After graduating in the middle of the pandemic, Joe Klecker (Biochem’20) embarked on a professional running career. He signed with On as a founding athlete of the On Athletics Club (OAC), coached by Dathan Ritzenhein (Hist’06). On June 18, Klecker qualified for the Olympics in the 10,000m run with a time of 27:54:90. Here, he reflects on his favorite Boulder trail, where he finds motivation.
How did you get started as a runner?
I was introduced to running at a very young age. My mom was a 1992 Olympian in the marathon for Team USA. My dad was the former world record holder for the 50-mile ultramarathon and was a great marathoner as well. Also, all of my older siblings ran on the cross-country team, so when I was able to join the cross-country team in 7th grade, it felt like a very natural move. I often ran with my older brother John while in elementary school and fell in love with seeing tangible improvement over time.
Why the 10,000m race?
I first tried the event last December and ran very close to the Olympic standard, so it seemed this event suited me pretty well. I ran 27:35; the standard is 27:28. I love the 5,000m and the 1,500m as well, but I felt my best shot to make the Olympic team and represent Team USA well lied in focusing just on the 10k.
What motivates you?
My biggest motivation is my family. Over the years, every member of my family has invested so much into my career that I feel extra pressure to perform because of it. For instance, during the Olympic trials, my whole family flew out to Eugene to see me race. My brother came all the way from Long Island; my sister braved taking her 1-year-old on the plane. That all makes me want to achieve my goals even more. They have all sacrificed to support me, so I felt I needed to make that Olympic team.
What is your favorite trail to run on near Boulder?
My favorite trail is the Open Sky Loop north of Boulder near Lagerman Reservoir. It is a perfect five-mile loop, with only two small road crossings and a great view of the mountains. It makes the miles very enjoyable.
What advice would you give to young athletes with Olympic dreams?
I think having the goal of “making the olympics” can be daunting. But if you set goals of small improvements every day, eventually you will be shocked with how far you have come.
What do you like to do when you’re not running?
I love spending time with my family and two dogs.
Watch Joe Klecker race in the 10,000m on July 30, 2021.
Interview condensed and edited by Grace Dearnley (Engl'21).
Top photo by Justin Britton; Right photo by Bit Klecker.