Race Team Spotlight: Joey Elsakr and Ben Li

Ben Li (Middle) and Joey Elsakr (right) sport the titles of med students and nrc race team members.

When you browse through Joey Elsakr and Ben Li's training logs and race stats, its hard to believe they're also training to become doctors. The Vanderbilt Medical School students are not only making strides in the medical field, but also as members of Nashville Running Company's race team. Somehow, these two have found a way to balance the demands of two time consuming activities and find success in both outlets.

This duo met on their first night at a the annual Vanderbilt Medical School Barbeque. When they got to talking, they realized that they had more in common than just their desire to someday become doctors. Yes, they both enjoyed running, but they both had the same amount of drive and motivation to walk on the cross-country/track team at their undergraduate schools. For Ben, it was Harvard during his sophomore year. For Joey, it was Duke, also his sophomore year. At the time they met, they had both come off of epic senior years that included some big races. For both of them, they felt like they still had unfinished business in the race department.

This past January, they approached NRC store owner, Lee Wilson, and reminisced over similar college stories. Wilson was also a walk on at the University of Oregon and shares the same drive and determination that Joey and Ben do. They came as a package deal and have been making a splash in the Nashville running scene ever since.

“Running for a race team has enhanced this season of life. It’s made med school fun and exciting, I actually feel like I’m part of the community now. I feel more like a Nashvillian who happens to be in med school instead of the other way around.” Commented Li.

Although both Elsakr and Li were thankful for their opportunity to run at Duke and Harvard respectively, the two agree that running post-college is an even better experience. Now, the two are stronger runners and have the ability to plan their own workouts and embrace their strengths. They are also able to listen to their bodies and adjust to an indivualized training program. They have more control now, which allows them to plan the races that they truly want to attend. The two take turns planning workouts for each other and a few other medical school students that join them. Luckily, their schedules have matched up thus far in schooling. Waking up early doesn’t seem like such a hard sacrifice when they see the results in their racing.

Recently, Elsakr debuted his first marathon in Indianapolis. Monumental Marathon was windy, cold, and he was slightly nervous, but a few great months of training carried him through to get an unbelievable time. He averaged a 5:20 minute mile pace and ended up crossing the finish line with a time of 2:24:20.

Ben and Joey are the perfect example of how you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. Just because running is their priority doesn’t mean that medical school has been pushed to the back burner. The two coincide quite nicely, since both require an extra dose of motivation, commitment and passion.

Ben Li (Left) and Joey Elsakr (Right) racing side by side at ellie's run for Africa earlier this year.

“Go for it, you don’t know unless you try. If one person makes something a priority, then they can achieve it. For me, I’m never going to regret running, there will always be more studying and it can become consuming if you let it,” Advises Elsakr.