You Should Get to Know… Nick Symmonds!
So usually Fête showcases the talents and lifestyles of wedding vendors, artists, photographers, all kinds of cool kids we love and admire. Today’s profile is at once none of the above and nearly all of the above. Nick Symmonds is more than a professional athlete– he is THE professional athlete. An American Dream story, if you will, who brought himself up the ranks from a tiny Division 3 college (Division 1 is the biggie. all those colleges you watch compete on TV) to become the National Champion in his event, the 800 meter. 800 meters is 2 laps around the track– 2 laps FAST. Nick has been the reigning national champion in this event, which is getting faster and faster on the U.S. and world level, for five years. He’s the pretty boy face of track and field and trust me, it needs one.
image via tumblr
But there’s more to Nick than just going out and running. He’s been a passionate and outspoken activist for professional runner’s rights (why do runners need rights? Just look at their paychecks compared to other professional athletes– footballers,golfers, race car drivers even!); he dedicates time to charities. He owns a string of businesses in Oregon, where he lives and trains. He asked out Paris Hilton– and actually went on a real date with her! Oh, and he’s finished in the top five 800 meter runners in the world over the past few years– finishing 5th at this year’s Olympic Games. He’s one of my husband’s very best friends and former training partners (they even share a birthday, yikes), was a groomsmen in our wedding, and is one of the most generous people you’ll ever know. Meet Nick–>
For the non-runners out there, can you tell us what being a “professional runner” means? What exactly do you do?
Nick: It is an unconventional occupation for sure! Essentially, each year I train my butt off for nine months so that for three months I can travel around the world racing other men for prize money and glory! A good deal of my income comes from running these events, but the majority of it comes from sponsors that pay me to wear and/or endorse their products. My gear sponsor is Nike and I have been with them since 2006.
image via Randy Rasmussen
You’re a perfect example of the Great American success story– you’ve always been a great runner, but you came to professional running from a D3 school and through years of passion and hard work, have become one of the greatest names in US running. How did you get started in running and what kept you going through high school and college?
Nick: I originally started running in 8th grade when a girl I had a crush on said she was going out for the cross country team. I had no interest in actually running, but liked the idea that the boys and girls teams practiced together. I ended up tolerating the training and actually enjoy the competitions. A little success that season led me to run in high school, then college and beyond. I would say that now, at 28, I enjoy running more than ever before. It is a brutal sport, but it has given me so much and I am now finally mature enough to appreciate that.
What does an average day look like for you?
Nick: Most days are training days and those begin at 8 AM. I have a cup of coffee and a piece of fruit to wake me up and then head to practice. Our morning practices are the most grueling and last three hours. We burn several thousand calories during one of these practices so I usually rush home to fix a big lunch. I then like to spend my afternoons tackling emails, writing to fans, or making calls to coaches, sponsors, etc. More often than not, I will train again in the evening, either opting for a short run or swim before dinner. I like to watch movies and read and will usually do one or the other before bed.
You’re not just a runner– you’re a businessman with a successful franchise of tanning salons and you’ve become an advocate for runner’s rights. What sets you apart from your peers? What are three words to describe you?
Nick: I went to a DIII college so that I could pursue all of my interests. I was studying Biochemistry, had a part time job, played two varsity sports, was active in greek life, etc. I’ve never been good at sitting still and love having a long, productive day. This mentality of being busy from dawn till dusk stuck with me into my life after school. The life of a professional runner is filled with a lot of down time and I chose to fill that time with learning everything I could about business from my coach and mentor, Sam Lapray. I would say three words that describe me well are curious, passionate, and stubborn.
My favorite thing about you is that you’re never boring. You’re unlike other professional athletes, who work out and then go home and sleep all day– you have real interests and a life outside the track. What are your top five things that keep you sane, inspired, and happy?
Nick: I think it is important for athletes to have well rounded personalities with a diverse set of interests. Most professional athletes are only able to cash in on their talent for a few short years and once the dream is over it is important to have other things to look forward to. The things that keep me sane and inspired are literature, the outdoors, family, travel, and great food!
Looking back, what would you say/what advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Nick: I was really insecure at 20 and was always worrying about how the future would turn out for me. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to chill out a little, enjoy the present a little more, and not worry so much about my ambitions. However, I acknowledging that it may be those anxieties that pushed me to be successful! Also, I’m pretty sure that my 40 year old self is going to look back at my 28 year old self and say, “Chill out!”. I am constantly trying to remind myself to live in the moment and enjoy each day for what it is.
A handful of our groomsmen– Nick is second from left! Photos by Jen Fariello
My perfect day is ______.
Nick: … spent with my family and friends catching fish, eating great food, and drinking beer!
image via NBC Olympics
What’s next for you?
Nick: I am currently training for the 2013 World Championships in Track and Field which will take place August 10-18 in Moscow, Russia. My next big trip will be to central Mexico in January for an extended training camp at altitude.