Busting Down Barriers


Zack Sharlepp,

Anytime I watch a major running event I always find myself fanaticizing what it would be like to be a professional runner. The luxury of running whenever you want. The ability to rest and recover immediately after each workout. The benefit of not having to balance a career and the constant other commitments that life throws at us. The experience and expertise of a qualified coach creating a perfect training plan tailored just for you. The excitement of traveling to exotic locales, racing all the premier events, and training in the best training grounds around the nation.

In late January I got a glimpse of what it really means to chase the dream of becoming a professional runner. It all started when I responded to a Facebook post seeking willing families in the Tallahassee area to open their home to two professional runners making their way across the southeast. I cautiously accepted, warning my potential guests that we only had one spare bed and a 14 month old who tends to be rather cantankerous at 4:30 every morning. Undeterred, Garrett and Maddi, two professional runners from Colorado, took Rachel and me up on our offer.

After the two raced a 5k in St. Augustine, Florida, Garrett posting a personal best 14:08 and Maddi a personal best of 16:51, the two made their way back to Tallahassee. Before arriving at my house, they finished their day with a workout at FSU’s Morcom pool, completing a rigorous day of running and driving.

Shortly after their arrival, I quickly discovered that the life of a professional runner, at least one chasing the dream, was not quite as luxurious as I thought. Garrett and Maddi, 2017 graduates of Creighton University, were in their second week of a three-month sojourn across the Southeastern U.S. Having made their way here from Colorado, the duo was set to take the Southern racing circuit by storm including St. Augustine, Florida, Nashville, Tennessee, Birmingham, Alabama, Charlottesville, Virginia and Wilmington, North Carolina.

Every weekend brings a new location, a new race, and a new adventure. Each weekend also brings a new challenge of finding willing hosts in each city. Money is scarce. Winnings are meager. Nightly hotels are beyond financial means. Instead, the two utilize social media and the generosity of the local running communities in hopes of landing a free place to stay each night. While I like to think of myself as an adventurous person, living the life of a nomad and relying on a stranger’s hospitality is beyond my comfort zone. Maybe I am not made out for the life of a professional runner after all.

Garrett and Maddi, however, were polite and willing to entertain me by answering the same questions they likely get at every new nightly stop. So long as they are chasing the dream, I will happily open my home to them anytime either or both of them find themselves in Tallahassee, Florida, and who knows, when they hit it big and are national stars, I’ll be able to say I did my part to help them get there. Here is to chasing our dreams, and going after what the heart desires with everything you have.