Grant Fisher — Out With Injury To AR in 10 Weeks

Now at No. 11 on the 3K all-time list, Grant Fisher finds himself just 0.36 shy of Noureddine Morceli, whose 7:25.11 in ’94 was the World Record for 2 years. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

WHETHER YOU CALL IT a redemption tour or a salvage mission, Grant Fisher’s return to racing after missing the Budapest team with an injury achieved far more than anyone expected, capped by a stunning American Record in the 3000 at the DL Final.

The 26-year-old Bowerman TC star’s 2.76-second reduction of the standard Yared Nuguse snatched from Fisher’s previous grasp in January restored the 5000/10,000 record holder’s status as a triple-AR athlete.

However, coming back quickly after the stress reaction to his femur was anything but an easy decision.

“There was a lot of uncertainty coming off that,” he says, “Uncertainty if I’d be able to salvage anything this season or it was just one of those things where you need to chalk it up and get ready for next year.

“You want to have a balance of caution and then some urgency as well,” he says. “You know, probably the absolute smartest thing to do would’ve been to shut it down completely and get ready for next year. But I wanted to give myself the chance if my body cooperated and healed up to still do something.

“I had a good team of people around me. The people that read my MRI, the radiologists, were recommending like 8 weeks off. And, knowing how I was feeling, I thought, ‘Maybe I can play it by ear and let pain be my guide in some way.’ I know the difference between bad pain and good pain at this point, what to push through and what not to, and I felt I had a pretty good handle on it.”

It was a gamble. “I was taking some risks in coming back. Thankfully nothing bad happened, but there were inherent risks that I knew were there and the people around me knew were there. There’s always the possibility of a relapse, especially when you have bone stuff. So I was trying to be careful, but also optimistic.”

At the USATF Championships, the American Record holder had finished 4th in the 10,000. When it became clear the stress reaction would keep him from competing in the 5000, the news was more than disappointing.

“Emotionally, that was terrible. Missing out on a team, sitting on a couch, watching people do what I wanted to do and not even have a chance to try. It didn’t feel good.”

Yet the healing process went well, far better than he could have imagined. And when Fisher was cleared to run again, the fitness was still there. So 56 days after the USATF 10,000, the 26-year-old Fisher stood on the 5000 starting line at the Zürich Diamond League. In a race where he steadily moved up through the pack, he placed 3rd in 12:54.49, the No. 3 time in his career.

A week later, he was one of the few Americans to compete at the Palio Città Della Quercia meet in Rovereto, Italy.

“After Zürich, the Diamond League Final became a real possibility. I [could have] made the decision of waiting for 2 weeks, going back to the U.S. to train and get ready for the Final. But my coach and I thought it was best to get another race in. It was kind of nice in a way — races are more fun than just hitting workouts.

“That was the fun aspect. It was a smaller meet, but the atmosphere was really, really good. I had heard good things about it. The pace was going to be quick, but not too quick. I thought it would be a good opportunity to race and work on closing at the end. You know, every opportunity to work on something you’re not great at is a good thing.”

He adds, “It was the end of the season, I just wanted to race. I’d done the long grinding cross training and a whole year of training to get to a point where I didn’t know if I was going to race for the rest of the year. I was taking every opportunity I could to compete.”

On a balmy Italian evening, Fisher crushed the Rovereto field in 7:33.32, speeding through the final K in 2:25.0.

He says, “I think it raised my confidence a bit and was probably a good primer for the system to get used to running a 3K and closing hard at the end.”

Then came Eugene. In a race where Jakob Ingebrigtsen and Yomif Kejelcha were challenging World Record pace, the Nike Bowerman star stayed in the hunt, then used a blazing kick to pass Telahun Haile and Olympic 10K champion Selemon Barega on the final stretch to finish 3rd.

His time, 7:25.47, sliced nearly 3 seconds from the 7:28.23 that Nuguse ran on Boston U’s superfast indoor track, and moved Fisher to No. 11 in world history.

“Being able to kick off that pace was definitely a feat. Ever since coming back from injury, I’ve felt a really good pop in my legs. It took a few weeks of workouts to get used to the pounding and the force needed to move quickly. I think at the beginning of the year, I never really felt like I had that much power at the end of races. And maybe that was a sign of a little bit of overtraining or overreaching. In a way, the injury allowed my body to just reset and have that power again at the end of the race.”

That’s just one of the lessons Fisher is taking from this season that did not go at all as planned: “It does feel like redemption for me. I would have rather been on the team and had a shot at Worlds. But that’s just the way it works sometimes. I needed to prove to myself that I can still compete with the best guys in the world. I think I showed that to myself. It’s definitely a confidence booster.

“There’s a lot of lessons I learned out of this on cross training and maybe where my limits are in total volume and intensity, and how to be smart when you have little things coming up in regards to muscular or tendon or bone health. Last year, I pretty much only had good moments. But I definitely learned a lot more this year than I did last year.

“There are some seasons where everything you touch turns to gold. That was last year. This year that was not the case. But you learn a lot more from something like this than when everything’s going well.

“I’m really happy with the three races I had at the end of the season; it was only a 2-week mini-season, but in all of them I felt really strong coming down the last lap. Hopefully I can carry that into next year.”

Now, though, he says, “I’ll take a decent chunk of time off and then slowly build back up and get ready for the big one next year. This isn’t the time for me to be super urgent. The fitness will come and the hard training will come. There’s plenty of time for that, but right now I need a physical and emotional reset and to have a clean slate going into next year.”

Reflecting on how his season concluded, Fisher admits, “I surprised myself.”

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