Life as a British Elite Runner in America

Honesty

First….a little background

Most of you know that I work full time for Runners Connect (UPDATE: I stopped working for Runners Connect in March 2017.) That is a little different to a lot of runners at my level, as American elites are able to dedicate their a larger chunk of their time to chasing down those running dreams, or they may have a part time job. Depending on the level you are at, and how much you like to be at home.

Outdoor Nationals 2012 (103)Had I been an American citizen, I would have come out of college with my 16:08 and 33:24, and probably gone to one of the professional training groups to develop as a runner; Zap Fitness, Hanson Brooks, Team USA Minnesota, maybe even Mammoth. I was….am dedicated and determined, and I would have loved the opportunity to run for one of those groups to really see what I can do.

However, I am not an American citizen, and therefore these doors all closed on me. I completely understand why; it is not fair for these American development groups to allow an international runner to join them. If they let me in, then how would that be fair that they let someone else in who is from a different country? Before you know it, these American development groups would be full of international athletes.

Just because I have blonde hair and blue eyes, does not mean I should be given an exception. As frustrating as it was, it shows a lot about those groups that they stuck to their morals. I admire that.

Flying solo, before Saucony came along.....Kim Smith was in this race! I ran from the back to run a 16:13 (not bad for my first indoor race of 2013!)

Flying solo, before Saucony came along…..Kim Smith was in this race! I ran from the back to run a 16:13 (not bad for my first indoor race of 2013!)

Either way, I was left without a sponsor, without a group, and I was not sure what to do with my running. All I knew was that I wanted to keep running. Quitting running was never an option. In England there is no drop off after University, everyone keeps running! If people drop off, it is usually that first year of University, where the party lifestyle seems just a little too tempting.

After a few months of running for myself. It was suggested to me that I should apply for the Saucony Hurricanes; a sub elite group sponsored by Saucony where I could at least get some shoes paid for. I jumped at the chance, and was accepted a few months later.

Although this was not the full time support I had hoped for, it helped me to know that I had at least some support paying for some of my running necessities, shoes being the most important expense of running! I am also able to enter most races free of charge, and I am given the elite benefits at the bigger races, such as Chicago Marathon and Cherry Blossom 10 Mile.

Two years later I was still a Hurricane, even when they cut the amount of athletes they were supporting down to only 70 (from 300 applicants).

I am so grateful for this opportunity. If I was in England, I would not have any support from sponsors or anyone really……other than obviously family and friends!

County Championships 2004

One of the only photos I have of me racing in England….I think I was about 16 here

At home they are very selective about who they provide funding to, and realistically, I just would not be good enough. It has often frustrated me as I would love to have had the opportunity to run for Great Britain, and really see what I can do, but things are just run very differently there; athletes are often not selected based on a trial, but more based on experience.

So long story short, this means that yes, when I was an elite runner I did not have access to a lot of the resources that most elites do; I paid for my own Active Release Therapy/Massages, I paid for my own travel to most races, I did not have a special physical therapist who I could see if something was wrong to diagnose exactly what is wrong immediately. BUT in some ways I thought this is a good thing, it made me even more determined to reach that next level to where I could receive full sponsorship, where I could get that Great Britain jersey in my hand.

I am not sure I could handle the lifestyle of a true professional runner anyway, I do not do very well with not being productive and resting……hence my meltdowns this summer! It is very easy for professional runners to fall into the trap of becoming obsessed with running, as your life revolves around it. I have been there, and it was NOT good!

Don’t get me wrong, they work INCREDIBLY hard, and know when they stand on that start line that they have given themselves every single opportunity to be the best they can be, which I cannot claim the same….especially as I am not very good at relaxing! But I am just not sure that lifestyle is for me. I would need to do something, at least with my mind, which is why I am enjoying working.

Whoops! Well I guess this is already a post in itself, so much for a day in the life of…..guess you will have to wait a little longer for that one 🙂 Now you know my background, and how I got to the point I am at today.

Have you ever allowed yourself to become obsessed with your hobby? Who are you most thankful for in your support network?

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21 Comments. Leave new

  • This is so interesting. I had no idea that elite life is so different in England/Europe. And yes, I wish running was as popular as say basketball, football or even golf in this country. If it were, you would have amazing sponsorships (as you should!) and could probably focus a little more on running while enjoying some well deserved perks. That said, I commend you for your dedication to the sport and the sacrifices you’re making as an athlete. You continue to be a daily inspiration for me!

  • This was really interesting! I had no idea of all of the background relating to elite sponsorships. The fact that you have to do so much more on your own just makes you more amazing in my mind friend! Keep moving forward-Have a great day!

  • I like the fact that you have to pay some of your own way–that means you get to be more discerning in your choices, less willing to just take what is offered because they have the highest price. Though of course I understand the frustration of not feeling like you are included–I of course understand that. By no means the same thing, but I lived in Virginia for years but was a resident of Georgia–so all of the benefits that my friends go as “in state” people, I just got to wave at from afar. But it kept me tied to my roots, and for that I am grateful. Cheers to your dedication!

  • Very informative as I am sure most people do not know or realize the inside life of professional runners and the requirements, especially if you aren’t a citizen!

  • I loved hearing what it’s like to compete at your level. What I loved more was hearing how positively you work through your challenges and don’t allow them to be a road block on your path to fulfill your dreams. xoxo

  • It’s so interesting to read about your life and how you make running work for you. I’m glad you have been able to at least connect with Saucony and I hope that sponsorship continues!

  • I had no idea! This was a great article Tina. I hope someone steps up to help you even more. Great things are ahead for you!

  • This is a really awesome article. I have always wondered how different regions handled stuff like this, what with the prevalence of corporations and such here in America. My eyes have been opened. 🙂

    And as for that job with RunnersConnect, can I mention how jealous I am of that? Maybe even more so than the Saucony sponsorship, haha. 😉

  • Very interesting! I had no idea of the differences between England and the US. I can see that how what you’re doing now would be much less stressful than constantly worrying about being dropped. I don’t know how anyone can handle that stress. Thanks for sharing!

  • I didn’t know that things were so different between England and the States when it came to running. Or that so many doors would be closed to you here. I mean, I guess it makes sense, but it must be frustrating… Still, I think it’s awesome that you keep persevering regardless. It just shows your determination and drive, and that’s super valuable in and of itself.

  • Wow! That’s crazy all the differences! Good for you for pursuing what you love!

  • It’s so interesting to learn about how elite running is different in other countries. The way you’re approaching it now is really admirable, and I think it’s awesome how you are able to write for Runner’s Connect as well as have a Saucony sponsorship. You’re so inspiring and I love reading your blog! Have a great weekend!

  • It’s so funny to see you in a shoe other than a Saucony, haha! I’m so glad that you’re able to find a way to make things work for you so that you can pursue your running dreams. I hope someday you’ll be able to race for Great Britain, too! 😀

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    February 6, 2015 2:59 pm

    Very interesting…I didn’t realize that certain groups didn’t allow runners from other countries to join although I guess it makes sense. But it seems like being able to work at Runners Connect is great fit for you! I am not good at resting either:)

  • I really enjoy hearing the story of how it all began for you. You work so hard Tina, I am such a huge fan. Keep these stories coming, it’s so fun to learn more about you. xo

  • Martina Di Marco
    February 6, 2015 8:53 pm

    I admire your determination and I really hope you’ll be able to represent Great Britain in the near future! It has nothing to do with running, but I still kind of understand where you come from. Just like you, I moved to the US to attend college and, right after I graduated, I had 90 days to find a job otherwise… bye bye US! In the end, I was lucky enough to find a job that provided me with the working visa that I so desperately wanted! It wasn’t easy, but it happened. Im sure things will work out for you!!!

  • I loved reading this Tina. You are so humble and such a kind person. I have never met you, but I feel that aura about you. It is so refreshing and wonderful! Totally did not know how it worked with international athletes living here. I think its so great that you work for Runner’s Connect – it all just ties into your training. Wishing you all the best in your London training! Thanks for writing and inspiring us daily 🙂

  • Heather @fitncookies
    February 7, 2015 1:49 pm

    I had no idea all these differences between the states and in England. I am so happy you were able to be a Saucony rep and hope you continue to!

  • I feel sure that Saucony will continue to sponsor you – they can see talent!!!
    I enjoyed reading this because I didn’t realize that there were groups that you couldn’t be part of because you aren’t an American citizen. Actually, I know very little about the entire elite world and love learning more and more through you!!!

  • I am just catching up on your blog Tina and this is so interesting. I had no idea about all of these things you constantly had to face. It’s obvious you are making the best choices you can and that is truly admirable. Thanks for sharing.

  • I missed this earlier in the week, but used the link you included in today’s post….anyway, how interesting! I’m sorry your options are more limited, but it does make sense. I think you are right, your accomplishments will be more meaningful to you because you did fought your own way there. It also sounds like RC is a good fit and allows you to diversify your day a little more….maybe it’s all meant to be 🙂

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