US middle-distance runner Jenny Simpson (Getty Images) © Copyright
Series Boulder, USA

Personal bests – Jenny Simpson

Reigning 1500m Diamond Race winner Jenny Simpson recently clocked a season’s best of 3:57.30 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

The 2011 world champion from the USA delves into her memory bank to talk about some areas of her life which mean a lot to her.

My best friend in athletics

Without doubt it is Emma Coburn (US steeplechase champion). There is nothing like being able on a real mission on your career and having a friend in that fight and I definitely feel that way with Emma.

My best achievement in athletics

By far it was winning the Diamond Race last year. I have had many high and low moments in my career, but what I am really impressed with is putting together an impressive body of work and I feel winning the Diamond Race is representative of that.

Winning the Diamond Race means I wasn’t great on one day or I was the beneficiary of chance – it means that over the course of an entire season I was the most consistent competitor at the highest level. I’m really proud of having that body of work.

My greatest rival

I would have to say that is Anna Willard from my steeplechasing days. I think to have a great rival, one of the prerequisites is for both athletes to trade wins and that is certainly true of Anna and me. We traded the American record, she won the Olympic Trials and I won the US Championships; we had these back-and-forths.

We also have very different personalities which really added fuel to a rivalry and was fun for fans. In the midst of all that, we were friendly towards each other, so we had all the elements of a great rivalry.  

My greatest disappointment

Missing out on the 1500m final at the 2012 Olympics. Coming off a World Championships win (in 2011) put a lot of pressure on me and a lot was riding on that Olympic experience. It was really disappointing to me, although I didn’t feel that anyone stole anything from me because that season I was consistently running 4:05 or 4:06 and in that semi-final (Jenny was 12th and last) my fastest time of the year would not have advanced me to the final, so that shows me I just wasn’t ready to make the final.

My greatest indulgence

This has become a learned behaviour, but I would say since becoming a professional athlete I have allowed myself to feel less guilty about napping. I’m so tempted to fill every hour of my day with meaningful things, but I’ve learned that to be the best athlete I can, I have to simplify my life by resting more, so my greatest indulgence is taking a nap.

The best track venue

Any time I race at an Olympic stadium is my favourite experience. Of course, I have competed at the Beijing and London Games, but outside of that I’ve also competed at the Stockholm, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo and Moscow Olympic stadiums.

You can’t beat the intersection of your own career with the history of the sport. It is so special being able to walk into an Olympic stadium with my spikes on thinking I’m sharing this track with many others who have experienced so many Olympic moments.

My best ever race

It has to be the 2011 World Championships final when I won gold. It was my first time competing in the 1500m at a major championship and just navigating through the rounds was hard enough. In the final I was in seventh or eighth at the bell, but believed in my own kick to charge for the lead and managed to execute the race perfectly. Whether that was more through luck than any technical prowess I don’t know, but I looked like a seasoned 1500m runner, even though I probably had no idea what I was doing.

My best achievement outside of track and field

My younger sister (Emily) and I were typical angry siblings growing up. We got along and then we fought and we didn’t keep in close touch when I left for college. I have always loved her and we would see each other in holidays but despite our different paths (Emily is in the US Army) we have become best friends and I think my friendship with her and learning how to connect with her is one of my greatest achievements.

The best athlete I have ever seen

For sure it is Jackie Joyner-Kersee (world record-holder in heptathlon). I first got to meet her at high school and getting the chance to meet the best in the world at something leaves a strong impression. She was this woman in track and field that could do everything and there is nobody who can quite compare to her. On top of that she is the most incredibly gracious and sweet person in our sport and that makes her very special. 

Steve Landells for the IAAF