Scott County resident Jeremy Johnson wakes up in the morning, uses a foam roller to massage his muscles, and does a pre-run, dynamic warm-up before running up to 12 miles. After his run, he puts in time in the gym, doing strength training to improve his core, stability, and balance. Later, in the evening, he will run again for another four to six miles and then, stretch and use the foam roller one more time before heading bed. Tomorrow, he will start the process all over again. By the end of the week, he will finish running about 100 miles.
He does this in hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Marathon U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Atlanta.
“The standard to make the Olympic Trials is 2:19.00. I am 2 minutes and 20 seconds away from my goal. If I hit the standard this Olympic cycle, I will continue to train and see how close I can come to making the Olympic team in 2024,” Johnson said.
In October, Johnson shaved 10 seconds off of his record at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon with an official time of 2:21:10. He placed third in his age group, men ages 20 to 24, and 34th overall in the race with 44,571 runners crossing the finish line in Grant Park.
“What I enjoy most about running is the sense of freedom it gives me. I do most of my running in trails which allows me to enjoy the sport more since I spend most of my time around nature,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s shining moment this year came in April when he won the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville. The Indiana native placed first with a time of 2:21:20. The United States Track and Field sanctioned race is a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon.
“The KDF marathon is known by almost everybody around where I live, so winning the biggest local race is something I’ve always wanted to do. My dad always raced the marathon or mini-marathon, so winning this year was a special moment,” Johnson said.
Last year, Johnson placed second in the KDF Marathon, so this year, he was more determined than ever to win the race.
“Last year finishing second was bittersweet. I had an amazing race but losing by seconds was a tough pill to swallow. Going into the race I had one goal in mind: to win. My finishing time was not on my mind whatsoever, and I just went out there and competed for the win. It’s an amazing feeling to have my name go down with so many talented runners who have won the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in the past,” Johnson said.
One could say Johnson was born for running. His father and siblings were known in the community as “The Johnsons,” a family of successful long-distance runners, he said.
“I was never the most talented running. I remember being one of the slowest runners throughout middle school, but I enjoyed running. It wasn’t until the summer before my freshman year of high school that I began to take the sport seriously. I remember running twice a day that summer in preparation for the upcoming cross county season,” Johnson said.
Taking the sport serious paid off for Johnson.
In high school at Austin, his records were 15:50 for the 5k, 4:30 for the 1600, and 9:38 for the 3200. His success in running at Austin High School led him to Berea College, where his brother attended and was a runner. At Berea, Johnson’s records were 15:18 for the 5k, 31:39 for the 10k, and 25:17 for the 8k.
“After college, I felt like I had much to prove to myself in terms of running goals, so I continued to train at a high level. After college, my times improved to 15:00 for 5k, 31:12 for 10k, 50:13 for 10 miles, 1:08 for half marathon, and 2:21 for the marathon,” Johnson said.
Not only did Johnson decide to improve himself, he decided to give back to future generations of Austin High School runners, imparting his knowledge and experience through coaching.
“I’ve dedicated my whole life to the sport of distance running, so giving back to aspiring runners in my community is something I’ve always wanted to do. A lot of the knowledge I’ve gained throughout the years has been through trial and error as well as through countless hours of research. By coaching, I can help athletes avoid some of the mistakes I have made throughout my career,” Johnson said.
Johnson credits the spirit of the community as to why he wanted to return home to Scott County after college and help the future generation of runners.
“Living in Scott County after graduating was always the plan. This community has made me into the person I am today, and I wouldn’t change anything about that. The community is so supportive of each other, and it feels the way home should feel like. I plan on continuing to live in Scott County the rest of my life,” Johnson said.