To make a long story short, I was a trouble maker and really just heading down the wrong road. A good friend to this day who happened to be the track coach at my middle school talked me into running track and it was history from there. My focus, my ideals, my life was changed in a matter of weeks. I had goals of getting to college and winning big races but that journey never occurred. In college I had some ups and downs, but I knew I had potential given I focused on my craft and avoid partying too much. When my goal of running professionally came to mind I never could have imagined that I’d be here today writing this as a multi time National and World Champion and 20 Time Team USA member. Its been a blessing, not a dream because I never even dreamt that I’d be where I am.
You once said that running enabled you to move in a very positive direction and saved you from a potentially negative lifestyle. What was it that made you take the running path, and what would you say to any young folks that also face a critical point in their journey?
I think there were a multitude of life experiences that lead me to follow my running. I knew I wanted to go to College and be the first person in my family to get a Masters Degree for one. I wanted to make my parents and family proud of me and not to be burden in their life by making mistakes that would cost them time and money as it would also cost me. Life is short and your days aren’t promised. I knew that from a young age and I wanted to make my time worth while. Anyone at a cross road in life should take a minute and realize that life is not promised and that it is a gift. We typically utilize gifts, thus life should also be put to good use.
You are the first African American to become US Mountain Running Champion. How important do you think it is for you to be a role model for young African American men, and what would you like to see happen to empower more African American men and women to take on the challenges of trail and mountain running?
I think its very important that I maintain a positive role in the sport despite the lack of African Americans currently in the mountain running scene. For me, I know I always read history books and referenced class act athletes from the past to model myself after. So, I realize right now, the decisions I make, the races I run and the accomplishments I achieve may have significant impact on an African American yet to come into the running scene. Jesse Owens was long gone before I began my career, but everything I read about him lead me to make specific choices in my life as an athlete. In terms of empowering African Americans to take on the challenge of mountain running, I believe we first need to have more focus on inner cities with schools that are primarily African American. These pockets of the economy need to have more opportunities to expose elementary school children to the outdoors and the adventures that come in the mountains. Many kids in inner cities do not even know mountain running is a sport so we first must expose children in these areas to the outdoors. I think that would drastically change the lives of many kids and also the demographics of cross country teams across the Nation, which would fuel the growth of off road racing years later.
You are one of three top US elite athletes to endorse our activacuity app that is centered on positive guided visualization sessions. How important has it been to you as an athlete to focus positively, and do you have any tips on how you do this that you can share with our followers?
The mind is the most powerful thing when it comes to running, especially competitive racing. Lets be frank, running hurts. In order to get past the pain and conquer goals you must rise to the occasion and it starts in the mind. Before major races I always envision how I will feel along the course and oddly enough, I visualize the faces of those around me in the race and even spectators along the way!
2016 was an amazing year for you. What was your highlight of the competitive year for you, and what was the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome it?
The highlight for 2016 was winning 2 World Championships. Vying for the victory was the biggest challenge in that I knew I was not the favorite coming in and that I would need to have a near perfect day to win. Being that I’m very pessimistic, I knew perfect was not going to happen to I had to rely on grit. My faith and dedication were the main perspectives of my character I had to mentally focus on to get myself past the idea of not being the best that toed the line. I knew I could be the best and it all started with mentality.
Can you tell us one thing that makes you uniquely Joseph that no-one would know looking at you?
Well, one thing I’ve found is that my love for food is quite unique in that I find myself eating things that are not typically normal in other runners’ diets. That has lead me to being very serious about making and creating my own recipes. I love to spend time creating new ideas and bizarre takes on food. I then test them on my wife first and then sometimes my friends to see how they like the idea!
You were one of the guest elite athletes at the 2015 US Trail Running Conference, and many trail runners got the chance to share a run, and time to chat with you. What did you like best about the event, and why should trail runners come and take part?
I really enjoyed chatting with runners from all walks of life. Meeting athletes from different running backgrounds and being able to learn something new from their perspective was something I felt was very unique and special about the event. Anyone interested in running would benefit from the mere fellowship of the event, but also the many informative panels and open discussions.
You are a 17 time US team member (is that right?). Can you pick the most satisfying race that you have ever had with a Team USA shirt on, and share why it was this one?
I’m actually a 20 Time Team USA member! I always like to think the last time you put on a Team USA jersey is the most special. Most recently was winning the Individual Gold medal at the World Mountain Running Championships then finding out shortly after that my Teammates and I had also sealed Americas for ever Team Gold for the Men at the World Championships! A wonderful experience that I will never forget
What are your goals for 2017, both professionally and personally?
Professionally I want to improve my personal bests at a few distances and specific races. I would also like to continue my winning streak at a few major events during the year. On a more personal level, I’m working on raising money for the Candlelighters of Southern Colorado by racing and placing 50% of my funds toward the organization which aids families and children touched by childhood cancer. If you’d like to help please visit my Flipgive page which allows folks to shop for what they already shop for and love online through a platform that uses a small percentage of sales to place towards my efforts to raise money for this charity: https://athletebiz.flipgive.
Use the code activacssupport2017 when you subscribe for an annual membership through our website, and $10 of your subscription goes to the American Cancer Society. We will also provide a free subscription for activacuity® to a cancer survivor for each paid annual subscription received. The Society will establish a list of cancer survivors that will benefit from the partnership, using the Patient Navigator Program.
Our goal is to raise $5000 for the Society over the partnership period.