Catching Up with EnerNOC’s Olympic Trial-Qualifying Marathon Runner
Last month, EnerNOC’s Jonathan Phillips, a business analyst on the product management team, completed the Chicago marathon with a time of 02:18:19—a time that qualified him for trials for the US Olympic team.
We caught up with Jonathan to talk about this accomplishment, what drives him to run at an elite level, and how he balances his ambitious running career with his job at EnerNOC.
QUESTION: How did your running career begin?
Jonathan: I raced cross-country and track as an undergraduate at Cornell and track as a master’s student at the University of Michigan. I primarily raced both the 5k and 10k at both schools, with PRs of 14:18 and 30:02, respectively. I graduated from Michigan in May of 2016. After my collegiate career, I joined the Heartbreakers (the club team representing Boston’s Heartbreak Hill Running Company) so I would have a community of runners to train and race with post-collegiately. I always knew that my strong suit was the longer events, so I ran my debut marathon at Detroit last October in 2:25:50, finishing 4th. I wanted to focus on marathons long-term, but the Olympic trials window did not open until September 2017, so I spent the track season (January through May of 2017) training for shorter events like the mile. I had a great indoor season, running a 4:09 mile, and I think this change of pace was an important part of building my fitness and confidence for Chicago. After the track season, I started training for the marathon again, targeting the 2:19 Olympic Trials standard.
So what are the next steps for the US Olympic trials qualification?
I have qualified for the US trials, but to make the Olympic team, I have to get top 3 out of a field of about 100 in February 2020 (108 finished in 2016). My current time will seed me pretty close to the back of the pack. I only ran 40 seconds under the standard; there were Americans in Chicago up to 9 minutes in front of me. However, I’m confident that I can continue to improve slowly and steadily, as I am very young for a marathoner (I won my age group in Chicago). I will see where my fitness takes me in two and a half years, and race accordingly, whether it’s shooting for the top 50 or the top 20. Marathons take a fair bit out of you, and since I’ve got the Trials qualifier, I don’t think I’ll race another one until Boston 2019.
Why are you passionate about running?
I think it started in high school as an excuse to be outside on the trails a little bit every day. But then it turned into a way to connect to my own nature. Racing is a very raw way to measure yourself against the boundaries nature has set out for you, and training is how you expand those boundaries. It’s hard, but that’s what makes it rewarding. Most of all, though, it’s the running community. It’s very tight-knit, and we have these shared experiences that bring us together.
What is your role at EnerNOC?
I’m a business analyst in product management for our Next Generation Platform (NGP). I currently own our Self-Service Admin, where users can upload their own data and site configurations, and will hopefully own our User Analytics in EIS 2.0 in the near future.
How do you balance training at the elite running level with a full-time job?
Part of what allows me to train at this level is EnerNOC’s great culture. I am so grateful for EnerNOC’s culture and focus on work-life balance, which means I always have time to get my run in and rarely bring work-related stress to a workout. EnerNOC’s facilities are also great, because we have lockers and showers which allow me to “run-commute” to and from work. I probably get in 60% to 70% of my miles just from commuting. We also have a solid running culture at EnerNOC, which sort of blurs the line between “elite running” and the “full-time job.”
All of my friends outside of work are runners, and I live with three other elite runners (I’m only the second fastest marathoner in my apartment!). We all have full-time jobs, and our training group prides itself on being elites that don’t take running too seriously. I actually think that working full-time jobs makes us better runners. It’s easy to get carried away and take running too seriously, especially when all you do is run—but I tend to race better when I’m having fun with it, and I need something to keep me grounded.
What’s your favorite thing about working at EnerNOC?
I love how I get home from work every day and can feel like I made a positive contribution to the world. I am passionate about green energy and energy conservation, and I love EnerNOC’s role in reducing our impact on the climate. DR is such a great way to reduce our reliance on gas peaker plants, and our EIS software is instrumental to energy conservation. I’m thrilled for what Enel has in store for our technologies, and how we can have an even broader impact than we do today.
And of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love the people at EnerNOC. I could not ask for better coworkers. I love going to work every day because it is fun. That’s pretty rare.
What’s one lesson that running has taught you about work, or vice versa?
Work hard, rest hard. One of the biggest things that’s clicked in my training recently is to train really hard for a few weeks, and then to really back off for one week and let it all sink in. Of course, I can’t (and don’t need to) do this to the same extent at work—but I think it has taught me to truly step away from my slack/email on the weekends, because then I can absorb a lot more when I’m ready. This has been especially useful for me recently, since I’m just finishing up my first six months in Product (I was an intern in the FOC before that). Giving it time to settle helped me learn faster.
What motivates you to train?
My training motto is “more miles, more smiles!”