By Wendy Shulik for RRCA
On Jan. 20, 2019, 14 Roads Scholar grantees and RunPro Camp alums competed in the elite field in the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon
These distance runners were selected as RRCA beneficiaries, because they showed the potential and talent to attain athletic success at the National level. They affirmed RRCA’s confidence with top American performances in both races in Houston.
During interviews, each athlete was effusive about the education and financial backing they received from the RRCA through their Roads Scholar grants
and RunPro Camp
efforts. There was a resounding consensus that RRCA’s support has made a huge difference in their ability to remain in the sport post-collegiately, as well as offsetting the financial costs of pursuing a professional running career. RRCA was there to cover the race and speak to some of these athletes.
(Roads Scholar ’17 and RunPro Camp ’17, 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier):
“The thing that I didn’t really know was just how many people were (kind of ) in the same boat, how many resources are available out there, and the network that RRCA provides. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my journey, and I think that was really cool. I also learned how to move forward in the sport with where you’re at coming out of college.”
Things I Learned at RunPro Camp
(RunPro Camp ’14, Team USA Minnesota, 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier):
“The speakers at RunPro Camp were incredible. I got to hear from a professional athlete who was training at ZAP Fitness and I heard from Coach Ben Rosario of HOKA One One Northern Arizona Elite, who gave the perspective of the athlete he’s now coaching. He told his story of how he’s made it in the running world. It was helpful to hear the agent perspective of the sport, and I got to meet Pat Goodwin (founder of Team USA Minnesota). Everyone brought their unique perspectives to the camp experience.”
“One of the main things I learned was just building your own brand. It’s a great camp for anyone looking to go out on their own and understanding how to build your network of sponsors and fans. It’s not an easy task by any means, but you learn how to be the CEO of your own company, as one of the speakers put it. The camp shows that there are people out there who are going to be in your corner and can help you get to where you want to go and help you reach your goals.”
Financial Support from RRCA
Alia Gray (Roads Scholar ’17, Roots Running Project):
“I’ve applied for several grants within running and this one is well-respected for emerging elites. I’m so grateful that RRCA has this grant in place to really help foster up-and-comers, because financial assistance is hard to come by. The Roads Scholar grant allowed me to book appointments with health professionals, to travel to more races, and that is just huge in performance, honestly.”
Becky Wade (Roads Scholar ’15, 2018 IAAF World Half Marathon Championship Team):
“I just thought it was a really cool, unique thing they did, when they provided the special round of grants to athletes committed to run in the 2016 Olympic Trials-Marathon, because there are not too many opportunities like that to get backing, especially in untraditional ways in the sport.”
Gabi Anzalone (RunPro Camp ‘17, Roads Scholar ’17, 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier):
“I was able to cut down on some of the part-time hours I was working, and it was just a huge blessing for me in terms of helping with grocery shopping. When the grant came through, it was a huge weight lifted and made me feel like I actually belonged in the sport.”
Luke Puskedra (Roads Scholar ’15, Oregon TC Elite, Marathon PR 2:10:24):
“Financially, this sport is tough sometimes. The RRCA grant made a big difference for me, because it helped me to continue to travel to races. A lot of travel adds up very quickly, but the grant helped me to fly out to Chicago to run the time I needed. It helped to go to some oher races leading up to the Trials when I was getting back on my feet after taking a break in 2013). I’ve had a very good relationship with Nike, and they’ve taken care of me since I graduated from the University of Oregon, but the RRCA helped me to bridge the gap a little bit at a time when I really needed the support.”
Ability to Stay in the Sport After College
Alia Gray: “Financial feasibility in general has always been really difficult—I can’t remember a time since I’ve graduated college that I’ve felt really safe and secure financially. The grant just meant a lot to me in helping keep the dream alive, and it also helped keep the financial stress down. I really felt like I was able to get some of the help that I needed to be able to do this the right way.”
Becky Wade: “It makes a big difference. Every little bit matters! I have a soft tissue/manual therapy person I see every other week, and that cost adds up over the course of a year. There’s a bunch of travel to races and gear, you know, just things that require buying. So any kind of outside support helps mitigate the time and money along with the effort that I’m putting into the sport. It’s just really nice and very much appreciated when there’s some kind of support.”
Danny Docherty: “Bill Orr speaks at RunPro Camp about the process of elite athlete coordination for races. As a result, I’ve attended many of the races where he’s the elite athlete coordinator. I attended the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run in 2017. Then I went to the Gasparilla Distance Classic in 2018. It’s good to keep in contact with many of the speakers and athletes that participate in the RunPro camp. It’s been cool to follow fellow RunPro Camp attendees on social media, and to see that they’re making a good progression upward.”
Since Receiving the Roads Scholar Grant, What Have you Accomplished?
Alia Gray: “I actually got injured around the time that I got the grant, so I’m really hoping that I see the performance come around this year. Honestly, having received assistance at a time that was a really difficult time for me in my running career was really pivotal. It allowed me to book some appointments with health professionals that I might not have been able to do. So, I feel like this has set me up now, especially going into the 2020 Olympic year, to be in a good place with health and overall mental fortitude.”
Becky Wade: “In the past few years, I’ve made the IAAF 2018 World Half Marathon Championship Team in Valencia, Spain, and I qualified for that with the time that I ran here in Houston last year. I was third in the Houston Marathon (2017), and I was 10th in the Chicago Marathon (2017), and 11th in London (2018). So, I’ve gotten some good experience at some of the major marathons. I’m still pushing for that really fast time that I’m capable of. I’m running Boston this year and conditions could be anything, but it’ll be another great opportunity to learn and push myself.”
Gabi Anzalone: “The grant came before my first marathon, Chicago in 2017, and unfortunately, I dropped out at mile 21. I was struggling with if I was supposed to be doing this sport—I received this grant and now I’ve just failed at the thing that I thought I was supposed to do. I took four days off of running, and then I came back and texted my coach, ‘How about CIM? Can I go do that?’ and he said, ‘If you think you get in, go ahead.’ I ended up squeaking in under the “A” standard and ran a 2:36:46. I actually think the grant helped me get to CIM and made me feel more comfortable in taking that leap and spending a little extra to get the Airbnb that I stayed at.”
Luke Puskedra: “When I started back running again, I wasn’t looking for sponsors, I was just trying to decide if I still had a love for running on a personal level. I had heard about the RRCA, and everything that they do. I applied for the grant, so I could go to a few more of the races, and to decide if I did want to run competitively anymore. After having my breakthrough in Chicago (2015, 2:10:24 – fifth place, first American), I decided that this is something I wanted to do on a competitive level. I definitely enjoy running as a lifestyle and all the people that you get to meet in the sport.”
What Else Should People Know about the RRCA?
Danny Docherty: “I think they just appeal to the common runner. Their organization helps bring up every runner, not just elites. Just building people up is necessary in anything you want to do in life. The whole program gave me a ton of confidence that it’s possible to stay in the sport. I think people need people in their corner to believe in them and hold them up when the days are rough. Even when the days are great, you need someone to share that with, too.”
Thank You, RRCA!
Alia Gray: “I just want to say ‘thank you’ to the RRCA. Like I said earlier, funding is so hard to come by, so when you’re given the opportunity to have a bit of it yourself, you really try to make the most of it. I’m hoping that the funding that I received is really going to show in these next couple of years.”
Notable Performances at the Chevron Houston Marathon and the Aramco Houton Half Marathon
- Reed Fischer (RunPro Camp ’17, Roads Scholar ’18): was the first American male to cross the half marathon finish line in 1:02:06 (a :51 PR!) Since his performance in Houston, he has signed with Boom! Athlete Management (agent Josh Cox). Reed anticipates making his marathon debut in the very near future.
- Newlyweds Katy Jermann (RunPro Camp ’15, Roads Scholar ’15) and Tyler Jermann (Roads Scholar ’17) were both 9th place in the marathon. Tyler smashed his former PR by 3 minutes, while Katy’s 2:33:41 marathon debut netted her a 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials “A” qualifying standard.
- Danny Docherty (RunPro Camp ’14) secured his 2020 OTQ with a marathon debut time of 2:18:27.
- Futsum Zienasellassie (RunPro Camp ’17) qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in the half marathon (1:03:10).
Place Name Finish
9 Tyler Jermann 2:13:29
14 Danny Docherty 2:18:27 (Debut)
Marathon – Elite Women
Place Name Finish
6 Kelsey Bruce 2:31:53
9 Katy Jermann 2:33:41 (Debut)
Half Marathon – Elite Men
Place Name Finish
9/10OA Reed Fischer 1:02:06 (PR)
17 Futsum Zienasellassie 1:03:10
26 Aaron Braun 1:04:52
33 Luke Puskedra 1:07:44
Half Marathon – Elite Women
Place Name Finish
14 Becky Wade 1:12:35
20 Alia Gray 1:13:49
22 Nicole DiMercurio 1:13:57
25 Gabi Anzalone 1:14:34