We are so excited to share this interview with Greg Lehman as part of the Chaski Athlete Spotlight Series. As a HOKA ONE ONE Field Experience Representative Greg is now pursuing his own excellence and personal bounds in running (coached by Chaski #KrisBrown). Greg brings his unique experience and endless energy to the Chaski table. Our conversation ranges from the natural (?) transition from skateboarding to running, helping marginalized communities, new beginnings, and as always we finish with some quick-fire questions. Hope you enjoy!
Who has inspired your running journey the most and why?
Great question, as a whole the running community has been incredibly welcoming and generous to me, so there are plenty of names, but the major steps in my journey started with Ariana Selix, who gave me my first job in the industry working at A Snail’s Pace Running Shop in Fountain Valley, California in April 2017. From there Coach Bill Sumner and everyone at Cal Coast Track Club really welcomed and brought me into what I would call my first forays into serious training in the summer of 2018.
Stephanie Hillman and Joy Hrenko hired me at HOKA ONE ONE at the end of 2018, which was a huge step in terms of the scale and depth I could connect within the running world.
Through HOKA ONE ONE I met Tyler Andrews, who reached out personally when I showed interest in Chaski Endurance, and in a very short time, I’ve seen tremendous growth and opportunity in terms of what I can give to the sport.
I also have to mention Aliphine Tuliamuk for pulling off the most awe-inspiring win I’ve seen in person with her outrageously dominant performance at the Olympic Trials in February 2020, and for being just a tremendously sweet and genuine person when I’ve gotten to spend time with her. Also huge thanks to my one-on-one coach Kris Brown, a true champion in every sense, as well as Karl Meltzer, who gave me the best experience I could ask for at my first ultramarathon at Speedgoat 50k in 2019.
And, of course, Eliud Kipchoge. He never ceases to amaze me in his words or actions, and his next race cannot come soon enough.
Have you ever been on the cusp of quitting this sport? Why, and what brought you back?
I have yet to have a race where I don’t give serious thought to giving up, so often! I think these feelings are something to get familiar with as a runner as part of the process. Sometimes everything hurts and no tangible ROI is in sight, but I just remind myself that I’ve been here before, to breathe, stay loose, and think of my heroes and everyone cheering me on both near and far. It’s in this place that I find joy again, which is always bigger than the pain.
How long have you been running, and why did you first fall in love with the sport?
My mom tells a story of seeing me run at five or so and seeing this unbridled delight on my face, so I’ve always enjoyed seeing how fast my legs can take me. I did cross country at Fountain Valley High School for two years but didn’t take it very seriously since my heart was in skateboarding at the time. In my mid-20s a friend got me into trail running and I did a few races here and there, but again it wasn’t until the Cal Coast family got their arms around me that I really fell for the discipline in rigorous training, rest, good equipment, smart nutrition, and everything else that goes into being a runner.
Is there something about Chaski that you’re especially drawn to?
I already had a friendly relationship with Tyler, so the personal draw was already there, but pulling in legends like #DevonYanko, #MikeWardian, and #PeteKostelnick (among many others) into the ultra masterclass week made it very easy to join in. I learned a ton that first week, and getting to work with Kris Brown as my coach from there has and will keep me in the Chaski family for as long as they’ll have me.
What are your long-term goals for yourself as a runner?
My coach Kris Brown asked me this during our first call a few months ago, and it was the first time I’d thought about it. A big part of the appeal of sport is not knowing what you can do, and I love seeing the progress I’m making and look forward to making more. It’s not long-term, but I’m aiming to take on my first 100-miler in December, and when races open back up again I can’t wait to step into everything from 5ks to 100-milers with in-person competition to push me even further.
I’ve met plenty of people who used to run and can’t anymore for many reasons, and for now, I’d say my big long-term goal is to keep running as long as I’m alive and to never take this sport for granted when so many people have lost the opportunity to stay in it.
What has been your most meaningful experience as a runner?
It is an enormous gift whenever I’m able to help people in marginalized communities or people with disabilities find strength in running. I get to do that frequently through my job and HOKA ONE ONE’s partnership with Back On My Feet, which makes it all the more reason why being a field experience rep is my favorite job so far. I have a few more projects in the same vein in the works, so stay tuned, and if you can please consider doing the same in whatever capacity you can, I cannot overstate how rewarding it is to do so!
Have you had any running setbacks (such as an injury or big change in life) and if so can you tell us about it?
I’m fully aware and appreciate that I’ve had no serious injuries or issues that have held me back so far, and I do everything I can to keep it that way. I do have recurring pain in my right knee that comes and goes at random times, but strength training has done a lot to help with it. Special thanks to #SueMcNatt at Chaski Endurance and HOKA ONE ONE Flyer/Brand Ambassador Nikki Mohajer for giving me great at-home workouts to do with bodyweight and mini-bands, the progress has been obvious and very well-received over here!
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
The Giver by Lois Lowry was a huge influence on me from a very young age, a story that exemplifies how important it is to know our history and embrace individuality and imagination. The book also presented a somewhat ambiguous end that I wasn’t used to getting, but gave me an early taste for experimental art that invites different interpretations.
I’ll cheat and say anything by Alice Sheldon and Cormac McCarthy is up there for me, too, as well as Olga Tokarczuk, Primeval and Other Times took me earlier this year and flattened me on pretty much every page, which has been the case with everything else I’ve read by her since.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?
My full set of pastels from Michaels were a little more than $20 and it’s been great to rediscover how much fun it is to make visual art. I’m proud to say one of my pieces was published with a poem I wrote, “Nadia,” on the Global Poemic blog on September 23, 2020, and adding published visual artist to my skillset is an honor and a joy.
How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
Divorce made for a very hard time in 2016, but I could not have asked for a better turn in my life. I fully recognize this as an exception that is not the experience of many people, and I am thankful beyond words for my family and friends who have been nothing but supportive since it happened, and for all of the many, many blessings, people, and personal development that would not have come without it. I am eternally grateful to be where I am currently, and that I can keep growing the gifts and opportunities that have come my way after my life got a reboot treatment, of sorts.
What has your sport taught you that you may not have learned elsewhere?
Again it’s hard to keep this to one answer, or short, but the headliner for me is keeping my heart rate down in the midst of stresses large and small, finding perspective, and remaining calm.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why?
Every year millions of women, men, and children are victims of human trafficking around the world, be it for selling sex or forced labor, and every one of them is a person with emotions, dreams, and value, so please make choices that reflect the rights to dignity and autonomy that every (re: every) human being is entitled to without qualification.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
I was self-conscious about sharing my running practice on Strava, but a friend gave me a great compliment in saying he was interested in how I train, so I started on January 1st of this year. Since then I’ve really enjoyed sharing my runs and writing mini-reviews, journal entries, and photos from some of my adventures in the wild.
Strava has been an especially helpful resource in the midst of COVID-19. I do love the solo aspects of running, and I run by myself most of the time, but I miss all the communities and friends I run with under normal circumstances deeply. The global community on Strava has given me plenty of inspiration when I see other people stacking mileage, crowns, and photos, and the encouragement I receive in turn from people around the world means a lot to me, too.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Assembling small LEGO sets the night before races, usually “Star Wars”-themed. Doing so puts me in a fun, child-like state of mind, and corrals many of the butterflies and paranoia in their rightful place since I find it’s therapeutic for me to do something simple and straight-forward before taking on a challenge with all kinds of demands on my body and mind.
I found out recently that Trey Parker finds putting together LEGO sets beneficial as well, so I count myself in good company with this practice.
In the last five years what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life (and your running)?
Recognizing that everything I do is habit-forming and that the people I include in my life will either build or break my efforts to be the best me I can be, so discernment in what and who I include in my story has been foundational for the course I’m happy to see myself on currently.
What advice would you give a young ambitious runner dreaming of running professionally? What should they avoid?
A professional runner would be a better source for advice on this front, but I still get approached about this sort of thing fairly often.
In my observations and experiences in the running industry, I would say choosing positive role models within the field you are trying to excel in is always a good path to take. A lot of athletes get to the pro ranks by joining teams with athletes and coaches that push them in the right direction, so I encourage runners to find communities that guide them in directions that foster their talents in positive ways, then go from there.
Listening well can’t be overvalued, as well as dismissing ego at every chance. Also to be graceful and generous in your interactions with others in this community, since its what I would recommend in any community.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your area of expertise?
Again it’s hard to keep this short, but I would say if you try on shoes or clothes and don’t feel ready to rock immediately, then look elsewhere. Nobody has time for a break-in period, and people are investing their hard-earned money into something that will help them feel joy and empowerment, so the fit has to be dependable and smile-worthy from the first impression on.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
I remind myself that literally billions of other people have and are feeling the same way, both now and at any time, that I have plenty of wonderful people giving support and love around me, and that I can and have done great things already, so let’s go!
1. Favorite place to run?
Too many to name, but I have to go with Whiting Ranch in Lake Forest, California, tough and gorgeous!
2. Favorite race of all time?
Every race has given me a variety of challenges and rewards, but I’ll say the 2019 Speedgoat 50k asked the most of me, gave breath-taking views at every turn, and surrounded me with new and old friends for the duration and into a night I’ll never forget, Mr. Speedgoat himself is the man!
3. Bucket-list race you haven’t done yet?
4. Favorite workout you've done since starting to work with Chaski (or before)?
10’ warmup, 20’ @ tempo, 3’ recovery, 6 x 1’30 fast w/ 1’30 recovery, 10’ cool down, emptied me completely and loved every second of it!