By the Numbers
I’ve been a runner for over 23 years now, but it wasn’t always a passion of mine. I grew up playing all kinds of sports: baseball, basketball, hockey, golf – but it wasn’t until I started running that my life began to take shape.
Entering high school, my focus was still very much on basketball as my primary sport. I joined the cross country team in an effort to build fitness in preparation for the winter basketball season, however neglecting to touch a basketball for 6 months during cross country season led to me being cut from team tryouts. This became an important turning point in my life, and I began to identify myself as a runner instead of a baller.
I was a rubbish runner when I started, often straggling in the back of the pack during workouts and races and, while it was humbling, I began to see slow improvements in performance over my first season. By my Sophomore year, I was on the cusp of the varsity team and was able to travel with them as an alternate during the post-season where we placed 2nd at the State meet. The following year, I began daydreaming with my teammates of winning the state title in 1998. The mentality of the team shifted from improving our own individual performances to chasing this shared goal of a team championship.
This was my first real experience with group flow, where each of us helped the others do what we could to achieve the end-goal. During the season a mantra evolved: “One more for Maranatha” (the team that had beaten us the year before), and the “optional” extra repeats at the end of workouts became expected that we would all do it. All of that extra work paid off in, not only the team championship title, but one of the largest point-spreads in California state meet history. We repeated the next season, and while winning was a blast, it was the journey of planning, training, and realizing an end-goal as a team that became an important part of my identity.
Fork in the Road
I attended Pepperdine University for undergraduate studies and was a 3-year varsity member of their DI cross country team. However, my experience in that team dynamic could not have been further from my high school experience. This team was comprised of a group of individuals chasing individual improvement, better placing within the team, with almost no focus on external competition. It led to a really dysfunctional team dynamic that quickly grew toxic. In-fighting between teammates became the norm, placing blame on individual athletes for poor team performances, and a general lack of interest in improving the situation overtook the team. This mentality was not limited to the athletes alone, in fact I would argue the mentality stemmed from the coaching staff who seldom looked at their own training plans and preparation as a root cause for poor performances. Instead, athletes were publicly shamed for underperforming at races.
The dynamic was so toxic, especially following my junior year season when the after-season feedback I received from my coaches (in front of my teammates) was that my “legs were too big” coming into training camp – after having logged over 1200 miles in the summer and being far-and-away the fittest team member. It was that shortsighted feedback, which focused on my appearance compared to the prototypical distance runner, that convinced me that I had enough. I quit the next day.
With the extra free time I had without scheduled practices and training, I took up a part-time job at local running store. While my spirit to compete was damaged, I still very much loved the sport of running and the interactions I had at work with runners of all abilities helped to reinforce my love for the sport.
It was during this time that I first began trail running. Trail running provided me so much more enjoyment than competitive running ever did. The freeness and connection to nature I found while exploring the hills and mountains around me was truly motivating. Bagging a new summit became more fulfilling than new PRs, and I soon began to tack-on additional miles to my trail runs simply because I didn’t want to stop.
If You Want to Go Far, Go Together
As I grew older, my career path began to take shape in the form of a manager position at a local agency. It was a great opportunity for me to build on a skillset that I had established during my time as Director of Marketing at the running store, and I learned the ins and outs of performance digital marketing. I very much enjoyed how dynamic the SEO industry was and how I was continually learning new strategies to adapt to Google’s ever-changing algorithm. However, the clients I was working with were not the most exciting. I felt a severe detachment from the brands and products I was representing, and I began to feel frustrated in my career. “I have so much more to offer beyond search engine optimization,” I thought to myself. “I wish I could work brand-side for a company that really matches my passions and values.” This disconnection of purpose and career led to some pretty unhappy times in my life. I off-set the unhappiness by making sure I spent my time away from work doing that things that really made me happy – mostly running.
Blazing My Own Trail (with the help of others)
The last 17 months have been nothing short of amazing. Being back in school has filled my soul with so much happiness and gratitude for the good fortune I’ve had to chase this dream. Here, I have been able to learn so much about the business of sports and sports product, including areas that I never expected to be excited about (like supply chain management). The excitement I felt on day one of orientation has never diminished. I still come to class every day with the same excitement to absorb knowledge and better myself, add to discussion, and learn from the brilliant classmates around me.
It has also provided me an opportunity to share and teach. Being the eldest member of the class means I also have the most professional experience, so there have been plenty of chances for me to share the details of, not only digital marketing, but of professional life & office dynamics that will benefit those new to corporate life.
I’ve also been blessed with a team of incredible individuals that have become family to me. Our program-long capstone project, Lemolo, has been an incredible opportunity to apply the in-class learnings to a real-world product concept and collaborate with a group of incredibly talented, smart, and kind teammates. I thrive in great team environments, and this experience has been the best I’ve been a part of.
But what this program has provided most of all is renewed vision and purpose for my life. I no longer want to simply be a cog in a wheel of a company, but a real change-maker, thought-leader, and integral team member. I want to help create meaningful performance products that solve a clear need in the market in an ethical and responsible way, and I want to help tell that story to the consumer.
We’ll have to see what the next chapter has in store for me, but I’m excited to apply everything I have learned so far to a role and company that truly makes a difference in the lives of athletes and outdoorsmen worldwide.