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AthleteIamA 2x Olympian and Entrepreneur AMA!

May 2nd 2016 by NickSymmonds • 65 Questions • 367 Points

Hello! My name is Nick Symmonds. I am a 2x Olympian (Track and Field) and my event is the 800m. I am also an entrepreneur and own a sports supplement company called Run Gum. I am currently auctioning off my shoulder as advertising space on eBay. http://www.ebay.com/itm/9-Square-Inches-of-Skin-on-an-Olympian-/262405684177?

My Proof: nicksymmonds.com, GetRunGum.com

Q:

Every athlete professional or nonprofessional has at least 1 best memory from their high school days. What is your most vivid or favorite sports moment that happened in high school?

A:

I ran, and won, many races in high school. Yet my most vivid memory from those days is sitting in the stands at a track meet, goofing around with my friends. I miss that sometimes!


Q:

Nick serious question. How worried have you been that some rich dude is going to pay a dollar more than the highest bid and put a big old dick on your shoulder?

A:

Not worried at all.


Q:

Hey Nick huge fan here! Two questions...

  1. Which race, out of all your races, has been the most memorable?

  2. Will Lear seems to have a very good relationship with your company RunGum. After recent Instagram posts, it appears that he is purposefully hiding Nike logos on his apparel and downplaying his relationship with his main sponsor. Do you have any insight on what may be going on considering you were an ex-Nike athlete?

A:

1.) Olympic Trails 2008 2.) In my personal experience, Nike does not treat their professional runners very well. I cannot speak for Will, but I am wondering if he feels the same way.


Q:

Every four years the whole United States gets swept up in Olympic fever and normal everyday people follow the track and field storylines. But then its gone for another cycle, what has to happen to carry that interest over season to season, year to year?

A:

T&F must separate itself from the Olympic cycle the way tennis has. Tennis has the Grand Slam events every year and they are HUGE events. Track needs to have 3-4 major events every year. NOT Diamond League bullshit meets.


Q:

When competing, what do you imagine you are running away from?

A:

I imagine I am running TOWARDS a win, towards a feeling of euphoria, and ideally a juicy payday!


Q:

As a runner and entrepreneur myself, I am interested in your story in how RunGum was created. Did you come up with the idea of RunGum yourself? Could you elaborate on where you drafted the idea and what the progression of the idea was?

A:

I love energy drinks. Love the way they make my body and mind feel, hate the way they make my stomach feel. I used to drink them before workouts and races, but would often throw them back up after working out. I wanted the caffeine, taurine, and b vitamins but didnt want anything in my stomach. I have a degree in Biochemistry and knew those active ingredients could be absorbed sublingually. I found a manufacturer here in the US that would put them into chewing gum for me.


Q:

Do you feel the USATF will ever change its stance regarding sponsorships? What will it take?

A:

They will if Run Gum wins the #RunGumLawsuit! I have tried to work with USATF for a decade. They continue to be incompetent. Legal action is now required.


Q:

I personally find it ridiculous that a large portion of professional track athletes live below the poverty line. Where do you think the sport of track and field is going in terms of athlete's rights? Best of luck in your RunGum lawsuit! Big fan!

A:

Thanks so much!! I agree, it is an outrage that 50% of professional American T&F athletes live below the poverty line. I think that if we can get enough athletes to join the #OwnYourSkin movement we could force the governing bodies to change and lift all pro T&F athletes out of poverty with just one rule change.


Q:

This sounds like something out of a modern Pre's playbook. Fight the good fight!

What is the best way for the general public to support the cause?

A:

GREAT QUESTION! PLease go to Own-Your-Skin.com and signup for updates.


Q:

What's it feel like to stand on the starting line of an Olympic final? Do you feel nervous? Excited? Terrified? What's it like.

A:

I felt incredibly nervous. I tried to just look down at the track and remind myself that I have run on tracks just like that one thousands of times before. If I looked up into the stands at 90,000 people it made me too amped up, too much adrenaline!


Q:

So...just how abundant was sex during the olympics?

A:

I'm sure it is really abundant. It was almost totally nonexistent for me, however, as the men's 800m was towards the end of both the Beijing and London Games and I was totally focused on my running.


Q:

Would you ever try to do a Bicentennial? (100 miles and 100 beers in one week)

A:

Never. I tried to do 24/24/24 (24 miles, 24 beers, in 24 hours). Failed miserably.


Q:

What prevention/management program would you recommend for an injury-prone XC runner/cyclist?

A:

Add swimming into the mix. I swim for 30 min 2-3 times a week. My body feels much better for it and it is zero impact!


Q:

Would you recommend this in addition to or instead of other impact workouts? Or both?

A:

In addition to


Q:

Hey Nick! Thanks for taking the time. How do you go about planning or thinking about what you eat during a typical day/week when training?

A:

I try not to think about it too much. I try to listen to my body. I eat a very small breakfast before working out (coffee and fruit) and then usually a sandwich and/or salad for lunch. I eat out a lot of dinners, probably too much.


Q:

Hey Nick. Just to clarify, you're saying your average daily diet is coffee, fruit, a sandwich and dinner?

A:

That is correct. I would estimate that I get close to 50% of my daily caloric intake at dinner.


Q:

What was your best 8k in college?

A:

24:49


Q:

You've competed in track events all over the world, but what races are still on your running bucket list?

A:

I want to run a marathon! Just not sure when I will be able to do it lol


Q:

Who would win in a free for all fight between you, Caz, Sowinski, Borris and Duane?

A:

I think I probably weigh the most out of that crew. Caz has impressive reach. My money might be on Duane though.


Q:

Hi Nick, I've been a huge fan of yours since the '08 Olympic trials (Link for the uninitiated) and a big fan of what you've done for the sport lately beyond racing.

What is your end goal for athletes rights for advertising/sponsorship on their uniforms/skin/etc? And what would it take to get there?

What exactly is RunGum?

Why would a sponsor choose to purchase advertising space under tape and how fast are you allowed to remove said piece of tape?

Favorite 800m specific workouts?

Just how crazy was the 2012 Olympic finals to be a part of?

Thanks for stopping by and good luck this season!

A:

Thank you!! As an athletes, I want to see ZERO restrictions on the logos an athlete can wear on their body during competition. Kind of what you saw me do at USA Championships last year. Run Gum is basically everything that is in a sugar free energy drink infused into chewing gum. It gives you caffeine, taurine, and b vitamins without having to consume an liquid. A sponsor would partner with me even though I have to tape over their logo in many competitions because they know that I work very hard off the track to make sure my sponsors get GREAT exposure. I can remove the tape as soon as a leave the competition arena. I love all out 200m repeats! It was amazing, and also very depressing. Thanks!!!


Q:

Thanks so much for the thorough answer! I'd love to see zero restrictions as well, do you see that happening or do too many of the bigger named companies in the sport have too much at stake to relinquish control?

Also forgot to ask, I coach a collegiate cross country team, do you have any advice or words of wisdom to pass onto them? I'd love to hang a quote from you in the locker room with some of the others I've spoken to!

A:

Stop drinking so much!! I know I talk a lot about beer, etc. But I wish I hadn't consumed so much alcohol in college. A couple beers is fine, but if you are blacking out you are REALLY setting your training back.


Q:

If you could choose anybody you wanted to run USATF, who would you choose and why?

A:

Whoever is willing to hand over the professional side of the sport to a group of entrepreneurs that want to form a FOR PROFIT entity. USATF cannot be allowed to control pro T&F in the US anymore.


Q:

How was your recent trip to Albuquerque?

A:

It was great! I gained a lot of fitness, ate a lot of green chile, and had a few really nice adventures.


Q:

Will you be coming back to Nashville to run the MCDC mile this year? It was epic seeing you break 4 last season!

A:

Sorry, but not this year! Thank you for coming out and watching last year!!


Q:

What is your favorite sandwich?

A:

Pastrami on rye.


Q:

Hey Nick! If you had to pick one person, who is your running idol?

Thanks for doing this AMA and best of luck in qualifying for Rio.

A:

Thanks! Hard to say who my running idol is because I think many of them may have been dirty :(


Q:

Hey Nick! I've been watching you race for years now, and your racing tactics are, in my opinion, some of the absolute best. That being said, my question is actually completely unrelated to that. What kinda of strength training program do you follow? 800m runners have the best blend of speed and endurance out of any event group (save for maybe 400m hurdlers), so I'm curious to hear what kind of lifting you do. Thanks!

A:

Thanks so much! I have spent many years learning how to race the 800m. I lift twice a week for about 1 hour. My lifting routine is written by James Radcliffe. Its a lot of Olympic liftings (cleans, jerks, snatches, etc)


Q:

When in intense training segments, how much do you focus on weight and diet? Room for beer in there at all?

A:

I only focus on my weight and diet for about 3-4 months. From about 1 month before racing starts till the end of the season. For me that is May-August. Definitely room for a beer or two in there! ;)


Q:

If you were to have a beer with any professional runner, past or present, who would it be?

A:

Past: Steve Prefontaine Present: Usain Bolt


Q:

What type of beer would you be if you could be a beer?

A:

I would be an IPA. Strong and bitter, but oddly satisfying!


Q:

How many miles per week do you run(base and in-season)? What is your favorite workout?

A:

I run 60 miles per week during base, 50 miles per week in season. I love 200m repeats in spikes!!


Q:

How much do you love Keystone Light?

A:

Very, very much. I know its a "crappy, light beer" but sometimes thats exactly what I want!


Q:

Do you have any great book recommendation for a college senior? (doesn't have to be running related)

A:

Read Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One. Easily my favorite book.


Q:

What do you think of Clayton Murphy?

Based off of your Instagram you are pretty sure you will make the Olympic team, what will you do if you don't?

Assuming your compete in the games (fingers crossed) what do you think about Rio and how filthy it is?

What's it like racing against Rudisha?

Do you ever do plyometrics, and if so, what?

Any advice for a runner in college looking to improve?

Favorite workout? / Favorite weight room workout?

Thanks Nick, I think you and what you are doing for the sport is awesome! Good luck this year man.

A:

Thats a lot of questions!! Here goes: Clayton Murphy is a very nice young man and is incredibly talented. I think his best event will be the 1500m. If I don't make the Rio team I will spend the summer in Seattle fishing and climbing mountains. I am very nervous about the condition we will find Rio in. I don't really race Rudisha, he is always too far in front of me to really consider it a race! I do plyos every Monday and Thursday. See books by James Radcliffe. He is my S&C coach.


Q:

What's it like competing knowing that someone like Rudisha is there in the race? Is that hard to come to terms with? Or are you comfortable knowing that it's okay so long as you do the best you can?

A:

I have seen Rudisha get beat. I know that ANYONE can be defeated on any day. It is actually really nice having him in the race because he goes out so hard that it usually strings out the race, allowing my come from behind strategy to be more effective.


Q:

Hey nick, fellow Nick and track athlete here! My question is, what do you see changing in the near future for the sponsorship rule you're fighting against?

A:

I hope that Run Gum wins the #RunGumLawsuit and I hope that the IOC implements a 50% revenue sharing model with the athletes. I secretly (not so secretly) want to bankrupt USATF because I believe they are totally incompetent and are in need of major restructuring.


Q:

Based on social media, you seem to have a very healthy work/run/life balance. What do you think is the key to maintaining that balance?

A:

I think every day should have moments that challenge you physically, moment that challenge you mentally, and moments that are not challenging at all. For me that means training, growing a business, and sitting down for a drink and/or meal with friends at the end of a hard day.


Q:

I am also originally from Idaho and now live in Washington! Where are your favorite places to go in the Pacific Northwest?

A:

I LOVE the Olympic Peninsula. I also really like the Northern Cascades.


Q:

Nick! Your RunGum carried me through my indoor track season, and your fight against USATF's uniform silliness last year was inspiring.

Any recommendations for a sprinter looking to bump up to the horror that is mid-distance running?

A:

Glad to hear it!! You will need to start learning to love the long, easy runs. My weekly long run is usually 12-13 miles. Slowly start building up to hour long runs!


Q:

I'm so glad you are doing this! I have constantly been emailing you and tweeting you for some answers! I am a college student writing a paper about Proffessional Track athletes and your opinions and answers are vital to my grade! I would greatly appreciate it if you had time to answer the questions within reason so I can have a statement from you to include in my report! Huge fan! Again, thank you.

1) Do you feel you are underpaid as a professional athlete?

2) How much revenue do you personally feel you are missing out on?

3) As a professional, have there been times when you struggled financially or of other runners you know who have?

4) How much were you making from your NIKE contract?

5) How much do you make from your Brooks contract?

6) Is it true that some professional athletes make under 30k a year?

7) What would you like to say about how the sport itself can be improved with bigger contracts with a bigger pay day?

A:

1.) yes. 2.) millions 3.) yes, 50% of pro T&F athletes live below the poverty line 4.) an NDA in that contract prevents me from telling you 5.) an NDA in that contract prevents me from telling you 6.) yes, many of them 7.) the absurd and antiquated rules regulating logos on athletes' skin and competition attire MUST change.


Q:

Hey, Nick! This weekend is my last meet of the season and I'm trying to finally break 2 for the first time. I've been consistently in the 2:01-2:02 range for a while now, but I really feel in shape to go sub 2. Probably gonna take it out in 58 and hang on for dear life.

Anyway, what's your usual pace on an easy recovery run? Like when you go 12 or 13 miles?

Thanks man, and stay awesome.

A:

Good luck! Go out in 58.xx, come back in 60.xx. Easiest way to to run under 2:00.

I usually average 7:20's on my easy runs.


Q:

Any advice for a freshman trying to break that 2:00 800m?

Ps: good luck in the rungum lawsuit!

A:

Thanks!!

Go out in 58.xx, come back in 60.xx. Easiest way to break 2:00


Q:

What is your favorite beer?

A:

Fremont Brewery Summer Ale


Q:

Have you ever done a beer mile? If so what's your fastest. Furthermore, do you know Kyle Merbers fastest beer mile?

A:

I have. I ran 5:19 in 2012. I'm not sure if Kyle has ever run one before.


Q:

Hey Nick, I'm a big fan and track athlete myself.

What I find most interesting about your career as an athlete are the ways you cross train in the off season. Biking, swimming, mountaineering, etc. My question is do you have any big goals after you retire to accomplish or compete in anything in these fields? For instance a triathlon or any serious summit attempts? I love the idea of doing these things myself but being on a college team takes up a lot of time and makes traveling difficult. I wonder if you look forward to the same things I do when you have a little bit more freedom!

Thanks, and good luck @ USAs / Rio!

A:

As soon as I retire I will begin my Seven Summits project. I want to climb to the top of the tallest mountain on every continent. I actually set this goal for myself long before I started running seriously. Thanks for the question!


Q:

Are you allowed to use your gum in Olympic races?

A:

I am allowed to use it, just not allowed to talk about it! How messed up is that?


Q:

What are your favorite trail systems, both in the US & abroad?

A:

Ridge to River system in Boise, and the area around Narrabeen Lagoon near Sydney.


Q:

What's your favorite trail in the Boise area? Would you be open to going for a run with a local fan?

A:

Hulls Gulch loop might be my favorite run in the entire world! Just did that one two days ago. I will host a run this October when I am back in Boise for the OnwardShay marathon!


Q:

Nick, what do you tell yourself in the last 100m of an 800 that gives you the motivation to push yourself beyond 100%?

A:

One you can see the finish line you don't tell yourself anything anymore. You just close your eyes and drive your legs as hard as you can. It is going to hurt at the end no matter what, if you win it will hurt less.


Q:

Are you hopeful for the sport? When your days are done in running - do you think there will be lasting change that empowers track and field athletes and provides a better and more independent means of making a living? What's the biggest change needed in the sport?

A:

The way the sport is going right now, I feel it is dying. Over the last ten years I have watch dozens of meets shut down, many economic opportunities that existed ten years ago do not exist today. I hope to leave T&F better than I found it. I think that the biggest change would have to come from IOC. They would need to implement a 50% revenue sharing model, similar to MANY other sports leagues.


Q:

Hi, Nick! Big fan here, I'm a college mid-distance runner and I was wondering what your absolute favorite workout is? Also, when it comes to toilet paper are you an over or under guy??

A:

I love all out 200m repeats! Under.


Q:

A few other athletes have been especially vocal about the state of doping in our sport, such as Zane Robertson. Do you know of any runners in your event (any nation) who are likely using banned substances? Do you think the popularity of runners in your event doing this has increased or decreased in recent years? Did you feel cheated at all in the last few championship or international races (ie Diamond League, Oly 2012)?

Not asking you to name names, just want to know what you think.

A:

There are definitely athletes out there that I think are likely using banned substances. I think that the sport is slowly starting to be cleaned up. I think it has been VERY dirty for the last few decades. There have been people that have beaten me at races, taken money from me, who subsequently tested positive.


Q:

Hi, Nick.

First off thanks for doing an IAMA. Big fan, also a collegiate runner.

I have been following you and your run gum lawsuit against USATF & USOC via instagram. A lot of my teammates like you because you stand out against these issues, some of them calling you the backbone to our sport. What kind negative/positive impact has this conflict with USATF brought to you/your career? I have seen huge support from many other professional runners for you and run gum. (Hope you win)

Hope you can represent us at the Olympics! Good luck! -Side note (your ebay auction is pure genius)

A:

Thanks so much for the kind words! Fighting the governing bodies is stressful, but it also gives me a sense of purpose. I used to run to see how fast I could be, how high I could be ranked in the world. Then I kinda figured that out and lost some motivation to train. Now I run to make teams and force the governing bodies to be better.


Q:

Hi Nick!

I've been a runner for 6 years now and I've never had a problem with staying motivated to keep running but now that I'm in college I'm having a lot of difficulty with it. I don't have a great relationship with my college coach (as you did too in college?)--my question is what keeps you motivated and driven to run when you have to run alone?

A:

I actually really like to run alone. I find it peaceful. I think it is REALLY tough to stay motivated in college because there are so much other things asking for your attention. I would encourage you to find a coach that inspires you! Coach Sam has always been that person for me.


Q:

Bernie or Hillary?

A:

I am an independent so I don't vote in primaries. I will most likely vote for the Democratic candidate because I prefer to see liberal justices on the Supreme Court.


Q:

Hey Nick,

Work related: How often do people comment on the tattoo? Any hopes on who wins the auction?

Running related: Advice on staying healthy? Only a freshman in college and I already feel broken and worn out. Favorite even that isn't an 800? Will you ever have an auction to get you to run a professional 10K?

Thanks! Hope to see you in Rio!

A:

People ask about the tattoo a lot. Which is cool to me. I hope a big company with a passionate, creative marketing team wins the auction. Make sure you listen to your body. It is OK to take a day off here and there!! I love the 400 even though I am not very good at it. Haha, I don't think I could handle a 10K. Thanks!!


Q:

What's your diet look like?

A:

I don't really have one. Coffee and fruit for breakfast, sandwich and chips for lunch, big dinners.


Q:

Hey Nick! I ama huge fan and fellow 800m runner.

Besides running what's your favorite T&F discipline?

A:

pole vault!! My favorite event to watch.


Q:

Nick, you and Andrew Rock are the patron saints of D3 track. Do you ever consider what your story means to the athletes who bust their ass day in and day out in D3?

A:

I sometimes wonder if D3 athletes still know who I am. I haven't raced D3 in over ten years! I'd like to think I am able to inspire other D3 athletes.


Q:

As preempted on Twitter, I have to ask (and my apologies for this in advance!) Were you really naked in the Nike Free video shoot?

A:

Yes! Totally naked.


Q:

As you've progressed in your career, do you find it harder to get back into race shape each year? What aspects of your training seem more difficult as time goes on? Thanks!!!

A:

I actually find it easier to get into shape these days. They call it "old man strength". The speed hurts more these days though. I sometimes dread the sprint work, knowing my joints will ache for days after.


Q:

Are we going to see you in Austin this year for the Beer Mile World Championships?

A:

Possibly!!


Q:

Nick, Why not attend the 2015 championships and only wear Brooks gear? If you went to Beijing and only wore Brooks gear, wouldn't USATF be forced to respond? If they kicked you off the team for wearing Brooks gear, that would make for a bigger news story. Also, I hope you agree with me when I say T&F fans want to see the big names athletes race each other. Why not set up a race in the US where you, Boris, Duane, Sowinski, Caz, etc. all race each other in the 800?

A:

I think you may not totally understand last summers issues?

I agree fans want to see the best race each other. However, many meet directors are too cheap to pay to make that happen!


Q:

Big fan! I love what you're doing for the sport - wish the higher ups can see what you're trying to accomplish. Also, hoping all goes well for you this season! (On and off the track) When will Run Gum ship to Canada? :D

A:

Thanks!!

Health Canada is has been difficult to deal with. We are hoping to be able to ship to Canada sometime in 2017.


Q:

What do you do to deal with prerace nerves?

What is your opinion on deflategate?

Big fan,I hope the USATF (and hightower) get their head out of their asses

A:

I listen to music and read silly magazines. I don't really watch football. Thank you! And me too.