Rule 40. Tattooed shoulders. Professional athletes going into debt to do their job. We all know the why. The question now is “What’s next?”

The Austin Track Club is presenting the Professional Track and Field Summit on December 6 in Austin, Texas. We’re bringing together athletes, coaches, sponsors, running stores, fans, race directors, sports media and whoever else we can think of to come together in one room (or, thanks to Flotrack, one live stream session) to lay out the next steps our sport needs to take on the road to professionalization. So far, our confirmed panelists include:

- Three-time Olympian shot-putter and Track and Field Athletes Association Vice-President Adam Nelson
- Two-time Olympic 800 meter runner and TFAA President Khadevis Robinson
- Co-founder and coach of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, Keith Hanson
- Director of the Bring Back the Mile project, David Monico
- Co-founder and president of the Mancos Project, Ben Hahn

The heart of the Summit will be three panel discussions about the main ways we can get money to our athletes: sponsorships, competition, and club support. While we slowly chip away at the USATF and IAAF rules that cripple track and field, how do we offer value to those sponsors who want to support our athletes; and what can our athletes do to attract the most sponsorship? How do we increase the opportunities to make money by competing in meets, races and showcases? And what can clubs do to provide for their athletes over the long-term, and to help develop those athletes who show the potential to be great but may be just below the level needed to earn a sponsorship?

These are the questions that we - not just the Austin Track Club, but the royal we, the editorial we - have been batting around for the last 2 years in Facebook groups, on message boards, over endless gallons of coffee, and in conversations that even our track-loving friends and significant others thought would never end. Now is the time to bring it together. The Social Media Olympics gave track and field and the restrictions on our athletes an unprecedented level of attention. Now is the time to build on that momentum before we find ourselves in Rio facing the same problems.

What can you do? Start off by spreading the word and letting us know what you would like the Summit to mean to you. Join our Facebook group and share your stories, videos and blogs about the state and future of professional track and field. Get the word out to your friends, teams and running clubs and get them in on the movement. Check in and get involved with the Track and Field Athletes Association.  If you can, get yourself to ATX on 12/6/12, or at the very least, be on Flotrack to watch it live.  Figure out what you can do to professionalize track and field, and then go do it.