Welcome to Finishers Club Crew profiles! Here, we’ll be profiling each member of our new Finishers Club Crew — the fine ladies and gents who share their love of running through Finishers Club!
In our inaugural profile, we spoke with Wyatt Massey, a journalist and ultra-runner who logs major miles while also giving back to the global community through his organization, Hope in Sweat. You can follow Wyatt’s adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Strava, Medium, and, of course, Finishers Club.
- How long have you been running?
My first running memory is sprinting across the farm where I grew up. After chicken chores each night, I would dash home because I was scared of the dark. Turns out terror is great motivation for speed work. When I was older, and less afraid, I’d pretend I was Michael Johnson gunning for the 400m record.
My first official race was middle school cross country, which was *gasp* a decade ago. In high school, I raced cross country and track, where I specialized in mid-distance events. I stepped away from running during my first years at Marquette University. But a college running group, founded by the school’s president, got me back into the groove. Together, we raced several half marathons and trained for the Milwaukee marathon. The love of running only grew from there, leading to longer distances and, now, ultra-running.
- What do you feel running “does for you?”
Running is a form of process and release for me. As someone who struggles with depression, I see running as one of the best tools for fighting my black dog. Depression often involves ruminating—spiraling into cycles of negative thinking. While any form of exercise produces feel good hormones that can combat depression, running helps me most with perspective.
Thoughts that would normally send me crashing lose their power when I’m out on the trail. When those thoughts come, I’m miles from being able to do anything about them. My legs are too busy pumping across terrain. There is nothing I can do but run. So, miles go by and the negative voices in my head, which moments ago felt urgent, seem less important. In those moments, I’m reminded how those thoughts are just thoughts. How what matters is my reaction. How I can free myself from the cycles of negativity if I choose. This is the comforting perspective running provides and a perspective I can carry with me long after my shoes are untied. I share these thoughts and my own running journey on my blog Hope in Sweat.
- Do you listen to music or podcasts while your run? If so, what are some things you listen to? Or do you prefer to run without?
Me and headphones. Well, “it’s complicated.” I waffle between not being able to go a quarter mile without something in my ears and rejecting anything but the sounds of nature.
Right now, I prefer no headphones. But I love listening to sports-related podcasts, such as the Rich Roll Podcast (listen to Robin Arzon, David Goggins and Anthony Ervin), the MtnMeister Podcast and Finding Mastery. These shows bring a wealth of inspiration to tap into during difficult workouts.
- What’s one piece of gear you love?
Last fall, I bought a TomTom Spark 3 Cardio GPS watch. The watch freed me from carrying my phone and gave me the chance to focus on heart-rate. Being able to run in various heart rate zones was crucial for my ultramarathon training. My Type A personality loves all the data the watch can provide, though a vacation from analyzing every step of your run has been good from time to time, too.
- What’s one recent running-related challenge you’ve encountered?
June 2017 marked my highest high and the lowest low in running. I started the month toeing the line at the Kettle 100, a 100-mile race and my first ultramarathon. A tad ambitious, I know. Flying through the Wisconsin woods, across prairies and under pine tree canopies was the most exciting race of my life. Thirteen hours of joy.
But all good things must come to an end. My day on the trail ended with a “DNF” after 72 miles. My knee seized up after the 100k aid station, my IT band tightening and forcing me to walk into the next aid station. The weeks since the race were frustrating, to say the least. My best friends are meeting for runs, the weather is glorious and I could not run. Stretching and focused strength training (squats, bridges and clamshells) have me back to some light training. However, the experience of being sidelined helped me focused on enjoying the comeback process. Runners like Amelia Boone, who beautifully shares her journey dealing with setbacks, keeps me humble and inspired.
- What advice would you give to someone just starting to run?
Be proud of yourself. Seriously. The courage required to run—whether it’s a block or a marathon—is the same. Even the most seasoned runner struggles with motivation and questions if she or he can complete a workout. Push yourself and be proud of what you can do. Humans are capable of incredible feats of strength and endurance, and now you’re part of the tribe. Thank you for contributing!