Monday, May 7, 2012


Written by Madeline Bost
Originally Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, May 6, 2012
Copyright, Madeline Bost, 2012

Youssef Rochdi, 28, an immigrant from Morocco who now calls Morris Plains New Jersey home is a man with a mission.  Despite long hours as a delivery man, and not enough hours to train, his mission is to make it to the top in road racing.  No, not in New Jersey, but in the elite world of national and international competition.

Rochdi was the winner of this past Saturday’s USATF New Jersey 15K championship at the Clinton Country Run.  That puts him solidly in the category of elite New Jersey runner, out stepping Michael Dixon of Fanwood, 51:03 to 51:16.

Rochdi looked comfortable winning the race and he said that it was not difficult to maintain the lead.  On the track he does one mile repeats in 4:42, so the 5:28 pace over 9.3 miles had to be in his words, a convenient pace.

In Morocco Rochdi was a track racer, specializing in the mile and the 5,000 meters.  On the track he has run 3:57 and 13:42, respectively.   His heart is still on the track but he now runs road races in order to help support himself with prize money.

Purses are not big enough to support any but the most elite and Rochdi does not fall into that category yet.  When he came to the US a few years ago, he was first injured and then was unable to do the training that he needed to be competitive.  In 2009 and 2010 Rochdi said that he was working 60 to 70 hours a week and it clearly was an impediment to his running and racing ability.

“I did not have to work to support myself in Morocco, so it was easier,” said Rochdi.  “When I came to America I had to support myself.”

Up  at 5:00 a.m., he gets in an hour or so of easy running.  His evening runs are speed workouts.  Twenty miles in a day when he does his doubles adds up to a lot of miles each week.

Rochdi had an unpleasant experience recently when he came to a local high school to do his track workout.  Although he arrived after six in the evening, as he had been told was the rule for non-students, he was barred from using the track.  Although the experience was upsetting he said that he will run on a different track that is more hospitable to non-students.

Youssef‘s goal for 2012 is to run 14:37 on the roads and he thinks that is doable at the President’s Cup Night Race in Millburn in June.  The eight o’clock in the evening is a good fit for him.

“I like to run in the evening and not in the morning,” he said.  “My body is used to it and it is awake in the evening.”

Rochdi has a full schedule in addition to his running and work.  He is taking classes at County College of Morris in physical therapy although his schooling in Morocco was in law.  He has attained his certificate as a USATF Level 1 coach and he coaches at the West Essex YMCA. 

Rochdi would like to be training in Albuquerque New Mexico where he could benefit from the high altitude that helps other elite athletes.  He would love to be the first New Jersey runner to win the ING New York City Marathon, a very lofty goal, but one that he sees as possible if he could devote all of his energies to his training.  Three months in New Mexico could make it possible, he thinks.

“I’d like to go over 160 miles per week,” he said.  “The high mileage is a sure improvement for long distance running, especially at altitude.”

Rochdi is friends with Mo Trafeh who won the USATF half marathon in 2011, out sprinting Ryan Hall for the win.  Clearly Trafeh has inspired Rochdi that with hard work and high mileage he too can be a top runner.

When Rochdi gets discouraged and depressed he thinks about Trafeh and the other Moroccan runners who have come to the United States and have done well; people like Khalid Kannouchi, and Fouzi Aloui who have both raced in New Jersey.

Rochdi is at the Our House Five Miler today in Summit, which is the USATF New Jersey open men and women’s championship.  Next week he will be at the Newport 10,000 in Jersey City.
At the Newport 10,000 last year in Jersey City, Rochdi did not run the race competitively and in fact did not actually cross the finish line until nearly an hour and a half had passed.  This year will be a different story and he hopes to get close to thirty minutes.

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