In November of 2018, I signed with the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies in San Luis Obispo, CA. The Aggies are one the best known blue-collar elite groups, and the reigning 2019 Women’s USATF Club Cross Country Champions. Every athlete in the club works full-time, trains year-round, and has ambitious goals for their running careers.
After years of having goals set by my college coaches and a very structured plan to achieve those goals, I anticipated a similar experience as an elite. Imagine my surprise at the new, laid back approach to training I was greeted with during my first pro season. Practices were hardly ever attended by the full team due to conflicting work schedules. Easy runs were always completed on our own time and participation in training was always optional. This attitude completely threw me, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned I had chosen the wrong club.
Any worries I had, however, were quickly put to rest when I saw how driven and hungry for success my teammates were. I soon learned that the reality of a college athlete could not be more different than that of a pro runner. The majority of professional runners have a separate career to support themselves while they pursue their athletic dreams, even ones with sponsors. Every day presents a challenge to figure out how to train as effectively as possible while maintaining your source of income. I was ready to balance a job with my training, but I was not prepared for how this would change team training. When 30 athletes with different work schedules, mileage plans and race schedules form a training group, running suddenly becomes a very individual sport.