Provided by the New York Road Runners
Congratulations on your decision to continue your running career as a post-collegiate athlete! Ours is the greatest sport in the world, and New York Road Runners is constantly looking for ways to support and promote not only the superstars of the sport, but also the up-and-comers.
As you transition into post-collegiate running, there are a number of important decisions you’ll need to make: Who will coach you? Will you require the services of an agent? Will you move to a new location for training? How will you support yourself financially? Whatever your answers to these questions may be, you’ll eventually need to start competing in some races.
The pro athlete community is larger and more competitive than it has ever been, and every race out there has a finite budget and ability to host athletes, so competition for prize money, travel expenses, and even free race entries is fierce. Almost as important as the hard training you’ll need to do to improve as an athlete, you’ll need to find ways to make yourself stand out among the competition.
Start Early…But Not Too Early
At New York Road Runners, only a small handful of our 50+ annual events have the budget and planning support for a professional athlete component, and we begin figuring out our “pro-athlete strategy” months in advance—in the case of the ING New York City Marathon, sometimes we’re even looking years ahead! With about two months to go before race day, our fields are starting to take shape, and it becomes difficult to add additional athletes within four weeks of a race.
If you would like to be considered for an event (regardless of the race organizer), a good rule of thumb is to get in touch with the race’s elite athlete coordinator or race director two to three months in advance. Much sooner than that, though, and your inquiry may be too early to warrant an immediate reply. If the race you’re looking at is a marathon, you may wish to express interest even earlier than three months—as much as five or even six months in advance, depending on the size of the race.
Play Up Your Strengths
At this level, everybody can run fast, so we encourage you to think about what other things you can do to set yourself apart. We believe that putting the pro athletes in our events in front of fans and the media is an important part of promoting the sport, so we look for athletes who are friendly, can communicate well and are comfortable speaking with reporters, and are happy to appear at a clinic for recreational participants, attend a reception with VIPs and sponsors, or participate in a Q&A with a group of schoolchildren. What is it that you can bring to an event that sets you apart from the other athletes who also want to run?
Develop a Plan
Why do you want to compete post-collegiately? Do you believe you have what it takes to make an Olympic team in your event? Are you hoping to earn enough prize money to support yourself for a few years before settling down and finding a full-time job? Understanding what your goals are—and how certain races and events can serve as stepping stones to help you realize them—will help you develop a plan to get the very best out of yourself, both over the course of a season and over the course of a career. Every race you run should have a purpose (and it’s completely OK if that purpose is earning a little bit of prize money).
Know What to Expect
Every race is different in terms of what they look for when recruiting athletes to run, how they put together their athlete fields, and what they can offer athletes in exchange for their participation. Some events have rigid standards to qualify for free entry, travel assistance, and—in some instances—appearance fees. Others operate on a “first-come, first-served” model.
In the case of New York Road Runners, we look for athletes who can help us build a “narrative” around an event and make that event compelling for the media and spectators. Unfortunately, no race can take every single athlete who expresses interest in competing, and events are forced to turn away very good athletes all the time. If this happens, don’t take it personally because it likely has nothing to do with who you are as an athlete or as an individual. Move on, and find the next event that will help propel you towards your season and career goals.
Headquartered in New York City, New York Road Runners is dedicated to advancing the sport of running and enhancing health and fitness for all. The ING New York City Marathon, NYRR’s premier event, is the largest and most inclusive marathon in the world, attracting the world’s top professional runners every year and raising $30.8 million for charity in 2010. NYRR’s running-based youth programs, which currently serve more than 100,000 children in hundreds of schools and community centers, promote children’s health and fitness, character development, and personal achievement in underserved communities. For more information, visit www.nyrr.org