The Victory Lap: Wilkerson Given🏆

Joining us this week is Hansons Distance project team member and Stoke Performance founder Wilkerson Given! Wilkerson chats with us about what’s kept him motivated over the years and how the move to Hansons will give him a good shot at the 2024 Olympic marathon team. He also talks about running Chicago this week, his expectations, and how he plans to manage the race while in it!

What’s been the driving force for you to continue running at this level for this long? You’ve been out of college for about ten years now.

I didn't know exactly how long I would continue going. At Furman we got a new coach at the end of my junior year, really my senior year, and that shifted my mindset. Robert and Rita Gary came in and I really improved a lot during their time there. My time in college was coming to an end but I realized that I was really enjoying it. You know, I realized I'd like to continue to do this and see how far I can go with it — just continue pushing. I was on a good trajectory and fortunately had an opportunity to continue running for Furman Elite just after college. I’ve always enjoyed the sport, but really found a deeper love for it through my improvement. And I think I’m still loving that aspect, even to this day.

A couple of years ago you popped a 2:11 in Chicago. How do you prevent yourself from going into that race next week chasing a past performance?

It’s just maybe a little bit of my nature, always wanting to improve and put myself in opportunities to do better. I think that carries across all areas of racing. You know, just pushing. That's definitely my personality. But I know a lot of people share that, especially in the running community. A lot of times you finish a good race and the first thought is, “I think I can run faster.” So I’ll lean on that desire to continually improve and see how much better I can be.

Your time at the Atlanta Track Club appears to have been successful and positive from both sides but you just joined the Hansons Distance Project this year – what has been the most positive aspect of the move?

Hansons has such a big group of really distance-centered athletes — a lot of 10k and marathon-focused men and women. In Atlanta, the bulk of the team is really kind of more track based, which is great. But moving to Hansons, with the primary focus being competing in the marathon, just made sense.

It’s been a great family-type environment, a great team environment, and having all those bodies to train with is something that has and will continue to benefit my training. When there’s people around you, sharing that training load makes workouts that much easier and keeps everyone accountable. Misery really does love company, especially when it comes to marathon training.

Do you have any clue where the Olympic Trials are going to be yet?

I've heard that they're whittling it down to a couple of places, but it's all hearsay for me as well. I haven't read anything concrete.

When you first met with Hansons what were the goals you guys talked about?

I think the big one for me is getting under 2:10, as far as time goes. And then with the Trials in 2024, you have the vision to really be contending for a spot on the team.

At the end of the day, that’s what you’ve got to be going into that race thinking. I think I’m giving myself a good amount of time in a new system to really sort it out and be ready by the Trials to really give it a good shot.

How are you breaking the race down for next week?

One of the big things for me is just staying patient. It's hard, especially in a World Marathon Major environment, to not get antsy and spend too much energy, too early. Just try to turn my brain off and just settle into a good pace. I know there'll be a good pack of guys running around at the same goal pace. I’ll have some teammates out there pacing, too.

It's really nice to have familiar people to settle in behind. So yeah, it's just being patient and then as the race grinds on, gaining more and more confidence and hopefully, competing well over those last six miles.

The goal going in is definitely top ten overall and being as high up on the American finishers list as possible. I’ve run well here in the past, but I’m always looking to improve. I’d be pretty happy with that.

How big is fueling for you? Everyone seems to be a little different with how important it is.

I love it. I love the nutrition side of things — just the science behind fueling. I think it also carries over into being properly fueled before the race and everything. Even as far as the week before, I’m making sure everything's dialed in, leading into your race morning. You know, I love all of that stuff. That's a huge part of the reason for starting our company.

Let’s talk about your company! Where did the origin of Stoke come from? Congratulations by the way, it seems to be wildly successful.

The idea started as far back as 2016. I studied nutrition a little bit in college and it's just always, always been interesting to me. I always loved it. And, you know, being a runner, being in the sports community, I just noticed so many people eating peanut butter before training and competition.

You know, again, studying nutrition and working with some nutritionists throughout my career, I’d always been advised to stay away from peanut butter because it has some inherent inflammatory properties. And so it was kind of this, you know, a pairing of ideas.

Everybody's eating peanut butter and wanting to run fast. But peanut butter is really not the best thing you could be eating. So I started thinking “can we create something that really would be an optimal fuel to allow you to perform physically and mentally at your best?” 

I think starting up a company, it's easy to drown in a sea of opportunity. You want to try to be everything to everybody. But we were very intentional starting out. We really wanted to know who we were for and target that distance-running population from the get-go.

Is there anything on the schedule after Chicago yet, or are we waiting to see?

Actually, we’ve got cross-country races planned! I believe we’ll be running Club Cross and the Sound Running XC race in Austin. It should be fun to switch it up and get off the roads for a couple of races.

Thanks so much to Wilkerson for chatting with Mac and best of luck in Chicago on Sunday! Follow along on Instagram and Twitter.