When discussing 28-year-old runner Ashley Brasovan, it’s hard not to bring up her former opponent Jordan Hasay—a now household name in the running world. During their earlier years of competing, the pair were solidifying their elite status by stacking up wins in various track and field and distance events.
In 2005, Hasay took home the gold at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships during her freshman year of high school. Two years later, Brasovan would go on to win the title with Hasay coming in third. As 2008 rolled around, Hasay once again secured the top spot and Brasovan came in behind her with a second-place finish. Although their paths since then have taken different routes, Brasovan and Hasay may find each other again at the starting line thanks to Brasovan’s new Hoka One One sponsorship.
Joining her as another newly-signed Hoka athlete will be runner Joe Gray. The 34-year-old has seen his fair share of podium finishes in his career and is considered one of the nation’s best trail runners. Among his accolades, Gray’s titles include being a seven-time recipient of the US Mountain Runner of the Year award, the winner of the 2016 Pikes Peak Ascent in a time of 2:05 (the fastest climb since 1995), the 2016 World Mountain Running Champion and the reigning USATF Half Marathon Trail Champion.
Last year, he also took home the gold at the World Snowshoe Running Championships and placed third in the 8K North American/Central American/Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships in Florida for Team USA. And these are only some of his wins. We recently caught up with Brasovan and Gray to find out about their new sponsorships with Hoka, what their racing goals are, how they choose races and which ones they’ll be competing in this year.
Competitor Running: What made you decide to join the Hoka One One team?
Ashley Brasovan: I am pretty picky with brands that I would want to represent. I really wanted a company that aligns with my values and overall mission as an athlete and had great products on the trails and on the roads. I was first introduced to Hoka One One when I moved out to Colorado a few years ago, and believe it’s one of the few companies that does both road and trail very well. Also, every Hoka athlete that I have met on my running journey has been genuine and a great all-around person. The Hoka community is incredible, and it’s a brand that I felt I could represent well.
Joe Gray: I’ve really been wanting to align with a brand that values diversity in athletics and makes footwear that allows someone like myself to chase challenges across multiple genres of distance running. Hoka One One has a shoe for any adventure I have planned, so signing with them was the most logical decision.
CR: What do you hope to achieve in your first year as Hoka athletes?
AB: Being new to the trail world and now having a great company behind my back, I hope to really make an entrance onto the trail scene. I have a few national championship trail races and the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships on the calendar this year and am really excited to see what I can do.
JG: I hope to continue bringing home national titles, representing Team USA and toeing the line with some of the best guys in the sport globally.
CR: What motivates you to compete?
AB: I never take the sport (and competing) for granted anymore. For most of my college career I was injured. I had four femoral stress fractures and one in my metatarsal, and had multiple people tell me that I would never be able to run again, let alone be competitive. After college, I was driven to prove everyone that ever doubted me wrong. I truly love running and have always been a competitive person and didn’t want to give that up. For now, running is a competitive outlet, and I believe it makes me a better friend, family member and significant other in the rest of my life.
JG: For me, racing is a personal journey. You train hard and try to perfect your craft. On race day you challenge yourself attempting to reach toward your potential. I compare it to designing new recipes. I come up with training regimens similar to creating recipes, and then it’s time to test the recipe—or in this case, a race—and see what you can do. I’m motivated by the mystery and possibilities of what race day could bring.
CR: What will be your first race as a Hoka athlete?
AB: The Mount Evans Ascent this Saturday, June 9 in Idaho Springs, Colorado.
JG: The GoPro Mountain Games.
CR: What do you look for when choosing a race to compete in (course difficulty, level of competition, etc.)?
AB: Right now, I really like the marathon distance on the roads and the 30k-40k distance on the trails. That seems to be my sweet spot for racing length at the moment. In terms of competition and difficulty, I really like to throw myself in the fire. I’m competitive, so trying new things at the highest level (nationals/worlds) doesn’t scare me and allows me to test my limits. I have placed everywhere from the very top in high school races to injuries that put me at rock bottom in college. This really built my mental toughness up quite a bit which has translated into this “throw myself into the fire” mentality.
JG: For me competition is one of the most important factors when choosing races. I like to see where I stand amongst my peers.
CR: What are your bucket list races?
AB: That’s a hard one! I want to do an international world major marathon at some point, maybe Berlin or London. Also since moving to Colorado, Pikes Peak has been on my mind and I definitely want to try a 100 miler (probably a little farther in the future for this one).
JG: The World Mountain Running Championships [and the] 2020 Olympic Trials Marathon.
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CR: Which athletes have inspired your running careers?
AB: [Hoka athletes] Megan and David Roche have been a huge inspiration for me. I ran in college with Megan, and David has been coaching me. I just really admire the way they can balance a professional running career with the rest of their lives (medical school, coaching, writing) and do everything at a very high level. Having a daytime consulting job means that runs can be really early and time management is key for me. It’s nice to see others who can balance all of this and still excel in every aspect of life.
JG: Jesse Owens, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Spud Webb [and] Edwin Moses.
CR: Ashley, what do you find most appealing about running trails instead of road racing?
AB: I am a very Type-A competitive person. The roads can be much more cutthroat and intense and satisfy this part of my personality. This also means that I can overanalyze times, make more comparisons and be that much harder on myself. The trails are competitive as well, but I have found that people are much more relaxed and laid back on the trails. I love the scenery and the gorgeous places that trail running can take you. I have always been a better hill runner too, so it has been fun to get dirty and get out on the hills and mountains a little more.
CR: Joe, what distance is your favorite to run and what is your number one racing goal right now?
JG: Anything from 3k to 50k. I can’t really pinpoint a favorite distance, as I love so many types of races and different terrains. My main goal is to be better than I was last year.
CR: Ashley, what distance and surface will be your primary focus in the next two years?
AB: I already hit the Olympic Trials standard in the marathon for 2020, so the last half of 2019 and early 2020 will be spent primarily on roads. For the remainder of 2018 and early 2019, I am planning to do mostly trail racing just to give myself a mental and physical break from the roads. It has almost been like completely switching sports, which is refreshing.
CR: Joe, what helps you stay focused when you’re not feeling at your best during longer races?
JG: I remember that being given the opportunity to breathe and wake up that day was a blessing in itself. So no matter how bad the event is going, I at least had the chance to do something I have a passion for.
CR: Ashley, Jordan Hasay has been one of the most talked about elites recently and her former Foot Locker Cross Country Championships title is one that you have also previously held. What would it be like to go up against her in another race this year?
AB: I would love to race Jordan again at some point (again my competitive nature surfaces). She has already had an incredible road career and is very inspirational. If I ran into her at a marathon, I am pretty sure her 2:20:57 [personal best] would probably kill me at this point. I might be able to beat her up a mountain if she wanted to come out to Colorado to race his year though.