Meet the Team - Michael Atchoo


Strava Track Club members are engaged in a wide variety of vocational and other pursuits in addition to their running. Find out more about our team in our periodic feature, Meet the Team.  Michael Atchoo is a Stanford All-American and NCAA Champion with a eye on 1500m success at the highest level. So far in 2015, he has finished 10th at the USA Indoor Championships and won prestigious Mt. Sac Relays 1500m.  Michael races Sunday evening at the Portland Track Festival, where he hopes to improve on his club and season best of 3:40.2.  Follow them on Strava here!  

One conversation with any member of my large, ethnic family, and you will learn very quickly that I do NOT come from a family with a running pedigree. So how did I learn to love this sport so much? And after how many hundreds of races I have raced, why does it still excite me?

Running has always been my adventure. At times, it’s a bit more adventure than I bargained for. For example, there was the time my family vacationed in Saugatuck, Michigan, which wasn’t too far from where I grew up in Troy, Michigan. I was a young high-school kid thinking a run along the beaches of Lake Michigan would be a great idea (I have since learned that a long run on the beach is a very, very bad idea). At 7.5 miles out, it was time to turn around, and I decided that I had had enough of the beach. 

One problem: once I hit the main road, I turned the wrong way. And I waited another 7.5 miles to officially declare myself lost. Oops…. I was 15 miles out and finally stopped to ask for directions back to Saugatuck. The nice people who owned the party store at the corner simply pointed down the road I had just come from. I returned to the rented condo roughly four hours after I had left, and my mother (crying from relief) was able to see that I didn’t get hit by a car, mauled by a bear, or take a tumble off a cliff like she originally thought. Phew!  

Running is still my adventure, and I do love exploring new trails when I visit a new place. But I am slightly more wary of my trajectory these days.Running has always been my sanctuary. There’s a lot of noise in life. This became especially true after moving to Silicon Valley. Attending college and then graduate school in the bay area means there’s not many opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of Palo Alto. That’s why I’m so grateful to have running as such an integral part of my daily routine. It’s a great way to decompress after a long day of classes and to recharge before a long night of problem sets. Even while living in one of the most densely populated places in the entire country, time spent on a trail in the hills of Woodside or the among the redwoods of Huddart Park reminds of the secluded dirt roads of northern Michigan, where the world is so very quiet and peaceful, and it’s so easy to leave the day’s trifles behind. 

Running has always been my passion. As much as I love the quite solitude of a solo run and the great opportunity to catch up with friends on a group run, that’s not why I continue to devote so much of my time to this sport. Racing is the reason. More specifically, racing 1500 meters is the reason. During a competitive 1500 meter race, there is no time to think. You rely on your instincts to react appropriately to everything happening around you. If you instincts are wrong or if you hesitate to act, tough luck. Your next opportunity is weeks or maybe even months away. Despite that, I keep coming back for more. It’s what makes the sport so frustrating but so exciting at the same time. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than when the pieces fall into place, and all the miles pay off. If you think of something, please let me know!