Elite Runners Who’ve Turned Their Passion for Running into a Business
It’s been said that long-distance runners make the best entrepreneurs. And while this is yet to be proven by science, it’s not hard to see why the presumption is made. Because in order to excel at running, there’s a whole list of principles that need to be put into practice. And the same goes for successfully running a business. It’s hardly surprising then, to find that many of the principles of successful entrepreneurship and running overlap. Like, for instance, the following:
- Successful runners and entrepreneurs both know and understand the value of proper preparation.
- Long-distance runners and entrepreneurs both understand that, in order to be successful in the long run, they need to pace themselves.
- Successful runners and entrepreneurs both understand the value of self-care in order to avoid burnout.
- Runners and entrepreneurs who are successful in their game are both familiar with long, hard hours of slog.
- Successful runners and entrepreneurs both learn from others, but are focused on their own races.
And so the list goes on. It therefore comes as no surprise that many former elite athletes have gone on to build hugely successful businesses. Here’s three of our favorites.
Well-known running coach and father of the run/walk training method, Jeff Galloway, is arguably the epitome of elite-runners-turned-successful-business-people. Galloway, who was a member of the 1972 US Olympic team, represented his country in the 10 000 m, and went on to clock an American record in the 10-mile road race in 1973. He was also included in the US National Track and Field team who competed in Europe, Russia and Africa that year.
Today, at the age of 72, Galloway is still a much-loved and highly respected part of the global running community. Whilst enjoying a successful masters running career, he is also CEO of Galloway Productions, the latter which compiles countless training programs and organizes numerous annual events and running retreats. In addition, he owns two speciality running stores, called Phidippides, in the Atlanta area, which also offer online shopping. And, as if that isn’t enough, Galloway has authored several books on training, and writes a monthly column for Runner’s World magazine. Talk about a go-getter!
Lauren Fleshman, well-known for her passionate advocacy of women in sport, formally retired from professional running at the age of 34. Prior to that, she was crowned the US 5 000 m champion in both 2006 and 2010, and completed in the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2003, 2005 and 2011. Her 7th place finish in the 5 000 m final of the 2011 IAAF World Championships equaled the highest finishing position for an American woman in that event at the time.
Fleshman, who admits that she never dreamed of being an entrepreneur, founded an energy bar company with her husband in 2010. The company, called Picky Bars, focuses on the creation of gluten- and dairy-free energy bars using real food ingredients. What’s more, Picky Bars are reported to be optimally balanced for performance and taste great too. And runners from across the globe agree. Reports of runners and triathletes no longer struggling with mid-run bloating and discomfort are pouring in from near and far. And it isn’t just hear say. Based on the company’s reported US$4+ million revenue in 2016, it’s safe to say that Picky Bars are a hit.
In addition to Picky Bars, Fleshman is also the co-founder of Believe I Am, a business that focuses on equipping female athletes with sport psychology tools to benefit their training. Other products offered by this company includes a self-published body/mind training journal, as well as empowering slogan t-shirts.
Thirty-six year-old Shalane Flanagan currently holds three American records: The 3 000 m and 5 000 m indoor events, as well as the 15 km road event. She represented the US at the 2008 Olympic Games, and celebrated by winning a bronze medal (which was later upgraded to a silver) in the 10 000 m. She went on to finish second in the 2010 New York City Marathon, and won a bronze medal at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. A multi-talented athlete for sure.
Combining her passions for good food and running, Flanagan recently teamed up with friend and former team mate, Elyse Kopecky, to author a cookbook called Run Fast, Eat Slow. In this book, Flanagan and Kopecky, who is a whole-foods chef and food writer, aim to encourage runners to fuel their performance with whole foods. And, judging by the way in which this New York Times bestseller is embraced by the broader running community, they’re definitely succeeding in doing exactly that.
Flanagan and Kopecky are currently working on a follow-up to Run Fast, Eat Slow.
So Are All Runners Destined for Entrepreneurship?
So let these three running icons inspire us to “do what we love and love what we do”. Sure, we’re not all cut out to be business people. And yes, it would be unwise to quit our day jobs and leap into the world of running entrepreneurship without properly calculating the risks. But, as these three inspirational individuals have shown, it’s indeed possible to benefit from your passions in more than one way. If you just do your homework and put in the hard work.
- 5 Things to know about Shalane Flanagan, Online publication, Aug 31, 2017 ,
- A runner's career ends, but her mission goes the distance, Online publication, Jul 22, 2016 ,
- Here's why marathoners make better entrepreneurs, Online publication, Dec 04, 2015 ,
- Jeff Galloway, Online publication, ,
- Lauren Fleshman, Online publication, ,
- Shalane Flanagan, Online publication, ,