Hey runners, does this sound familiar? You love running. You love running so much that in your spare time, if you are not actually out running, you are talking about running, reading about running, shopping for running shoes and gear, looking up running advice online…you get the idea. You really love running, and have completely and utterly immersed yourself in the world and culture of running. Except for at work. Between the hours of 9 and 5 you go to a job that you aren’t entirely satisfied with. At that job, you likely have numerous coworkers who say things to you like “Running is bad for your knees,” “I only run if I’m being chased,” “Did you win the race? Why do you bother if you aren’t going to win?” and the classic “My cousin ran a 5K marathon once.” You long to make running your career, to surround yourself with like-minded people, and to share your passion for this life-changing sport with other people. But how do you make running your job? Well, here are a few options:
1. Become an elite athlete.
Okay, this one is a stretch for 99 percent of us. But hey, it could happen. There are a number of elite athletes who weren’t groomed from the preschool years to become professional athletes, and instead discovered their sport–and the fact that they were exceptionally good at it–later in life. I know, this is entirely unrealistic for most of us, but hey, it was worth mentioning.
2. Work in a running store.
Our society thrives on buying material objects, and runners are certainly no exception, with their constant need for running gear. But specialty running and endurance sports stores often do so much more than simply sell shoes to runners. More often than not they are closely linked to the running and racing community where they are located, sponsoring races, offering clinics, training groups, and even socials. Leaving a high-paying salary to become a cashier at a running store might not be the best financial decision, but picking up a part-time shift will give you more than a discount on your favorite brand of socks. It will get your foot in the door to the epicenter of running in your community.
3. Become a coach.
Do you love running so much that you want to help other people discover their own love for running? Is your passion for the sport so strong that you will make sacrifices to help others become better runners? Are you a total numbers, science, and physiology nerd? Then becoming a running coach might be right up your alley. There are a number of options in the coaching world, from working hands-on with beginners, to virtually training people over the internet, to coaching or mentoring young kids. It’s not always a very lucrative career, financially, but the emotional rewards will make you feel like a million bucks. Where do you begin? Check out the Road Runners Club of America to see if a certification course is available near you.
4. Do what you already do…but for someone else.
You don’t necessarily have to change what you do for work, instead change who you are working for. Take your current work skills and apply them to a running field. Believe it or not, there are multimillion-dollar race companies (and even small, start-up, grassroots organizations) that are constantly looking for employees in a slew of departments. Marketing, human resources, finance, social media, and even construction…the possibilities for employment with such companies are endless. This also applies to nonprofit organizations, running shoe and apparel companies, and other groups that are prominent in the running industry. If you have a skill set that you feel would be somehow valuable to the running industry, then there is a good possibility that someone out there is looking to hire you.
5. Think outside of the box.
Build yourself a career based on running in a field where running isn’t present yet. This might not be an immediate career change, but could lead to something bigger down the road. For example: If you are a journalist or work in social media, start looking for a freelance side gig writing or blogging about running. Start a running program for the employees at your place of work. Work with your community to start a nonprofit (or for- profit) race or race series. Again, the possibilities here are endless, they just take a little creativity and extra work. As a non-elite (far from it!) runner who has carved out a career in the running industry, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice: Never stop loving what you do. When you make a career out of something that was once simply a hobby you enjoyed, you run the risk of making that enjoyable hobby “work,” in the negative sense. Because essentially, running does become your job; don’t be fooled into thinking that this will be an excuse to run around on the trails or streets all day. So before you make the switch from your current career to one in the running industry, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons: to share your joy and knowledge of running with others. And if you are ready to make the jump…go for it. Nothing beats work attire composed of tech shirts and running shoes!