Kyle Merber on Stepping Away from Professional Running

Kyle Meber headshot

Kyle Merber has been a long time staple of the professional running scene. Whether you know him from his often viral Twitter or his impressive rap sheet of track and road records, it’s hard to imagine professional running without him.

But after a stand-out high school career in Dix Hills, New York, a record-setting stint at Columbia University, and a professional contract with HOKA ONE ONE, Merber announced in January his retirement from competition.

Even in retirement, the impact of Merber’s running career is still felt by collegiate and professional athletes alike. His NCAA 1500m record was broken only a few days ago by Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse.

At the conclusion of his NCAA career in 2013, Merber signed with HOKA ONE ONE and competed with the New Jersey New York Track Club, coached by the legendary Frank Gagliano.

However, as the founder of the Long Island Mile race, Distance Medley Relay (DMR) world record holder, and now, newsletter writer (yes, this is a plug for you to subscribe to The Lap Count), Merber’s career continues to grow creatively through diverse opportunities, even in retirement.

Merber’s contract with HOKA ended in 2020, which he says provided him the perfect timing to do some serious self-assessment and evaluate his goals as a professional athlete.

“The motivation was entirely some self-recognition that my heart wasn’t in it in the same way that it previously was, and that I was more excited about the prospect of doing something new,” says Merber.

Merber has qualified for two Olympic trials in the 1500m over the course of his career, however, he never reached the opportunity to represent the United States at the games. Following a stress reaction and subsequent hip surgery in 2018, Merber no longer felt he had the energy to reach for another trial.

“An active athlete will never say this, but following surgery in 2018, I just didn’t have the leg speed I had previously and was a little too affected by the surgery to really believe that I had a good shot to make the Olympics. Once you’ve been to a couple trials, going to another just to participate isn’t really motivating,” he says.

Runner Kyle Merber looks at fans while running on a track

It’s important to note that even though he might not have the Olympic hardware, Merber holds the world record for the Distance Medley Relay after running the 1200m leg in 2:53.56. That record has remained untouched since 2015.

Of his impressive accomplishments, Merber quips, “I feel like I was a normal kid who just ended up being pretty good at running and got lucky at times.”

That’s one lucky 1200m leg.

He also boasts a one-mile PR of 3:52.22. One can only assume that these accomplishments are a cherry on top of the reasons why Merber has been able to retire with such a positive mindset.

As his career progresses away from competing in professional running, Merber recently began his own newsletter, The Lap Count, in which he recaps events from across the world of track and field.

He’s also been working side-by-side with CITIUS MAG founder Chris Chavez and the Trials of Miles team to provide commentary and analysis for the Trials of Miles Qualifier meet series, beginning in February with the Texas Qualifier in Austin, Texas, and ending in May with the NYC Qualifier in New York.

The meets are streamed for free on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel and offer a unique viewing experience for track and field fans.

“First and foremost, I’ve always been a fan of the sport. I grew up as a fan and now on the other side of things I continue to have that same passion for the sport. I ultimately feel like commentating and the Lap Count is an opportunity to keep myself involved in the sport and allows me to be really creative,” says Merber.

While first-time watchers and fans alike appreciate the breath of fresh air Merber’s dynamic personality breathes into track and field commentary, he doesn’t plan to make a career out of it.

“I’m not working in the sport in an official capacity. My corporate job is completely removed from it and that was on purpose. I like running, I want it to be a hobby of mine. It has been my self-identity for so long that the overlap between work and play can become blurred at times. I wanted running to be a thing I did on the side and have a job be a job,” says Merber.

Work-life balance has been one of Merber’s strong points in his career. As he exits the professional running scene and enters a corporate work environment, he chose not to disclose the details of his new career.

“I’m at a really good place in life and all the decisions that I made throughout my career have led me to this point today. I think I have a really good healthy mindset, but I think part of why I have this mindset is also why I didn’t have a slightly better career at times. I’m too rational or realistic and value other things outside of winning too much at times. But I’m okay with it,” says Merber.

Merber’s practical mindset around his professional career plays a big role in his ability to retire happily, and to maintain a positive relationship with running.

“If I had to tell my younger self something, it would be to appreciate every opportunity you have to line up because there are a finite number of them. I think the realization that it’s really not forever came about later in my career, once I saw other friends starting to retire. I told myself ‘My time will come as well.’ I wouldn’t do anything different,” says Merber.

“Having always been a fan first and someone who likes running, I never wanted to have that relationship ruined because it’s much longer than the relationship you have as a professional athlete,” he says.

As Merber points out, the chances to compete are limited, but the relationship we develop with running and, through it, ourselves, can be exponentially more precious.

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