Last Updated on February 17, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Sick of constantly fighting to climb the corporate ladder (and not getting to record any vertical gain on Strava for it)? Hate your desk job that leaves you feeling lethargic and unfulfilled, with lazy glutes and tight hamstrings to boot? Wondering how you can make running your job?
I was too.
After I discovered running wasn’t so horrible after all (who are we kidding, I fell head over heels in love with it) back in 2006, I immediately knew that I wanted to find a way to spend my time sharing my love for this life changing sport with others. But if we’re being honest, I also had to pay the bills. I knew there had to be a way to turn this passion into a paycheck.
It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t come without many failures, doubts, and people telling me to “find a more realistic career.” But over the years I’ve managed to piece together a few obvious – and some unlikely – job titles to form a career in the running industry.
Here are 5 ways YOU can make running your job:
1) Become an Elite Runner
Don’t worry, I couldn’t even write that one without a smirk on my face. Let’s face it, 99% of us aren’t ever going pro anytime soon. Though crazier things have happened to seemingly average Joes (or Janes): in April of 2018 Sarah Sellers, a nurse from Texas, ran her second marathon ever. It happened to be the Boston Marathon, she happened to come in second place, winning seventy five thousand dollars. So that 1% of you? You CAN use your genetic gift to make running your job.
For the other 99% of us mere running mortals, let’s get on to the more realistic options:
2) Trade Bosses
You don’t necessarily have to change your career in order to make running your job, you just have to change who you are working for.
The running industry is valued at approximately 1.4 billion dollars. That sort of market is far more intricate than a bunch of people who are really good at running (as mentioned in point #1 above). No, the running industry is made up of multi million dollar sneaker, apparel, and race companies (among others) that employ professionals in countless fields. Marketing, finance, computer programming, design, human resources, sales, tech reps…you name it. Some bigger race companies even employ people to travel the country and build race courses.
So think outside of the box. Chances are what you are currently doing for work, you could also do for a company that loves running as much as you do.
3) Become a Running Coach
If you love running, love helping others, love teaching, and love a healthy dose of exercise physiology, then you might be a candidate to become a running coach.
It’s a common misconception that running coaches are reserved for elite athletes. Quite the contrary, many intermediate and even beginner runners seek out the guidance and support of well qualified running coaches to help them reach their goals.
There are quite a few avenues you could take as a running coach, from one on one in-person coaching, to virtual coaching, to highschool or even corporate fundraising team coaching, and more. But the first step to all of it: get certified. Road Runners Club of America as well as USA Track and Field both offer reputable coaching certification courses, and are a great place to begin your run coaching career. Or, you can take it one step further and combine a run coaching certification with personal training credentials, and go to work in a gym.
In my post “So You Want to Be A Running Coach” I discuss more of the realities of run coaching, from the business side to the “my clients give me FOMO” side. Check it out for a more in-depth view of what it takes to become a running coach.
As a career, run coaching most likely won’t make you rich. But you’ll become wealthy in other ways beyond your wildest dreams. The friendships I’ve made as a coach, and the experiences of being able to help people achieve their goals, are absolutely priceless.
4) Work in a Running Store
Are you a gearhead? Do you get excited to learn about the latest and greatest technology in the running world? Love helping people find solutions to their problems? See if your local running specialty store is hiring! Smaller shops may employ you as a “jack of all trades” employee. Larger stores may be hiring for more specific positions, from events coordinator, to training program coach, to sales person, or even inventory.
Chances are you won’t be making a full time livable salary off of a retail gig, but picking up some hours at your local running store will help you further immerse yourself in the local running scene…and you’ll earn a paycheck while doing so.
As an added bonus, many shoe and apparel companies occasionally provide free gear to running store employees for demoing and advertising purposes. So in addition to earning some extra cash for race entry fees, you may snag some free shoes to help further fund your running habits.
5) Start a Semi Successful Running Blog
Alright, this might be a stretch, but it has (sort of) worked for me. Pursue your passion for running by sharing your experiences and knowledge with 7+ billion of your closest friends, via the world wide web. If you have the ability to produce creative, unique, and engaging content, you might have what it takes to become a running blogger.
Believe it or not, many successful bloggers manage to rake in a six figure salary as content creators and influencers. More than that manage to seriously supplement their income with steady blog paychecks.
Now, before you grab a url, publish your first post, and wait for the money to start rolling in, know that it’s far more involved than it appears. Just ask my husband how much time I spend glued to my desk chair, editing photos, researching content, SEO strategizing, emailing back and forth with various brands, and trying to ward off writer’s block. It’s not the easiest job in the world…but it’s a pretty incredible one.
While I may not be in the six figure club, I’ve had some incredible opportunities from this blog, like hanging out at Bart Yasso’s house, or taking cheesy pictures with Shalane Flanagan, or that time I was in a Merrell commercial (no, I never get tired sharing that one. My 15 minutes of semi-Hollywood-fame.) Plus, I get to share my knowledge and passion with the world…or at least whoever stumbles across this blog…and make a little extra money at the same time (through those advertisements you see in this very post. Thank you for your support!)
So…Ready to Make Running Your Job?
These are just five examples of how you can jump into the running industry. If you’re like me, you can find a way to combine almost all of these “jobs” into a full time career. I encourage you to think outside of the box: there are so many ways you can make running your job.
As the saying goes, “choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Sure, it’s a bit of a misnomer: you still have to work hard to succeed, in any industry. But if you absolutely love what you do, it doesn’t really feel like “work”. And that in itself is worth more than any paycheck!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.