difficult think part of training is putting in the work when your result in races are not what you want them to be. I have learned that success is not linear, and that sometimes it takes a little bit of faith to hold you over until things come together.
GoStanford.com: What is your favorite workout? The one you see on the schedule and know you can nail?
Johnson: I really like fartlek's or varied running, where you get to change up the pace a lot. These workout to me have always felt like play, and it is only when you take a moment to listen to your breath that you realize you are tired.
GoStanford.com: Where is your favorite place to run, both here at Stanford and back home?
Johnson: Here at Stanford, I really like this Country Park we go to called Huddart. It has miles and miles of great soft surface trails and excellent tree cover. Back home I like this open space preserve a couple of minutes from my house. The dirt trails run along the base of the mountain, and seem to go forever.
GoStanford.com: Do you have any day of race superstitions? Do you always eat the same thing or anything like that?
Johnson: In track last year I really did like this white Pac-10 t-shirt we got. I would always wear it; not because I thought it made me run fast, but because when I wore it I felt cool. For some reason I like to roll the sleeves up on it too.
GoStanford.com: What is it going to take for Stanford to win the national title this year?
Johnson: If we are going to win, every one of our scorers will have to be an All-American (top 40). In some ways you have to let winning happen and not try to get in its way. If we enjoy the process, and the outcome follow.
GoStanford.com: Personally, you have had a lot of success, but you go under the radar because of some of your teammates. Does that ever bother you or do you prefer it that way?
Johnson: I am extremely blessed to be on a team with the caliber of teammates like ours. In some ways I like going under the radar. Helping my team out when it counts is what matters.
GoStanford.com: What do you study and what career plans do you have after Stanford whether that be running professionally or in a career?
Johnson: I am a senior in Chemical engineering. As of right now, I do have one more season of cross-country eligibility, so there is a good chance I will be returning next fall. After that I would pursue running if the opportunity presented itself, but if not I think I will go to graduate school.