By Jeff Knight
I remember the day well: July 20th 2006. I was sitting in a small dormitory in Wilmington DE, where I lived for the summer, watching the Tour de France. Stage 17 was a critical day. An epic day really.
Stage 16 was highlighted by a ridiculous blow-up on the part of Floyd Landis, the American hopeful for the GC at the Tour that year (GC = yellow jersey). Stage 17 was difference. On a nasty day with 5 huge climbs, Landis made a ridiculous breakaway with 120K to go. Practically motoring up the hills, Landis made back nearly 7 minutes on the day to catapult himself back into 3rd place overall.
Needless to say, I was motivated.
Unfortunately, (comically, maybe) we now know that performance was pharmacologically aided. At the time though, it didn’t matter, I was motivated.
At that time in Delaware, I was a bit overweight and definitely consuming more beers than miles ran but, for whatever reason, that day reignited a fire that took me to the place I am now in.
I grew up running. I never ran collegiately or anything like that but running is in my blood. My mother was a collegiate runner back in the 80s, and she instilled the routine early in my childhood. I ran my first 5k at 8-or-so-years-old. I ran track and cross-country in HS but my motivation for running wasn’t right. I left high school swearing I’d never run again.
And I didn’t….for a while at least.
For whatever reason, that Tour de France experience made something click. Had I had a bike at that time, I probably would’ve done that but whether it was fate or coincidence, I only had running shoes. So running is what I did.
Fast-forward a few years, a few half marathons and a few marathons; I had a serendipitous meeting with, one, Steve Sisson at the Barton Springs Trail Head of the Greenbelt. I knew of Steve from a Statesman article describing the then nascent Rogue Athletic Club’s pursuit of a USATF grant. We chatted for a bit, I wished him luck and then went for my run.
At that point in time I was already fascinated with exercise physiology. While I was a classically trained biochemist, I became fond of human performance research. I grew so fond of it that I finished up a master’s in biochemistry to pursue graduate work in exercise physiology, specifically performance.
In parallel to that pursuit of exercise physiology, I had begun to think about coaching. I worked as a teaching assistant throughout my undergraduate and graduate career. I liked teaching and to me, coaching was really an extension of that. Teaching a subject people wanted to learn.
Naturally, I cold-emailed Steve after our Greenbelt meeting. I reached out about a position as a volunteer assistant at UT, where I knew he coached at the time. While I had no coaching experience or collegiate running experience (two veritable prerequisites for college coaching), I sold myself as a budding coach with a love of teaching and strong knowledge of running physiology.
He politely (kind of) told me I could not coach with him at UT. It was a one-sentence email.
He did, however, tell me about a position with Rogue AC as an assistant coach. Clearly I had no choice. I had to take it.
That was February of 2010. Fast forward to 2015, I can authentically say the last 5 years have been some of the most amazing of my life. In that time frame I coached Rogue AC, helped start Marathon High, acted as training manager for Rogue Downtown and, eventually, lead me to act as the Training Director of Rogue Running. More importantly, I made incredible relationships during that time.
As those 5 years have passed, I find myself entering a new phase in my life. A phase that would never had been entered had I not had the last 5 years. Friday, August 21st 2015 is my final day to act as Training Director for Rogue Running. While I will continue to serve as a Downtown Team Rogue coach, I will no longer act as a “the person that forces everyone to run up way too many hills on a Saturday morning.” Steve and Carolyn will take over Downtown training with help from Jen Harney, our CP Training Manager.
It is not clear what new role I will enter, but it is clear that I need to enter that role. I feel compelled to seek new challenges and new opportunities professionally. That decision, though, was not easy. I really love and have loved my job(s) with Rogue.
I am eternally grateful to Steve Sisson and Ruth England for giving me an opportunity to coach when I had no business coaching. I loved my time learning to coach Team Rogue with John Schrup; which inevitably lead me to realize my love for coaching adult runners. I’ve loved my time spent with Chris McClung, Carolyn Mangold and, most recently, Jen Harney as we’ve tried to figure out how keep Rogue doing amazing things. I am grateful for the time spent with Allison Macsas bouncing around marketing ideas, graphics and rolling t-shirts for the Austin Marathon expo. I am grateful for…. wow…. so many more. I’ve had the honor of working with so many amazing people over the years that there is no way I can cover them all here.
But, most of all, I’ve loved this community. Whether its our community coaches – who have a billion other things to do in their “real lives”, yet find the time to encourage and motivate others – or our community in general, that love runs deep. Nothing quite beats seeing the beaming smiles on a Saturday morning after the first 10-mile long run. Or the joy that comes from meeting a goal; whether that goal was a time goal, completing all of the Marathon Majors or, simply running a first 5k.
“But, most of all, I’ve loved this community.”
The craziest thing to me about this experience was it seemed like the more I put into Rogue, the more I got out. It’s true. I love hills and I am a bit of a masochist. Yet, whenever I’ve asked the community to join me in that craziness, the community never blinked an eye. (Shhh….I wont tell…I know y’all are masochists as well)
Whenever the training intensity was increased, it was adopted with open arms. Whenever changes or improvements were made at Rogue (things that kept us all up at night), they were understood and invited. Whenever we moved from the eastside to the west side (with a lot more hills), the community moved with us.
You see, all of us working at Rogue understand that Rogue is bigger than any one person. Rogue is rooted in the community. So as people in leadership positions have come and gone, Rogue has continued to do what its always done: change lives through running.
For that, I feel honored to be a part of the community. I feel proud to have guided the community. And whatever life brings next, I know I will be better for the experience I have had and will continue to have with this community.
Former Training Director, Current Team Rogue Coach, Permanent Masochist