Photo by Justin Fricke
Fresh off a trip from the 2017 World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy, Joseph Gray isn’t looking back on what could have been, but instead ahead to the challenges that await him the rest of the season. Based on his track record in the sport of running, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Gray, considered one of the world’s most talented mountain trail runners.
A 19-time national team member and unspoken leader of the US Mountain Running Team, Gray is an eleven-time national champion as well as the 2016 World Mountain Running Champion.
Although he finished fourth place last month against the world’s best in the mountainous Lombardy region of Italy, this year’s course covered just over eight miles and gained 2,821-feet of elevation while featuring difficult downhill terrain that wasn’t found in the 2016 course he dominated in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria. An area for improvement, which is something Gray has never shied away from.
DESTINED TO SUCCEED
Growing up in Lakewood, Washington, Gray excelled at basketball and short distance road racing events like the mile and eventually two-mile in high school. At the University of Portland, he used his jumping skills honed on the court in a new event on the track for him, the steeplechase, where he quickly excelled and made his first national team in the event that requires endurance, speed and flexibility.
He eventually wound up at Oklahoma State, where he finished his degree in sociology and followed it with a master’s in criminology all while putting in the training to become a national-caliber cross-country runner.
Following his senior year, he was told about mountain running by a friend and decided to give it a try, “I loved it and ever since then I've been competing around the world on the trails,” he said in an interview after he returned back home from Italy.
Even though his focus has been on trail and mountain running, Gray doesn’t shy away from a challenge. In 2013, he finished the prestigious Boston Marathon in two hours and eighteen minutes. His true passion, he admits though, is on the trails and in the high mountains around his home of Colorado Springs. In 2016, he won his hometown race, the Pikes Peak Ascent, in a time just over two hours and five minutes, the fastest time in twenty years.
In April of this year, he also won the Colorado State Championship 5K Non-Road Race, indicating his ability to succeed at many running distances over all types of terrain.
However, even after a busy season that has seen him race all over America and internationally, he has big plans for the remainder of the year. Starting with the Pikes Peak Ascent race this Saturday, August 19th to complete some unfinished business. He’s hoping to cut over four minutes off his time from last year and break the record set by Matt Carpenter in 1993 of two hours, one minute and six seconds. A tall task, but by no means out of reach for Gray even as he ages.
FINDING HIS EDGE
Now 33, Gray knows he is only hitting his stride racing at high elevations in the mountains, and believes having Topical Edge on his side has been a big help, “I've been using it for many of my big races as of late, including when I broke the course record at the Barr Trail Mountain Race!”
Gray has found success using Topical Edge for training, recovery and racing, “I use it at night before going to bed and as I approach key races,” he continued, “If you’re having problems maintaining your threshold for long periods of time, Topical Edge can aid a runner attempting to sustain their threshold a little longer, ultimately leading to improved performance.”
After using the sodium bicarbonate sports lotion for the past few months, Gray says he can’t run without it, “I've been more than impressed and the latest research would suggest I have reason to be so,” he wrote on his Facebook page last week.
Given Gray’s history with success at every running level, we expect him to continue to improve and always be a serious contender any time he toes the start line, no matter the race.