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Olympic runner Jenny Simpson talks with Long Island kids

Track star describes her inspirations, her goals and how it feels to win a medal in Rio.

Kidsday reporters Brendan Riordan and Annemarie Jones in

Kidsday reporters Brendan Riordan and Annemarie Jones in Central Park with Olympic runner Jenny Simpson on Nov. 3, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We interviewed Olympic runner Jenny Simpson when she was visiting Manhattan recently. Jenny is a middle-distance runner and also competes in the steeplechase. She represented the United States at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics.

Who was your support system when you were preparing for the Olympics?

When I was in the Olympics, it was primarily my husband and my coaches because they would travel all around the world with me. A lot of the times one of my coaches, Heather, and my husband would do a lot of the runs with me.

When you were running in the Olympics and having to do it in front of millions of people, would that frighten you or make you run better?

Sometimes when I am warming up, it makes me really nervous because I am thinking about all the people who are watching and cheering for me, and I don’t want to let them down. But as soon as I get on the track, I think, this is what I do best. And then I get really excited and then when I do well — well, oh, my goodness, to celebrate with all those people watching, that is the best part.

Are you ever in pain after a long run?

I think that a long run is really hard but I am not often in pain — it’s just really, really challenging. If I am in some sort of pain that usually means I have to head to the training room and I have to get medical attention and then, perhaps, take a day off.

When you were younger, was there a runner who inspired you?

I moved to Florida when I was in elementary school and then shortly after that I got to go to a banquet where I got to meet Jackie Joyner Kersee. She is the greatest track and field athletic woman of all time in our sport. Getting to meet her was really inspiring. As I have grown up and became a good athlete myself, I have really become friends with her now. It was a really awesome thing to meet her when I was your age.

Do you have goals for upcoming races?

I run primarily the 1,500 meters, but I think in the future I am going to run the 1,500 and the 5k. Every year I pick a distance and I say to myself that I want to run the fastest time in my life at this distance this year. Every year I am trying to get faster.

What is the feeling when you win a medal in the Olympics?

When you stand on the podium at the Olympic Games and they put that medal around your neck, that is such an important and special time for everyone who has rooted for you, helped you and the whole entire country. But you know what the very best moment of the Olympics was? It was when I crossed the finish line. You are out there on the track and you have worked our butt off, and all of that work has amounted to something. So the best moments I have ever had were when I just crossed the finish line.

What does your training regimen include?

I run the mile. If I am preparing for a race, it doesn’t matter what distance you are running. You run six or seven days a week, you do short stuff, you do fast stuff, you do long runs.

Before or after a race, what kind of food do you eat?

That is a really good question. You really have to practice what you are going to eat at practices before you have a race so that it doesn’t upset your stomach. Before a hard workout, about an hour or two hours before I run, I always have the same thing: a slice of toast with jelly, and I have a cup of tea with a little bit of milk in it.

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