Abbey D’Agostino: What it Means to be a Professional Runner

Track and field is a sport that really only has major media presence during the Olympics.  That being said, many students in high school and college participate in this sport, and continue cross country running later on in their adult life.  Why aren’t accomplished track athletes, other than Usain Bolt, common household names?  Why aren’t we idolizing these impressive athletes the way we idolize quarterbacks in the NFL?

abbeypicsAbbey D’Agostino is an incredibly successful indoor and outdoor runner who created a name for herself at Dartmouth College. She is the most decorated athlete in Dartmouth history.  D’Agostino is a 7x National Champion (NCAA), 16x League Champion, and 13x All-American.  In 2014, after an extremely successful senior season at Dartmouth, D’Agostino went pro and began running for New Balance.  Her major events are the 5,000m and the 10,000m.  While at New Balance, Abbey qualified for a spot on the US National Team at the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships to compete in the women’s 5,000m at the World Championships in Beijing.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Abbey and understand what it means to be a successful professional runner.  She opened up about her experiences at Dartmouth, the New Balance team, and her relationship with longtime coach Mark Hoogan. Abbey could be a role model for athletes everywhere if track and field had more media attention. A common household name that represents mental toughness, competition, and teamwork should be: Abbey D’Agostino.

 

Can you describe to me you typical day as a professional runner? What is a typical workout for you?

Being a professional runner requires a lot of repetition and routine! I usually wake up around 7:00-7:30am, eat breakfast, get ready for practice etc, drive to practice which usually is 9:30am to 12:00pm, come home to eat, shower, and chill for a couple hours, then gear up for a second workout on my own in the afternoon, make and eat dinner, then relax before bed. Some days I’ll have a PT or chiro appt in the afternoon, and will occasionally have a church event at night, but the above is most typical.

Most of my training consists of distance runs of 8-10 miles in the morning and 3-4 in the evening. Hard workout days will be anything from 8x1k repeats on a grass field to tempo runs to hill repeats — these workouts are more common in the fall. In the spring we’re on the track at least once a week.

 

What was it like going to Dartmouth and not a huge D1 school that is known for it’s athletics?

It was the best! Firstly I loved the dynamic of the team given there were no athletic scholarships — it meant everyone on the team was there out of sheer love for the sport; there were no strings attached. Also, being at a school where academics were the first priority taught me better time management and the need to advocate for myself with professors, teammates, coaches, etc. Because we were expected to balance so much, I often felt overwhelmed and therefore learned how to ask for help, which I now realize is a hugely important life skill.

 

27248628I hear you and your family talk a lot about your coach Mark Coogan, can you describe to me your relationship with him? Does he work only with you?

Mark is great. I feel so privileged to that I’m able to continue working with him post-college, because the coach-athlete relationship takes time and patience. Over the course of 5+ years, we’ve been able to establish a respect, friendship, and most of all, TRUST with one another — and that’s critically important to maximizing my performance.

Some noteworthy qualities in Mark are that he’s 1) incredibly experienced — he is a 1996 Olympic marathoner, competed in multiple World XC Championships and World Track and Field Champs. His strong body of knowledge and understanding for the sport makes it that much easier to trust him with our mental and physical training. 2) He’s direct — we can always count on Mark to be completely honest and simple — that counterbalances the tendency for my teammates and I to overthink and overanalyze our training. Mark keeps us in check! 3) He encourages us to be self-sufficient and intrinsically motivated — this has taught me to ask MORE of myself.

Mark coaches all 3 of my teammates and me!

 

Being a runner is both an individual and a team sport, what is it like to be on a team like this? What’s your relationship with your other teammates?

The fact that running combines both individual and team elements was one of the main reasons I was originally drawn to the sport. On the one hand, when you race and train, YOU are the only person who knows how hard you’re working — you’re competing with your own physical and mental limits — but on the other hand, maximizing your ability to challenge your limits REQUIRES other people, be it a coach, training partners, family, etc. On the elite level, where training becomes more individualized and finely-tuned, a team setting is harder to find, so I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of the NB elite team recently formed in Boston. There are currently four women total, each specializing in a different distance. We each have different personalities and skill sets, and these differences actually bring us closer together and closer to our collective goal — bringing out the BEST in each other as athletes and human beings .. and hopefully that lends to making an Olympic team. My coach always emphasizes that when any of us competes against each other, we truly compete, but when we cross the finish line, we’re best friends.

 

What’s it like being a part of the New Balance team? Do you do anything else for them besides run and compete?

Being part of the NB brand is incredible because the company itself is founded on solid values; namely, the importance of a family culture and community impact. As a sponsored athlete, I am treated as a member of the family — with an emphasis on long-term goals and my value as both an athlete and overall person. Besides running and competing, the other athletes and I will get involved with various “appearances” e.g. speaking about the shoes/brand at a local Run Specialty store or at a high school camp, competition, or other event. NB also places a HUGE emphasis on including athletes in their process of collecting data and using it to design shoes and apparel. They’re constantly looking for our feedback on how they can better the product for our performance.

 

UFAPMNUFPVVUGFC.20150629140440What is your proudest accomplishment so far?

Undoubtedly making the World Championship track and field team in the 5k this summer. I was just returning from a serious injury in February/March and, although I had worked hard cross-training, was somewhat uncertain of how the outdoor season would turn out. It honestly felt like such a GIFT I was able to come back healthy and in-shape for the US Champs, where I qualified.

 

There really isn’t a lot of track and running presence in mainstream sports media (except during the olympics), how do you feel about that? Do you think it should be in the spotlight more?

That’s true! It’s the dream of many professional track and field athletes to better broadcast the sport. Because the fan base isn’t nearly as strong as the more mainstream sports, many of us have to make big sacrifices and choices to pursue the sport on the elite level. The limited financial support means athletes are forced to work part-time, etc. or otherwise live minimally. This often, unfortunately, means athletes are unable to dedicate the time necessary to rest/recover, and therefore reach their highest potential. Strides (no pun intended) have been made recently with the success of broadcasting media like Flotrack.com, but there is still a ways to go in order for some athletes to feel justified in pursuing it full-time. So short answer is, yes!

 

Why do you love to run? What keeps you going?

I feel joy and presence when I run and that, I believe, is because it’s a gift I’ve been given by God – it’s what I feel called to do right now in my life. What motivates me is knowing that this sport is my current calling, it’s where I’m supposed to be, and it’s a platform for me to reach others… to give back with the gift that’s been given to me.

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