Discover US Olympian Gwen Jorgensen’s Favorite Running Trail

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By Abigail Bassett

In our Sanctuaries series, creative leaders and achievers reveal the special places where they go to think, relax and be inspired.

Gwen Jorgensen didn’t grow up planning to be a triathlete. She swam and ran competitively in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but had never ridden a bike — so she was surprised to receive a recruiting call from USA Triathlon that convinced her to give it a try.

Today, at 30, Jorgensen is a world champion triathlete and an Olympic gold medalist, traveling all over the world to race and train. She is the first United States triathlete to win an Olympic gold, and has won more than a dozen World Triathlon Series races over her career. She was named U.S. Triathlete of the Year in 2013 and 2014.

When asked for her favorite place to get away and recharge, Jorgensen cites a running trail in New Plymouth, New Zealand. She began training in that country with a team of international triathletes called the Wollongong Wizards following the London Olympics in 2012, and it quickly captured her imagination.

Here she talks about finding sanctuary on the running trail.

Click and drag the 360-degree image to explore Gwen Jorgensen’s sanctuary in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

Q. Why is running in New Zealand so special to you?

Jorgensen: For one, running has always been my sanctuary. I can do it anywhere. All I have to do is throw on some running shoes and go. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to do anything to prep for a run the way I have to for a swim or a bike ride. I can just go.

When I’m running, I’ve found it’s the only time I can really shut my brain down and enjoy the moment. Running in New Zealand is unlike doing it in other places in the world. I find it to be really peaceful, and it’s so wild and beautiful everywhere.

Courtesy of Specialized

“Running has always been my sanctuary,” says Jorgensen.

Q. When you get to New Zealand, to your favorite trail, what’s the first thing you do?

Jorgensen: Usually, I run in the morning. My perfect day consists of waking up and heading to the trail first thing. I walk for maybe two to five minutes and then start jogging to just ease into it. I don’t usually like to listen to music when I run. I really try to focus on my body and enjoying the process of running without thinking about it. As I run I keep my eyes on the woods around me. You never know what you might see! I love seeing animals in their natural habitat and seeing them wake up in the early morning.

Jorgensen began training in New Zealand with a team of international triathletes called the Wollongong Wizards following the London Olympics in 2012.

Kristian Frires

Jorgensen began training in New Zealand with a team of international triathletes called the Wollongong Wizards following the London Olympics in 2012.

Q. Who else is welcome on the trail with you?

Jorgensen: I’m sort of 50/50 on having people out with me. Sometimes it’s nice to have others to train with and talk with. Other times, I just really want to be alone and work through my stress solo. It’s my way of getting away and giving my brain a break while my body works out the stress.

Q. When was the last time you were there? Did you have any major breakthroughs the last time you hit the trail in New Plymouth?

Jorgensen: I was there for training last year. It really is one of my most favorite places in the world to train. Running by myself in the morning allows me clear my head and get ready for a productive day. I can go back to my family and feel refreshed and energized. I always feel a lot better after hitting the trail in New Zealand.

Q. How long do you need to run to feel the benefits?

Jorgensen: I can do a 15- to 20-minute run, and that will be enough to boost my mood and make me feel good. It gives me the personal space I sometimes need to come back to myself and get rid of stress. Normally, I log anywhere from 40 to 50 miles a week, but when I’m out running for myself I can just do a few miles and feel like a completely different human being. The longest run I’ve ever done was about two hours, but it’s rare that I will go out for that long.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed.

To see more spaces where creative leaders go to find inspiration, visit Sanctuaries.

Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist and editor-in-chief of the lifestyle and luxury site c-ntrl.com. She lives in Austin, Texas.

360 image by Kristian Frirers, hot spot images by Kristian Frires and Specialized



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