Distance runner Roosevelt Cook, who’s consistently on the podium at Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons, half-marathons and more, tells a unique story about pressure. It happened at the Carlsbad 5000, known as the world’s fastest 5K. Cook has won in his age group for the past eight years.
There’s pressure every year. As you get older, you say, okay, this record is building, I win it every year. Everyone’s coming after me. All these young people who were 29 last year are now in my age category. I’ve got to hold them off. Last year, for the first time in event history, the leaders of the race got stopped by the train. I had built up a lead, made my moves, and all of a sudden, the train comes and blocks the way. This is 3 miles in; I’ve got 0.1 to go. You can see the finish line. I’m just full sprint and the security guy’s out there slowing me down. So all the people I had just left behind, we’re all grouped together now basically 150 meters from the finish line. The [barrier] arms go up, and the race goes from a 5K to a 100-yard sprint. They said “Go!” and boom, I was gone. That was some pressure.
Cook, a PE teacher, credits his start to his coach in high school in southern California, not far from where Cook lives today. I call him my dad now. I needed some direction. I always tell people that running saved my life. At junior college, I got better, got more track knowledge. Went to Fresno State on a full-ride scholarship, kept running. Post collegiate, got a good club team. Now, 20 plus years later, I’m still doing it at a high level.
That high level includes a 4:02 mile and marathon wins in Arizona, his native state, in 2015 and 2018. If I don’t go out there and run, I get antsy. It’s that athletic pursuit. It’s part of my life, you know. I love encouraging other people, coaching, celebrating the sport.
How about the pressure?
I use my experience over the years to relax myself, be confident in what I can do. Just breath and once the gun goes off, just be in the moment, let the body do what it’s going to do, because you know what you can do.
About wearing compression
Cook has worn CEP compression socks ever since the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Arizona in 2011. They feel good. I can tell they work. I’ve put a lot of miles on my legs throughout the years. I know what it feels like when you beat your legs up. They help. Last year, I ran over 3,000 miles in CEPs. It works, especially for the vibration in the legs.