Crosby Freeman Isn't Done Yet
In the January 25th edition of the Breakfast Club newsletter, I interviewed Crosby Freeman, a runner for the That's Fine Track Club. A program manager for Uber, Crosby previously worked at Strava and Google after running for Pomona College. Freeman is a standout on local running scene, having competed in the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials and holding a 1:04:08 half-marathon best.
Breakfast Club: “Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Crosby! Can you tell us a bit about your running background? Where did you grow up? How did you get into the sport?"
Crosby Freeman: "I grew up in Piedmont, a small town literally surrounded by Oakland, and when I was young I would ride my bike alongside my dad while he was out on his daily training runs. He’d often having to push me up the hills because I would tire quickly, and sometimes tears of frustration were shed. I didn't like to hurt or push myself like that.
"But years later, when I was an offensive lineman on the high school freshman football team, I often found myself at the front of all of the conditioning drills, and I realized that maybe my perceived weakness in endurance had more to do with an unfair comparison I made between myself with my dad. After all, he was a 2:27 marathoner running alongside me, a child, while I rode my bike. I gradually figured out I could hold my own."
BC: "You recently moved back to the Easy Bay after a long stint in the San Francisco proper. How have you found the running back on this side of the pond? How has the area changed from your high school days?"
CF: "Running in Oakland is great. No matter what kind of runner you are, you can find something that’s for you. Personally, it’s the people I’ve encountered since moving back that make it special. Throughout my competitive years, the small accolades I received certainly helped keep me interested in running, but I can honestly say it was the teams I was on and the guys around me who kept me going.
"And that continues to this day with the solid Oakland crew we have now: Breakfast Club. That’s Fine Fridays. Kingfish nights. All of those things mix together to form this amazing group of people who are out there for the fun of it, pushing themselves hard and encouraging each other to get better."
BC: "Given the intensity of the college running experience, many collegiate folks burn out after the NCAA. But you’ve gone on to have quite the post-collegiate career, with some strong performances and an OT qualifier. How has your relationship to running evolved over the years? Have your motivations changed since finishing college in 2006?"
CF: "There was a period of time where I felt that all my collegiate results ought to be accompanied by an asterisk: 'Sure, you were third in the country in D3, but you wouldn’t have even been in the picture in DI'... that was the common soundbite.
"While that is almost certainly true, and while I do harbor a bit of curiosity about how I would have done in DI, I consider my D3 background a good thing. In college, we were extremely competitive and we worked really hard, but we didn’t burn guys out and we enjoyed the process.
"I was still hungry for more when it came time to face the post-collegiate scene, and I found some validation from my D3 inferiority complex in the form of good results over DI guys in big races. They didn’t know it, but I was training and racing with a bit of a chip on my shoulder wanting to show that D3 guys could hang. I made it to the Olympic Trials, a few USA Championships, and quite a few USATF Cross Country Championships, all of which were an absolute blast even if none of them went particularly well for me personally.
"Nowadays, I’ve shifted focus to 'trying to enjoy it', supporting others as they pursue their goals, and hopping in the occasional footrace or relay to make sure I maintain some semblance of fitness. I recognize that my fastest days are behind me. I grappled with that thought for years and it took me a long time to accept it, but here I am. I think the moment that really drove it home was in 2015 when Matt Duffy out-kicked me at CIM in the final 150 meters to beat me by six seconds... no one wants to go down like that. :p"
BC: "You have run as fast as 64 minutes for a half marathon, but you were once a beginner in the sport. If you had to give one piece of advice to those starting out in competitive running, what would it be?"
CF: "If you’re already contemplating competitive running then I don’t need to tell you to run faster or harder or longer. But remember: Keep your easy days easy! Not as simple as it sounds.
"It took me about 14 years of competing before I finally figured that one out. I definitely ran too fast on what should be easy or recovery days, which made no sense but my stubbornness prevented me from learning the lesson."