Junior Josh Janusiak and sophomore Joe Kortenhof are some of the best distance runners Lawrence has seen. Their list of accomplishments from this season alone would take a paragraph or two. But what makes them special is not all of the extraordinary things that they have done, but the ordinary things that they do in an extraordinary way.
Distance running is not something that you become good at overnight,. Your current performance is a reflection of all of the runs that you have put in before over the course of many seasons and many years. Both Janusiak and Kortenhof describe what makes a good distance runner in similar ways. Kortenhof says, “The one thing that I think makes a great distance runner is the ability to force yourself to do things that everything in your body is telling you not to do. Forcing your body to push itself as hard as it can go in a race is part of this, but to me it’s more about the lifestyle a runner has to have to be successful. Rarely have I ever woken up on Sunday morning at 8:30 and jumped out of bed excited to go on a long run. It takes a lot of mental effort to force myself out of my bed, into my running clothes and out the door, and it’s not always fun. In the end, though, it’s always worth it. The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment I get after running is way higher than an extra hour of sleep could ever give me. To me, this ability to overcome what your body thinks that it wants in the moment – staying in bed – and instead do what your mind knows will be the most rewarding in the long run – getting out of bed and running – is what it takes to be a great distance runner.”
In a similar fashion, Janusiak adds his own take on what it takes to be a good distance runner saying, “I think that to be a great distance runner, you must first be able to turn running into a lifestyle. You have to be able to run consistently, every day, for years and even decades. Since distance running requires the ability to get yourself out the door almost every single day, I think that the best distance runners have to enjoy the act of running itself. They run because it makes them feel like better people spiritually, mentally, and physically. I think that the best distance runners have fun while running and realize that the act of running is more valuable than just the fitness or even race times. They have the ability to enjoy running while they’re doing it, but also to recognize its effects and to plan for the long term.”
But Janusiak and Kortenhof are not just good distance runners. They are great distance runners. Part of their greatness stems from their ability to run together and push each other to be their very best. Distance running requires putting in hundreds, even thousands of miles out on the road. When you spend day in and day out running together, a special bond forms. Running can often be difficult as you push the human body to its brink, and having a partner in crime always seems to make the dark times a little bit brighter.
The two of them are clearly special, and they each offer a unique perspective on how the other has helped them in their own running career. Janusiak says, “Joe and I became great friends from the moment he arrived on Lawrence’s campus. It was really exciting for me to have another training partner who was right at my level. We also shared a lot of the same ideologies about running. For example, we both enjoyed the intense feeling of contentment we got after completing a long run in the hot sun. It made us feel hopeful about ourselves and about humanity in general – ‘Look what humans can do when they set their minds to it!’ We both shared a kind of gentle competitiveness; one would push or inspire the other to run faster during a hard workout or long run, but it was never one against the other. We knew that we shared the same goal, which was to push our own bodies and minds to be the strongest they could be. When Joe passes me in a race or workout, I don’t think, ‘I need to beat him.’ Instead, I think, ‘Joe and I ran the same workouts at the same pace, so I should be able to stick with him here too.’ There is a funny kind of ‘competitiveness’ – more like mutual inspiration – in our lives as roommates and friends, too. Sometimes I see Joe choose to eat a healthy snack when I’m craving processed foods and I opt for the healthier choice, or Joe will see me hydrating and he’ll realize that he should be hydrating too if he wants to do well in the hard work out later that day.” Janusiak continues on to add, “I think one of the best things about having Joe as a training partner is that he never gets mad when he has a bad day, but he’s always proud of me and supportive when I do well. It’s never weird when one of us beats the other because we both know that we are running for more than just fast times. I really appreciate having a training partner and friend who also values running for the experience and not just for the stats.”
Kortenhof echoes Janusiak, saying, “No matter how much you love running, it’s always hard to run day after day all by yourself. Having someone there to do it with makes the experience so much more enjoyable and so much more valuable as well. Seeing Josh push himself and accomplish all of the amazing things that he has since I came to Lawrence as a constant reminder of why I run, and it helps me to motivate myself to try and do the same. Above anything else though, I think that Josh has helped me realize how running influences every other aspect of your life in the most positive way possible, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it.”
Like any two people that spend a lot of time together, they do not always see eye to eye. As teammates, the dynamic between Janusiak and Kortenhof can be one of the most entertaining things, whether it be in a race or in their room. When asked about their friendship Kortenhof said, “Josh and I have a very volatile friendship at times, but I think that it’s held together by a common set of values that we both hold. We are very different people and that can result in conflict a lot of the time, but I feel like I know Josh on a level that I don’t know many other people on. I think that part of that comes from running with Josh every day and constantly being around him. I feel that I can talk to him about things that I couldn’t talk to anyone else about and I think that that’s something really special.”
Janusiak offered his perspective. “Joe and I actually have some very different values and dispositions, but we both completely endorse the fact that running makes us healthier people in all aspects of our lives. He is very kind, calm, and easygoing, while I am usually pretty loud and opinionated, even during runs. I prefer to be crazy and to laugh a lot before races and workouts, but he prefers to get into the zone on his own. If Joe runs faster than me in a race, then I will have to push myself harder, and I will therefore become a faster runner. If I run faster than Joe in a race, then I still have to push myself because I have to worry that he could outkick me at the end. One benefit of our closeness in terms of performance level is that one of us always has one of these mentalities, so we’re always pushing each other.”
The two of them clearly have something special, and it manifests itself every time they blow away the competition and the Lawrence record books. While Kortenhof has finished competing this year, Janusiak races the 10,000 meter run at the national championship meet on Thursday, May 24th. This marks the end of the outdoor track season, but look for the two of them to keep making history in the years to come.