I have always gotten a lot out of being part of a sports team. Although running is, at its core, an individual activity, a large part of why I enjoy running is the social aspect. Working with other athletes makes the long hours and the pain of work-outs and races so much easier to handle.
I’ve always tried to be a good teammate. I am hard-working and loyal. I make personal sacrifices for the good of the team, ranging from minor inconveniencies (waiting for around for perpetually late teammates), to things that seem like a bigger deal than they are (leaving early from both proms in high school in order to get enough sleep for club soccer state championship games), to events which had long-term negative health consequences (running my first track 5k at the Indoor Big Ten Championship in 2008 to ensure the team win, after racing the mile and 3k). Most of these sacrifices are not a big deal because of the larger advantages to being on a team.
I moved to Seattle last fall for several reasons, all having to with running and being part of the Brooks Beast training group. A huge draw to the new Brooks program was the emphasis on being a team. Athletes on the team meet six days a week, live together on altitude and European trips, and travel together whenever possible. I was looking forward to training and flourishing as a team, at least through 2016. I was completely confident in my move and with my security as a Brooks Beast through the next Olympic cycle because of the team emphasis, because Brooks has treated their athletes well in the past, even if they have been injured or not racing well, and because I was sure Brooks would want to keep me around as I am a good teammate, and I am one of the best steeplechasers in the U.S.
In October I was told my 2014 contract would not be renewed, but I was promised there was still be a position and some resources for me on the team. I decided to stay on the team because of the other support systems. But then I was told mid-December I was no longer part of the Beast team. Meaning I no longer had a coach, teammates, or the basic support systems in place needed to be a professional athlete.
Now here I am, feeling alone and abandoned in Seattle. The collegiate system can be pretty abusive, but at least there are some mechanisms in place to pressure coaches to be fair to their athletes in terms of scholarship, travel, and medical access. I was ready to be a Beast, through thick and thin, and now I’m scrambling, trying to piece together a way to continue training. There are no effective methods to pressure shoe companies to treat their athletes well or fairly. The pool of resources of professional athletes is too small for all the talented runners looking for help.
I thought about quitting. I thought about moving somewhere else. But I still have a fire to see what I can accomplish in the next couple years, and I’m ready to stick it out in Seattle at least a bit longer. I’m starting to piece together a much less formal support structure outside of Brooks. A new team is forming in some unexpected ways.
My boyfriend has promised to be a workout partner whenever I need it. Club Northwest, a Seattle non-profit running club has taken me on as an athlete and provided a stipend. Saul Kinderis, the former president of Club Northwest, has already bought me plane tickets to the Payton Jordan Invitational and USATF High Performance meet, out of his own pocket. I’m meeting many of the elite female runners in the area for recovery runs and perhaps workouts, once I’m in better shape.