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Natosha Rogers is ready to go all in

Natosha Rogers (Photo by Gregorio Denny)

(Feature sponsored by Puma)

Making the World Championship team in the 10,000m last year was a big moment in Natosha Rogers’ career. And at Worlds, she had a solid showing, finishing 15th and running a personal best of 31:10.57. But she walked away wanting more.

Rogers says around that time, multiple people in her life suggested she might benefit from a change. “I had several people say, ‘Okay, you’re at the prime of your career, you’re in your 30s. Are you going to keep doing the same things you’ve been doing? Or are you going to capitalize on being in your prime?’”

After giving the decision a great deal of thought, Rogers, 31, left the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, signed a contract with Puma, and joined their North Carolina based Puma Elite team in January. “It was a really, really hard decision, because I very much appreciate the Hansons and Brooks and what they did for me in that chapter of my life,” Rogers said. “But I was just hoping that everyone would understand that I was just trying to better myself and get to the next level.”

And after only a couple of months with her new team, Rogers already seems to have arrived at a new level. In her first race of the year, she ran 14:52.21 for 5,000m, a 12-second personal best. And on Saturday night, she took 21 seconds off her 10,000m PR, running 30:48.69.

When Rogers was part of Hansons, she did training stints with her teammates, but she lived in Denver while the rest of her team was based in Michigan. She ended up doing a lot of her training alone. Rogers grew up in the Denver area and has lived there for the past seven years, but at the end of the month, she plans to dive into her new training setup headfirst and move to North Carolina.

“In my 20s, I really did prefer to take my own path and have more balance in my life, so I wasn’t ready for the commitment until just recently,” Rogers said.

Before she signed with Puma, she made sure the company’s shoes were a good fit. “I need a very minimal, neutral shoe, and if I wear the wrong shoe, I get injured within one run, basically,” Rogers said. She found that Velocity Nitro 2 was perfect in that regard. She also trains in the Deviate Nitro 2, especially on long run days, and on workout days, she wears the Deviate Nitro Elite 2. The latter is the shoe she will race in when she moves to the marathon.

Rogers is planning to make her marathon debut in the fall, but because her track racing is going so well right now, she’ll run a full track season first. Part of the motivation to run a marathon this year is that she would like to race in both the marathon and track Olympic Trials in 2024.

Beginning in January, Rogers spent four weeks altitude training in Iten, Kenya, with two of her new teammates, Sarah Inglis and Fiona O’Keeffe. Rogers appreciated the simpler lifestyle she led while she was there. “In America, we’re so distracted with so many things,” she said. “There you focus on running, eating, and getting your massages, and that’s about it.” In order to get online, she had to walk to a coffee shop. Paying less attention to social media, in particular, helped her. And that’s one practice she tried to bring home with her. “I don’t go on there to scroll and look at what everyone’s doing,” she said. “For me, that’s not a healthy thing. I’m way too competitive.”

She hoped that more of the routine she adopted in Kenya would stick. “I fell right back into my old habits here,” Rogers said. “That’s how I know I actually need to move and I can’t stay here in Denver.”

Returning to the U.S. also drove home how much harder it is to train on her own. In Denver, Rogers doesn’t have access to a track, so she does her hard workouts on the treadmill. “It became a habit, like ‘I can control all of the variables here and know that the workout will get done the way it needs to get done,’” Rogers said. She has seen good results from treadmill training, but he also finds it to be mentally draining. “It’s definitely time to move away from that habit,” she said.

Rogers’ strong race on Saturday came after a couple of tough weeks of training. First, she was dealing with some calf pain, then she got sick. Rogers said via text on Sunday that she was happy to have run a sizable PR and come so close to her sub-30:40 goal, but the pacing didn’t quite go according to plan. Her pack went through halfway in 15:30, a little slower than she had hoped, and she had to do more of the pacesetting than expected. Though good 10,000m races can be tough to find, she’s hoping that with another shot, she can make another significant jump.