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All in Stride: Q&A with Johanna Garton

On April 2, Johanna Garton released her sports biography All in Stride: A Journey in Running, Courage, and the Search for the American Dream, a powerfully-written account of pursuing the American Dream, and the inspiring stories of Shadrack Kipchirchir, Elvin Kibet, and Sammy Schultz.

What is All in Stride about? Can you give us a brief overview of what readers can expect to find in your book?

All in Stride is the story of American professional distance runners Elvin Kibet and Shadrack Kipchirchir. The two are married, professional distance runners living in Colorado Springs. In many ways, they are like so many other Coloradans. They both love being active, and they adore exploring Colorado’s trails and outdoor lifestyle. Like so many of us, they juggle their athletic pursuits with being parents and other jobs. Elvin is currently a sergeant in the United States Army and Shadrack is an Olympian and is sponsored by Puma, so they both have responsibilities outside of running and parenting. 

What makes this life of theirs so unique is where it started and what they had to overcome to reach this moment. They both came from incredibly humble backgrounds in rural Kenyan farming villages and made their way to the United States in their late teenage years. What happened in those early years in Kenya is described in the first part of All in Stride. How they created their lives here in the United States and ended up as Coloradans is the second part of the book. 

What inspired you to write All in Stride

I learned about the Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2021 and met Shadrack at one of the team’s track workouts. As he began telling me his story, I became fascinated with all the different layers there were to explore. The journey to the United States, the military component, the many challenges facing professional distance runners and of course the love story. By the time I met Elvin, I was convinced this was a story I wanted to tell.

Can you share some insights into your writing process for this book? Were there any hurdles or major triumphs throughout the process?

Many hurdles, indeed. It took quite a long time to find the right publishing house, which is always the first big task for lesser-known authors. Once that was accomplished, there was a pretty intense period of research that took many twists and turns because the story initially involved four main subjects. Each of them had major life drama while I was writing which impacted the direction the story took, naturally. At one point, one of the subjects pulled out all together. 

In terms of triumphs, I was able to spend a big chunk of time in Kenya doing research, which ended up being critical. And it goes without saying that the greatest triumph is just waking up the morning the book is finally released. 

How was the experience working with Elvin Kibet, Shadrack Kipchirchir, and Samantha Schultz and sharing their stories through your book?

The four of us each went through highs and lows in the three years we worked on the book and became very close in the process. As with any process, it took some time for them to trust me, but once they did, they were all in, and wanted to share their vulnerabilities as well as their joy, which I always think makes for a more compelling story. 

What impact did Kibet, Kipchirchir, and Schultzs’ stories have on you?

In many ways, they helped me understand and value my own role in sports and in running, and probably helped me to let go of the standards I held myself to as an athlete. We tend to hold pro athletes in high regard that it’s easy for forget they’re just human like the rest of us. Seeing how they navigated challenges was moving, how they respected their bodies and learned how to rest when they needed to. They’ve all found ways to carve out roles for themselves in sports beyond competition, and that has helped me appreciate my own role as a storyteller.

Do you have a favorite chapter or section in All in Stride? If so, what makes it special to you?

My favorite chapter is probably Shadrack’s participation as a pace setter for Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to break the two-hour marathon. We all know how that turned out but writing that scene from a behind-the-curtain perspective was a total joy. I geeked out big time on that one. 

As this book is “more than a running or sports story”, what impact do you hope has both in and outside of the athletics community? How do you hope readers will be impacted or inspired by the stories shared in your book?

I hope that people will spend more time thinking about their perceptions of what it means to be an American. As our country’s demographics continue to change and become more vibrant, I think it’s important for us to always reflect on the journeys we ALL had to become part of the American tapestry. 



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