He seemed to have popped out of nowhere. Who was this 5-foot-10-inch mystery man with the bulging calf muscles, finishing 5K races in under 15 minutes, dashing through Coolidge Park in split shorts and completing "easy runs" faster than a torpedo? Since moving to Chattanooga in June, Fleet Feet employee and avid runner, Christian Thompson, has been the first to cross nearly every finish line of every race held in town. A blur of sweat and vibrant short-shorts, this Nooga newbie has taken the running starlight with gusto, re-igniting passion in runners throughout the region and making our Fleet Feet team extraordinarily proud.
Q: Tell us a bit about your history with running. When did you begin, and what's been your journey? Have you always loved the sport, or was it more of a coming-of-age passion?
A: My earliest running memory is when I was a little kid. My family would go hiking a lot, and I'd have my dad time me running. I'd pick a random tree to run to and have him time me on how long it took me to run there and back to him. The first race I ever did was when I was probably around eight or nine years old. My brother, dad, mom and I were actually the last four to finish!
I played T-Ball as a kid, and when one of my games got cancelled, I tagged along with my uncle to a 5K race in Pennsylvania just for fun. I ended up getting third in the 12 and under age group and won a plaque, which I thought was so cool! It felt good to get a trophy, and I wanted to win more of those. I started doing more 5K road races and ended up joining Junior Olympics around the same time I started cross country—probably in seventh grade. I ended up joining Ithaca United Track Club in New York (where I'm from), and I ran cross country and track Varsity through 12th grade. I was the best on the team. I only lost one race when I had strep throat. I remember trying not to cough around my parents, so I could still run in the meet.
Running in college was just the next step. Only a certain amount of runners can go on to compete in college, so it was a natural progression for me. I ended up running at University of Colorado, where I was 11th on the team my freshman year. It was a big change. I went from being 11th in the region at Foot Lockers to 11th on a team, which was discouraging, but definitely humbling. I got homesick a bunch my first semester, but it taught me a lot. I didn't make Varsity for cross country, so I didn't get to compete that first year. With track, I made it, so I got to travel with the team and all that. Sophomore year I made Varsity for cross country as well, and I continued to represent Varsity all five years of college. For track, I started out doing the 3,000 meter Steeplechase for the first three years, and for my fourth year I red-shirted (which means you can run with the team, but independently, like paying your way to meets) and I decided to do the 10K. I ended up third at conference my senior year, which is an honor, since the two people in front of me have had some big accomplishments. One of them ran 2.10 in the marathon, and the other is definitely a sub-two guy.
Q: How has Chattanooga impacted your athletic lifestyle? What have been some challenges and some perks of living here, as a runner?
A: Challenges are not getting run off the road by cars [laughs]. I've had to jump in a ditch before to avoid getting hit! Perks? There are so many different places to run. I don't think it's any more competitive here, but there are a lot more options. There are road races, ultra races, sprints, Ironmans...There's a lot more diversity in terms of the races. You've got a bit of everything here. There was even a 10-mile swim!
Q: What are some of your favorite places to run in town?
A: I run a lot at Camp Jordan Park and Heritage Park.
Q: What does a normal day look like for you? What are some of your go-to snacks, how do you fuel, how far do you run each week, and what are some of your most intense workout regimens?
A: I run seven days a week. Mondays are usually about 13 miles, with eight 100-meter strides afterwards. Tuesday is usually a strength workout, so I'll either do 10 x 1,000-meter repeats or 6 x one-mile tempo repeats or a six to eight mile progression run. Wednesday is same as Monday, but I'll do Running For Brews in the evening as well. Thursday is more focused on speed, so I'll do either 20 x 400, 16 x 500, or 12 x 600 hard. Friday is a long run; I normally do about 21 miles. Saturdays and Sundays I do whatever I need to hit 90 miles for the week. I usually will do six miles Saturday and four on Sunday.
On long runs I drink a bottle of Tailwind and a eat a Vanilla Orange GU beforehand. When I'm running, I take added Gus every six miles.
Q: I know you're competing in Boston next spring. What are your goals for that race specifically, and what are some other long-term goals you have for the upcoming season?
A: My goal for Boston is to break 2.20. My fastest marathon time is 2.22, so I plan to do longer workouts and more workouts on tired legs to reach my goal. I don't want to be so caught up on having workouts hit particular times; I just need to get out and do it. I also am going to do the USATF Club Cross Country Championships 10K on December 10 in Tallahassee, Florida and would like to finish in the top 10 or 15 and run around 30.30.
Q: If you could give advice or tell one thing to runners worldwide, what would it be? Similarly, what is the greatest lesson you've learned through this sport?
A: My best advice would be to just listen to your body. Don't get so stressed out if you don't hit certain times on a workout! I've learned a lot through running...mainly just to keep things simple; to not overthink things. Sometimes people want to take on all these fancy ways of running, but the simple, straightforward focus is good.
From big city marathons, I've learned how people can really come together through this sport. Look at Boston, Chicago, New York City. You'll have every religion, every ethnicity, every political party...and everyone is after the same thing; the same goal.