From Pack to ZAP: Going Pro

The transition from being in college to becoming a professional runner is one not talked about often.  That might be because it is a time you want to bury deep inside yourself because of all of the anxiety, angst, and self-questioning.  The best part of the transition is having everyone ask you what you are doing, now that you are graduated.  “Umm, well…I am still running and I am going to do that as my career now.”  That answer usually will bring, “Ohhh, how do you do that?”  After a long explanation of the ins and outs of sponsorship, training groups, and racing schedules, a puzzled look will still envelope the face of the person who asked you and you will be left only to accept the confusion all will face when regarding your profession. And that is not their fault or yours; professional running is a very unique situation that is seldom introduced to the masses, so it is unrealistic to expect people to understand everything.

Now to the transitional journey…after a sub-par collegiate outdoor season I was ready to get after it in Europe, while having Ray Flynn, my newly hired agent, work his magic and find the place for me to train in the future. I decided to bypass the U.S. Champs in order to focus towards Europe and hit the Heusden 5k hard. However, the politics in Heusden with race directors and European coaches ended up leaving a poorly paced slow second heat, when the first heat was obviously where a good amount of us belonged. Even though there was a great deal of disappointment in the European season, I learned a great deal about professional life and met a few handfuls of fantastic people, which is honestly much more valuable in the grand scheme of things. Belgium is also the first time where I was able to meet my current teammates Joe Stilin and George Alex.

(I will have a segment in the future to discuss in excruciating detail of my European travels and the more risqué aspects of travelling abroad in the future, but in order to stay on topic I will refrain……….. for now.)

Upon arrival in the good ole US & A I returned to my second home of Raleigh and then continued home to Williamsburg, VA. I was running in preparation for the Falmouth Road Race, but I was just extending and extending the season, so I was getting pretty exhausted. Thus, my time at home was rather exhausting both mentally and physically. My body was hitting its breaking point and my mind was shot from the constant fear of not being able to continue running because truthfully I did not know if people wanted me. Sitting around day after day just praying for the phone call from Ray saying, “guess what Andrew, you’re getting signed,” but that was not the case. Not to mention I was a 23-year college grad essentially living in limbo or an existential purgatory of sorts: I had put in the time running, but I was trapped in between collegiate living and professional life. I just hadn’t quite made it to “professionalism.” To be perfectly honest, it was quite depressing and it made me question my self-worth. I spent a lot of time thinking, and I mean a lot of time. However, in the middle of all of this self-loathing my parents were extremely supportive, which got me through Falmouth.

Then there was ZAP. Zapfitness was my light at the end of the tunnel, the Batman to my Gotham. I visited Zap a week after my Falmouth race and knew that it was the place I had to be. It was as if going to the mountains lifted the figurative mountain that had been on my back during the summer. Pete Rea and Ryan Bergman explained there coaching philosophy at Zap.   Then they said they said the four words that have motivated and driven my running career my entire life. “We believe in you.” Coach Townsend & Edwards believed in me as a high schooler, Coach Geiger & Seaton believed in me as a collegiate, and now I had found the new two that believed in me as a professional. I had spent so long doubting my abilities and questioning the legitimacy of my dream, and now there were two people who wiped all of the negativity away… It was powerful, and they showed me the light, no matter how ridiculously cheesy it sounds.

I had met George and Joe in Europe and thought they were good guys….turns out they were pretty awful. Just Kidding. They were great. The rest of the team made me feel as if I was family when I went on my visit there, and after being here only for a short amount of time I would not trade them for anyone else. It is a rare situation when you get a group of people together who are all focused, aware, and devoted to a high level of training in the type of environment we have at Zap. They are now my family and I cannot wait to see the heights that Zapfitness will reach in the near future with the help of Reebok, Soleus, and Powerbar. #ReebokRunning #SoleusRunning #livewithfire #longhairdontcare #flowinglocks

P.S.   Tyler Pennel just started us off with a win at the USA Marathon Championships, which was insanely awesome.

Now buckle up and brace yourself because you won’t believe what is coming next…