What Do Elite Runners Do When They Retire?

Joan Benoit Samuelson

What do elite runners do once they have have parted ways with their professional track career? After that last flag has been draped over their shoulders, after the very last olive wreath crown is placed on their heads, and the last Olympic medal or record is bestowed, what is it that they do? Where are they now?

Marla Runyan

Elite status: Two-time U.S. Olympian, with an eighth place finish in the 1,500 meters at the 2000 Olympics, national marathon champion, three-time national 5,000-meter champion, fourth at the 2002 New York City Marathon in 2:27:10, former American record holder in the indoor 5,000 meters, American record holder for the heptathlon 800 meters. And, for good measure, a high jump best of 5’11”. Oh and did I forget to mention she’s legally blind?

Retired status: Working as a teacher and ambassador at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts.

Rob de Castella

Elite Status: Rob de Castella first came to international attention when he won the 1981 Fukuoka Marathon in a time of 2:08:18, which was the fastest time recorded for an out-and-back course. He won the 1983 Rotterdam Marathon in 2:08:37, defeating a deep field that included the previously unbeaten Alberto Salazar and Carlos Lopes. Castella also represented Australia at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He competed in four straight Olympic Games. Despite finishing in the top ten in three Olympics, Castella never won a medal.

Retired Status: The native Aussie now works with the Indigenous Marathon Project, a program that trains indigenous Australians or ‘aborigines’ for races around Australia in preparation for the New York City Marathon.

“You must have a training routine so that what you do happens automatically,” Castella told Runner’s Connect. “If I got up in the morning and thought about going for a run, there would often be a number of possible arguments against it. The thing is to get out and run. Later you can wonder whether you should have or not.”

Bart Yasso

Elite Status: Bart Yasso is one of the few people to have completed races on all seven continents from the Antarctica Marathon to the Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon. He won the U.S. National Biathlon Long Course Championship in 1987. He has also completed an Ironman five times and the Badwater 135 through Death Valley. In addition to running, Yasso has cycled, unsupported and by himself, across the country twice.

He’s also the creator of the infamous Yasso 800 workout. If you don’t know what they are, learn about it here.

Retired status: Yasso currently makes his living as a writer and race ambassador. He travels all over the world coach and inspire runners into their first or 500th race.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Elite Status: Joan Benoit Samuelson won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. In doing so, she became the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon champion.

Retired Status: Samuelson is still an icon in women’s distance running. She is currently a consultant to Nike, and a published author of two running books. She also founded the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine, which benefits a different children’s charity each year.

“Every time I fail, I assume I will be a stronger person for it,” said Benoit Samuelson in her biography. “I keep on running figuratively and literally, despite a limp that gets more noticeable with each passing season, because for me there has always been a place to go and a terrible urgency to get there.”

Few of us will probably ever achieve elite status. However one of the great things about running is that you don’t have to in order to give back.

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