Renton runner races to the top of the world

Joseph Gray knows what it takes to be a world-class mountain runner. Miles, miles and more miles. Then, when he thinks he’s done, a few more miles for good measure.

Joseph Gray of Renton runs untold miles in the region in his quest for world championships. All the hard work paid off Sunday

Joseph Gray knows what it takes to be a world-class mountain runner. Miles, miles and more miles. Then, when he thinks he’s done, a few more miles for good measure.

Gray, 28, recently moved to Renton and is one of the world’s best runners. He’s represented the United States on 11 world teams, won more races than he can count and took 14th at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy earlier this year.

Then, just this Sunday, he won the men’s 25-29 division at the XTERRA Trail Running World Championship at Kualoa Ranch in Kaaawa, O’ahu (Hawaii) in a time of 1:21:58.

He also tied with Ben Bruce of Flagstaff, Ariz., to win the overall World Championship title in XTERRA’s closest-ever race.

It’s the first time he’s won a trail running world championship title.

Gray has been a threat at the mountain running championships since 2008. Since then he hasn’t finished lower than 16th and has come in as high as 10th.

He went to high school in Lakewood, where he ran cross country and track in high school. He earned a running scholarship at Oklahoma State University, where he qualified for nationals four times in cross country and twice in track.

After graduating he started running professionally, but it wasn’t easy early on.

“I was improving in college, but I wasn’t the guy who was a national champion,” Gray said. “So the big companies aren’t going to come after you right away.”

So Gray found a couple of smaller companies that would lend him some support and went down the trail of trying to work and run professionally.

“At that point you either get better or you get worse,” he said. “If you get better, you can start demanding more things.”

He got better. Gray is now sponsored by Scott Sports, Mio Global, Garden of Life and Club Northwest, and is able to run full time.

Even runners at Gray’s level can get sick of it. At the World 50K championships this year, Gray was having a tough time with the hot weather and the repetitive loop course.

“It got to a point where I was just sick of it,” he said. “Mentally it starts to wear you down. But you just have to work through it.”

Gray’s training weeks include anywhere from 60 to 120 miles of running. That’s running every day, often more than once. And it’s something he’s hoping to carry on as long as possible.

“It will always be a part of my life,” he said. “As far as professionally, if I’m 45 and a company wants to sponsor me, then I’ll do it.”

After running, Gray is interested in working for the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

“It’s important for youth coming up to know that it’s not OK to dope,” he said. He also said his experience as a pro would give him an edge.

“I know how other athletes are slipping through the cracks. I’m around them and I can see what’s going on. I’m not blind.”

More in Sports

Hazen defeats Kentlake football

Hazen High School faced off against Kentlake High School on Thursday Oct.… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of Victor Yee. The Hazen girls golf team is taking home the championship banner for the first time in its history.
Hazen girls golf wins a banner

Before this season, golf was the only sport in the Hazen high… Continue reading

Hazen High School’s male Athlete of the Week

Hazen High School’s Tim Tuemmler, tennis, was chosen as the Renton Reporter’s… Continue reading

Hazen High School’s female Athlete of the Week

Hazen High School’s Makena Kiellsen, soccer, was chosen as the Renton Reporter’s… Continue reading

Renton celebrates homecoming

Renton High School’s football players were cheered on by friends, family and… Continue reading

Reporter Athlete of the Week: Taylor Marks

Each week The Renton Reporter highlights exceptional student athletes

Reporter Athlete of the Week: Stephanie Martz

Each week The Renton Reporter highlights exceptional student athletes

Reporter Athlete of the Week: Ben Walter

Each week The Renton Reporter highlights exceptional student athletes

Photos by Haley Ausbun.
                                Football season is back. In a cross-town rivalry game, the Lindbergh Eagles and Hazen Highlanders went head-to-head Friday, Sept. 6 at Renton Memorial Stadium. Away-team Highlanders held the win, 36-14.
Cross-town game starts football season

Highlanders take the win over the Eagles

Don Erickson, pictured here, is the current leader at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships. Photo courtesy of United States Bowling Congress.
He could have called it quits, but now he’s the area’s top bowler

Don Erickson is he current leader at the 2019 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships

The first ever Male Athlete of the Year for the Renton Reporter went to Jake Wright, left. He was awarded a plaque by Renton Reporter editor Danielle Chastaine (right).
                                Photo by Haley Ausbun
This Athlete of the Year is becoming a Cougar in the fall

After an exciting run this year, Liberty senior and football star Jake… Continue reading

The first ever Female Athlete of the Year for the Renton Reporter, Lia Evans (right) is awarded a plague from the Renton Reporter’s editor Danielle Chastaine (left).
                                Photo by Haley Ausbun
Lindbergh Fastpitch player is the first Female Athlete of the Year

Lindbergh High School junior Lia Evans wants sports fans to pay more… Continue reading