This weekend, I had the opportunity to attend this year’s RunPro Camp in Arlington, VA outside of Washington, D.C., hosted by the RRCA. It was a blast! The camp helps recent graduates navigate and learn about post-collegiate professional distance running. A series of discussions, led by people from all aspects of the sport, were held during the camp. As an NYRR employee, I have gotten a somewhat behind the scenes look at professional road racing, but it was great to learn a lot of new information and build upon prior knowledge from the perspective of an athlete trying to make it professionally in the sport!
All of the campers arrived on Thursday, and discussions were held on Friday and Saturday. Before the experience took off, I was able to meet up with friend and Syracuse teammate Andrew Palmer for dinner on Thursday night. We caught up over steak fajitas at the Rio–a favorite among the Syracuse squad that have previously lived in or visited Washington, D.C.
Friday began with a group run on the towpath, where our group experienced the speed of old Syracuse teammate and now D.C.-based professional runner Maegan Krifchin doing a workout. She was rolling! As a side note, look out for her in the coming months to post some big results! That day, we heard different talks from Team USA Minnesota’s Pat Goodwin, USATF’s Jim Estes giving an overview on the USATF Running Circuit, ZAP-Fitness professional athlete Tyler Pennel (who has been doing big things lately!), USADA‘s Jennifer Dodd on Anti-Doping Compliance, Jack Wickens on support, health insurance, grants, and being proactive off the track, agent Hawi Keflezighi on hiring an agent vs. self-representation, and Northern Arizona Elite‘s Coach Ben Rosario on building relationships in the running community and branding yourself. The day’s events concluded with a dinner hosted by the RRCA where Tyler Pennel and Team Riadha Mizuno‘s (based in D.C.) Sheree Shea gave a panel discussion on running professionally after college. Sheree also attended the camp last year, so it was great to get her perspective on things since she had previously been in our position. Our group of campers had a fun night hanging out afterwards and getting to know one other. Thankfully, we had Sheree with us to navigate the D.C. area!
— RRCA (@RRCAnational) July 10, 2015
Saturday began with another fun run. The guys ran on Theodore Roosevelt Island before heading to the National Mall to climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We then heard talks from Elite Athlete Recruiter Bill Orr on professional athlete recruitment and prize money and RRCA Executive Director Jean Knaack on taxes and finances and other races and resources our group could use to advance our running careers.
Before heading back to New York City, our group of campers hung out some more and explored the Georgetown area and Arlington, VA a bit. Yes, Georgetown Cupcakes was worth the line! I made some great new friends, and I am excited to see everyone at different races around the country!
Here are a few takeaways from the experience that really stood out to me that are beneficial for all up-and-coming professional distance runners:
1. Be cognizant of what you are putting into your body and understand USADA’s role in the sport: Now, more than ever, is an important time to be aware of the dietary supplements you are taking and make sure that you are following the rules of clean sport. It is the athlete’s responsibility to do their due diligence and follow the rules of USADA. USADA offers many resources for athletes to make sure that athletes are following the rules carefully. I am a huge advocate for clean sport and cannot stress the importance of being proactive with USADA and WADA enough!
2. Think outside the box for sponsorship opportunities and capitalize on what you use and know: Support can be hard to come by in our sports through sponsorships, but there are other avenues of sponsorship an athlete can take in addition to a mainstream shoe company sponsorship. Do you often use a different product or brand for your training that could be a potential sponsorship opportunity? Let companies know you are interested in product or brand endorsement! And, this doesn’t just have to be in the form of monetary compensation–it could be free product, equity, etc. Athletes have the ability to market themselves to new audiences through products they use in their training everyday.
3. Be Memorable: This was the first point Ben Rosario gave our group in his talk. It’s important to produce more than just results. Successful professional athletes are proactive off the track by giving back to their communities, being personable, and making great first impressions. How you represent yourself in the community outside of running fast is an important factor in being successful on the professional stage. Interact with others, make a lasting impression on your audiences, and be unique to help build your brand identity. It also important to be transparent about your journey through all of the ups and downs, not just the successes–be human and down to earth!
4. Be professional and personable with Elite Athlete Recruiters: Elite athlete recruiters work very hard to support professional athletes and they are extremely passionate about the sport. Developing relationships and being transparent with elite athlete recruiters for different races goes a long way. They want to see the athletes do well and work tirelessly to ensure that athletes have a great experience. If you connect with an elite athlete recruiter about a race you are interested in competing in, offer more insight about yourself than just your times, present your running resume in an organized manner, ask how you can help during race week or race day, and always give a personalized thank you. Which leads me to my final takeaway…
5. Say thank you!: Countless people in the sport spend a lot of their time and effort to elevate the sport and increase its visibility. Without these individuals, athletes would not have the opportunity to pursue their passions and dreams. Always let these individuals know that you are appreciative of their dedication, and make it personal and meaningful! A thank you can go a long way in establishing strong relationships with others and lets individuals know that there efforts are very valuable. You can say thank you in all experiences, especially since these experiences serve as steps, large or small, to achieving success in your professional running career.
— RRCA (@RRCAnational) July 10, 2015
With that said, thank you to everyone involved in this weekend’s RunPro Camp! I am so grateful that a program like RunPro Camp exists to elevate our sport to new levels and teach up-and-coming athletes the ropes of professional distance running. I would highly recommend this camp for anyone coming out of college who has a desire to continue their running careers. At first, I was nervous coming into this camp since I am a year out of college; however, there were many other campers in my position, which goes to show that there is always something new to learn and improve upon, regardless of experience level. If you are interested in running post-collegiately, be open to these kinds of experiences and know that there are so many people in the running community who want to see you succeed!
I’m excited to continue my running career, and as always, I am thankful for the support of the New York Athletic Club (NYAC), Brooks Running, Coach Fox, my teammates, colleagues, family, friends, and all who help to promote the sport of running and share its benefits with millions around the world.