Quantitative analyst by day, Olympic-qualifying runner by night (or non-working hours, that is). Brett recently won the J.P. Morgan Challenge in Chicago, finishing the 3.5 mile race in 17 minutes and 26 seconds. We chatted with Brett about his running career and the upcoming Olympic trials.
Running has become a way of life for Brett Lustgarten, who started racing with his middle school cross country and track teams. He stuck with the sport through high school and at the University of Illinois, where he joined the club running team. After college, it only seemed natural for Brett to keep going.
“When I first started my career, I didn’t realize I’d have more free time in my professional life than I had in college. I felt like I had a lot of time to fill and running is how I chose to fill it,” he says.
As a quantitative analyst at Cboe, Brett spends his days maintaining Cboe’s current indexes, working with Cboe’s clients on developing new index ideas – his favorite part of the job. “It’s interesting to think of all the different indexes Cboe has created and even what our competitors have done. Before I joined Cboe, I used to always wonder, ‘How did these people come up with this?’”
Besides the intellectual stimuli, working at Cboe has afforded Brett a work/life balance that makes it possible to travel for races and keep up with a rigorous training schedule. His manager, Bruce Traan, is extra supportive of his running needs. “Bruce is always encouraging me to run everywhere, so that gives me an advantage,” Brett said. “My whole team was begging me to coach them for the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge -- it’s kind of funny.” More than 40 Cboe associates joined Brett but he quickly left them in the dust.
Brett certainly has the experience to back up his future Team Cboe coaching career. He has run 13 marathons and recently ran his fastest 26.2 miles ever at the Chicago Marathon, finishing the race in an amazing 2:17:17, which qualified him to try out for the Olympics.
Rather than picking a race and training for it, Brett trains constantly and worries about the specifics later. He jokes about his lack of planning, but his unusual approach has taken him to some unique places. “I’ve been to Houston, Sacramento, all over Illinois and the Midwest. I haven’t been anywhere international yet – but I do want to plan for that eventually,” he said.
Brett has less than a year to fine-tune his training before he checks another destination off his list and heads to Atlanta for U.S. Olympic team try-outs on February 29, 2020 – coincidentally Leap Day. Though Brett has been running since he was 13, he never thought much about trying out for the Olympics, only realizing it was achievable in the last year or two. He then dedicated himself to accomplishing his goal.
“I just decided to train a little harder, more consistently and take it a little more seriously,” he said. Though Brett isn’t confident he’ll be one of the top three finishers that make it to the 2020 Olympics, he’s excited about the experience of running with Olympic qualifiers and seeing familiar faces he’s met through other races.
We couldn’t be more thrilled for Brett and wish him all the luck as his training unfolds. And for fellow Olympics-hopefuls who are new to running, Brett suggests starting slow: “It definitely takes a lot of dedication. It’s not something you can pick up overnight. Run as slow as you have to, for as long as you can until you get used to it. Then keep going.”