Podcast: Episode 5 with Nick Symmonds


“I’m a gamer. And anyone who trained with me in my 12-year [professional] career would laugh when I say that I’m really bad in workouts. Because they used to say, ‘I would kick your ass every single Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but I can’t beat you in a race.’ And it’s true. I was really lazy in workouts but when it came time to race, especially if something mattered, I just could take it to that next level. Some sports psychologists would argue that that was my secret weapon—that I only dug deep maybe four or five times a season. I could give you a 90-percent effort, maybe even a 95-percent effort, but I really only dug deep the few times that it actually mattered, and that saved me both mentally and physically, and allowed me to have a much longer career.”

Two-time Olympian, six-time national champion, and 2013 world championships 800m silver medalist Nick Symmonds comes on the podcast for a candid conversation covering a wide range of topics. We discuss his retirement from track and field, his recent foray into marathon training and racing, and the similarities and differences that exist between the two pursuits. We also talk about entrepreneurship, the origin and mission of his company, Run Gum, reflect on his progression from decent college runner to world-class athlete, and dive into how he has dealt with pressure and overcoming nerves throughout his career.

“The one commonality was that on both the 800m start line and on the marathon start line, the thought is, ‘this is gonna hurt really bad.’ And they do, in different ways, but they both really really hurt and there’s no way around that,” explains Symmonds. “But there’s another aspect on the 800m start line that was, ‘this matters.’ That was extremely important for my career, my family. There’s sometimes potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. It matters—it’s really important that you have a good showing. In the marathon, I was just doing it for myself. I wasn’t doing it for sponsors or for money or for anybody else. I wanted to go prove to myself that I could run 26.2 miles. So it was a lot less pressure and pressure equals nerves in those kinds of situations. It was just fun.”

Also in this episode, Symmonds and I get into the sponsorship and marketing side of the sport, we attempt to unpack the antiquated ways of governing bodies, and talk about who—and what—is exciting him in running these days. Additionally, we look back at his relationship with coaches Frank Gagliano, Mark Rowland, and Danny Mackey, what he learned from each of them, how he’d like to be remembered as both an athlete and a person, and much, much more.

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Related links, references, and resources:

— Follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram.

— Visit Nick’s website and check out Run Gum, the company he co-founded in 2014 and runs today as CEO.

— Want to join Nick at the Eugene Marathon? Enter this rad sweepstakes for a chance to win “the ultimate Eugene running experience.”

— “Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, running finds its way into your heart. Even when you are no longer training for anything, in particular, you will crave the run.” Dear Younger Me: Symmonds in a 2017 letter to his 14-year-old self.

How bad to you want it? My 2015 column for Competitor on Symmonds’ decision to not represent the U.S. at that summer’s world championships because he refused to sign a statement of conditions required by USA Track & Field.

— “My legs ached, my back ached, and after the two Big Macs I greedily devoured in the cafeteria, my stomach ached. When I finally made it back to my room I collapsed and slept for twelve hours. I awoke the next morning feeling physically beat up and emotionally drained. This was definitely not how I wanted to feel going into the biggest race of my life.” Excerpt from Symmonds’ 2014 book, Life Outside The Oval Office.

— Olympic Runner Nick Symmonds has dream date with Paris Hilton. “I feel privileged to have had her attention to myself for 90 minutes,” Symmonds said. “On the way out, I walked her to her red Ferrari. I had to leave from there to go to LAX, but when I got home I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from her with her phone number attached.”

— Symmonds sells ad space on his arm for nearly $22K to T-Mobile CEO John Legere. “American runners like Nick don’t get the recognition—or compensation—they deserve,” Legere told Runner’s World. “These people are absolutely amazing athletes. Also, Nick’s eBay auction was hilarious.”

— “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights,” Symmonds told CNN. “If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.” Symmonds blasts Russia’s gay “propaganda” law after winning a silver medal in the 800m at the 2013 world championships in Moscow.

This episode of the morning shakeout podcast was edited by John Isaac at BaresRecords.com.

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