Mile News

In his own words: Hobbs Kessler, 2024 Paris Olympian

July 23, 2024

I just want to keep getting better year-by-year. Train the best that I can, as smart as I can, consistent as I can. Hopefully that will allow me to be world class over the next decade or so.


Coming off a difficult double at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field, where he became the first American man to qualify for the Games in the 800 and 1500 at a single Olympics since Rick Wohlhuter in 1976, 21-year-old Hobbs Kessler is a man to watch in Paris and in years to come.

Kessler first burst onto the track & field national scene when he set an American U20 record of 3:34.36 in the 1500 in 2021 at Portland. He won the inaugural World Athletics Road Mile title in 2022 and has PRs of 1:43.64 in the 800 and 3:31.53 in the 1500. A precocious athletic talent, Kessler is one of the few elite track athletes who can also claim international quality in a different sport.

While his track career is focused specifically on moving horizontally as fast as he possibly can, his first love was a sport where the emphasis is on vertical speed – rock climbing. Kessler was a nationally ranked climber growing up and competed at the International Federation of Sport Climbing Youth World Championships in Italy in 2019.

Here, in his own words, is the story of his unusual path to elite middle distance running.

Q: You went from being a five-minute miler as a freshman in high school to setting the national indoor record a few years later. How did you get there, and what was the key to your rapid development?
HK: Puberty, haha. And inconsistency. My junior year I started training way more consistently and with higher volume, so that did it. But no matter how hard I trained as a freshman, I was only going to run so fast. When you have a little kid’s body you can only run so fast basically. Once I started to get stronger and bigger and could handle more training…it was crazy. It definitely was weird because I think a lot of very good runners go into high school already thinking of themselves as a good runner and already one of the best runners on the team. And my development was just on a different curve, but it was pretty fun that way because it feels like you keep getting better and better.

Q: When did you start running and thinking about track?
HK: I joined the cross country team as a freshman in high school, so that’s really when I started. But I was still focused on rock climbing. It was probably my junior year, during Covid, when I really started applying myself fully to running. And obviously once you really get after it you’re going to get better. So that started feeding the cycle. It was just a really fun 18 months where it felt like every week I was fitter than the last.

Q: When did it hit you that you were good enough to be an elite runner?
HK: I don’t know. I just kept getting better and better. At some point, my mom was like, “Hobbs, you’re probably going able to be a pro runner one day.” And turns out, that was only like six months later. But I would say just once I set my sights on breaking four minutes, my senior year of high school, and that really became a focus, was really when it set in. Like, this is what I’m doing.

Q: When you broke the American U20 record in the 1500 with that 3:34 at Portland, how did that change the trajectory of your career?
HK: It opened the door to go pro. So that changed everything, otherwise I’d be at Northern Arizona (NAU) right now. It’s a great program. It’s hard not to succeed there. Yeah, just going pro early changed everything to a completely different path and without that race, it wouldn’t have happened. So, who knows? Luckily, I think consistency and talent will shine through no matter what situation you’re in, it’s just a matter of being in a situation where you can let your talent do its thing and really train consistently. NAU would have been a great opportunity to do that as well so…two good choices. But without that race, my life would be really different.

Q: Did you know, going into that race, that you had something special in you that day?
HK: Yeah I thought I was in 3:36-3:37 shape and funnily enough I felt absolutely terrible the week leading into it. I thought I trained hard, and it wasn’t going to work, so I had to cut all my runs short. I felt really good on the day, the perfect race, everything lined up perfectly. That was the fastest I could’ve run. So, I knew I had something but seeing 3:34 was certainly a shock. That took a few days to process…a few weeks even.

Q: How did your professional contract come to be after that race? What was the process?
HK: I spoke with my coach and training partners. I had an agent lined up and he came to my house, and we talked over the possibilities with him. Like, are the doors open, are the doors closed, just trying to weight the pros and cons. Then a few days later, Coach Smith from NAU came to my house and I talked about it with him. All credit to him, I mean he wasn’t really pushing for me to be on his team, he just wanted me to “Do what’s best for you”. Once we got all the details settled he recommended I go pro as well. It went from like a no-way do I go pro to signing the paper within 4-5 days. It happened that fast where I was going no matter what. It made sense to go pro. It was hard, a really hard decision, but luckily I had a lot of good people helping me make it, including Coach Smith, who was like, “Hey, I think this is the right decision…I’ll help you in any way I can. I’ll make you a part of the team in any way I can.” That also put me at ease a little bit. All credit to him for being selfless because I don’t think all coaches would’ve done that for me. But it was a crazy week and once the decision was made, it was made. I haven’t regretted it at all, it was a lot of fun. It would’ve been really cool to run at NAU but I’m really happy with the path I’ve taken.

Continue reading at:

Hobbs Kessler BBTM snapshot bio HERE.

Tags: ron warhurst (4) , paris 2024 (4) , hobbs kessler (19)

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