We are so exited to announce our newest sponsorship -- the Elite athletes of the Oregon Track Club!
There is so much to say about all these amazing athletes, and we can't wait to begin this partnership! We'll be doing interviews on the blog periodically, and we'll start with the athlete who first drew us into the world of Track and Field sponsorship with her peanut-butter-photo-Tweeting ways!
Alexi Pappas is a recent addition to the Oregon Track Club, previously competing for Dartmouth and then University of Oregon in Cross Country and Track and Field! Not only is she an incredible runner, but she's also an amazingly talented filmmaker, writer, and unique individual. Read on for more about Alexi!
Hey Alexi! Thanks for taking some time to chat with us!
So, let's start at the very beginning: How did you get started running?
I played a few different sports growing up, including basketball and soccer, and tried out running -- I enjoyed it when I was little, but really liked the team aspect of soccer. I have grown up with the sport of running over time, and with that enjoyment have seen the opportunity to run at higher levels. I had to take my time with the sport.
Did you ever think you end up as a professional runner?
No, I've surprised myself with this day job! When I was younger, I certainly enjoyed the running, but I didn't ever see myself as capable of competing at this level. When I was little I wanted to be a babysitter and a singer actually, so my dream job has definitely evolved.
Did you run cross country or track in high school?
I ran cross country and track my freshman and sophomore year of high school. And junior and senior year my coaches really wanted me to quit soccer, but I felt like I was too young to specialize -- so I just played soccer the last two years of high school.
Once I got to college at Dartmouth, I found that team aspect that I loved about soccer on the cross country team, so I joined that team -- which is why I'm a bit of a late bloomer in the sport of running.
I was recruited to the team, but I wasn't in shape to contribute to the team for a few years. Soccer shape is very different from running shape, and it took me a couple years to score that first "team point" for my team at Dartmouth.
What was it that attracted you back to running at Dartmouth?
It has everything to do with the people. Running is an inherently social sport -- most of time it's just you and the other girls out in the woods, running together, so part of it was just really enjoying spending time Finding the teamwork in running was a huge eye-opener for me because I saw how powerful it was to run next to a teammate in a workout or a race and really have good intentions for each other -- maybe slowing a half step in a workout for a teammate or she for me and seeing how powerful that teamwork was.
The way you talk about running sounds very collaborative and very social for what many see as an individual sport -- do you think that's unusual among professional runners?
Maybe. I think a lot of people still see it as an individual sport, but I think running, when its at its best, is really a very powerful team sport.
That's why being here in Eugene with the Oregon Track Club is such a privilege for me, to get to be with like-minded people and runners and train and race with them.
When did you transition from running at Dartmouth to running at University of Oregon?
I had a fifth year of eligibility of running, and I really wanted to run where I could make a big impact. I'd always known about Oregon's running program, but I wasn't ready until last year, mentally or physically, to be a part of it.
It's amazing at such a big running school to be running on the trails in Eugene, and a passerby knows that you hit a PR that weekend. Tons of people coming out to watch track meets in the rain, that was just so cool.
Was that transition to one of the strongest running programs in the country intimidating or difficult?
It's intimidating just because of Oregon's reputation as such a strong program, but the team itself was incredibly welcoming and really recognized how dedicated I was to being a part of the team and contributing to the team.
It was all about meeting halfway with my new teammates, we just accepted each other -- I was down to try some new warm up drills and they were just as down to hear all my stories about New Hampshire during runs.
You've gained a ton of visibility since having so much running success at Oregon. You have over 7,000 Twitter followers (check out Alexi's Twitter here) and runners all over the country idolize you -- how does that feel?
I grew up kind of away from the running world, and my heros were mostly soccer players. Now, seeing that I can have an effect on younger runners and that people are watching me, it's become a huge privilege. I want to make my team proud and better the sport -- and any positive visibility is a great thing for running.
As for my personality and the way I express myself on social media... I'm very aware that I am coming about this sport from a different path and from a different background. I think I in the past I really looked to my peers for what it means to be an elite distance runner... and I still do, to an extent.
But mostly what I've learned is that to be successful I need to feel confident not just as "runner" but as an "Alexi" and having all these Twitter followers and everything is just a byproduct of something I have found entirely necessary in the sport -- which is to be an individual.
Speaking of being an individual beyond running -- you're a filmmaker and writer as well! Tell me a bit about that!
My first film, a film I co-wrote with my boyfriend and the film's director Jeremy Teicher, is called Tall as the Baobab Tree. The film was set in rural Africa and is currently making the international circuit -- it's just the beginning of what I hope will be a lasting film career.
Jeremy and I are currently writing and planning our next film, which will be about running and set in Eugene. It won't be about me, specifically, but it will be based on my personal experiences in the sport.
So few people see the real goings on of runners besides races... there is a lot to the sport that is sort of a mystery. I want it to be a running movie but not just for runners.
Running as a career can be so 24/7 -- how do you make time for your outside passions like filmmaking?
It's so helpful to have set practice times now with OTC. Sometimes even deciding when to put your foot out the door can be hard, so having structure really helps. Also, I don't actually run 24 hours a day, so having something else to do mentally really creates a mental balance for me.
My average day starts in the morning with a cup of coffee and a big breakfast, which definitely includes Wild Friends peanut butter and/or almond butter with some Dave's Killer Bread, then my first practice of the day is usually around 10am, and finish up around 12pm.
I'll come home, stretch, shower, make a big lunch. Then I work on anything I want to do for the film in the afternoon, and then a short run before dinner. Then the OTC has a lot of hang outs so sometimes we'll go out for dinner or all hang out in the evening.
Have you enjoyed having new training partners on OTC?
Absolutely. I love training with partners because you always have different strengths and weaknesses. In any one workout or interval, you struggle at different times. You can really lean on each other during those rough patches.
You are such the perfect ambassador for our Wild Friends brand because you already loved our nut butter. Seeing you tweet photos of our jars with a spoon inspired us and now here we are sponsoring your team! So cool!
Totally! For me it's extra fun to have you guys as a sponsor because the sport is so mental -- and for me one of the most important mental moments is that pre-race meal where I get to choose between my four different flavors of packets I brought and which one is going to make me feel most awesome that day!
What's your favorite flavor of Wild Friends?
I always have the Vanilla Espresso or Chocolate Sunflower Seed in the morning... then I'll mix in various other flavors. Before races though, I can't even tell you -- I must have all four packet flavors on hand because I won't know what I'll want until right before the race!
Thanks for the interview Alexi... Can't wait to watch you kick butt during your 2014 season at OTC!
(Photo Credits: 1. Tim Christie, University of Oregon 2/3. Alexi Pappas via Instagram)