The 26-year-old opened up about what's been going on his life since leaving the Brooks Beasts training group last April for undisclosed reasons. He has suffered from depression since high school and recently started taking anti-depressants again while finishing his degree at Penn State.
Below is a transcription of the following interview.
Are you alright?
I'm not really sure. It’s something in my abductor. I kind of just wanted to go hard and get as many people through from our heat as I can. I've just been in the car a lot this week. It actually turned into a pain in the ass getting here. I was flying all over the place; I was in the car all week.
I stayed an extra day in Boston. I flew standby with a friend to San Diego, then drove to Phoenix. I was in Phoenix all week then drove from Phoenix to here.
It's just a lot.
It's super frustrating. The fitness definitely isn’t where it needs to be. It's been a pretty shitty year, to be honest. I just don’t feel very prepared for competition right now. I'm really hoping to get in a different training situation. I'm just not super happy being a professional runner right now; it sucks.
I'm at State College. I moved back in the fall and took classes and finished my degree in December. I'm so thankful for the Penn State team and Gondak and everyone for having me back.
But it's just a little different.
As a volunteer assistant coach, which I have to be to train with the team, I'm pretty strictly on the coaching end of things in terms of who I can spend time with — like what my social group is. I'm a very social person; I kind of need that camaraderie to be successful. Looking at it now, I think I almost would have been happier not to be an assistant, to do all my training all alone and be allowed to hang out with everyone after the practice.
I'm very isolated.
I think since August, I've had dinner with another person like six or seven times.
It's pretty shitty back there. I'm working like 20 hours a week in a restaurant on my feet, just trying to make it. Everything about it’s not super ideal. I don't have a contract; I don't have really any real source of income. I'm super financially stressed.
It's great that I'm done with school but, gosh, I just want to be back with a team so bad.
I'm exploring every single option I can to try to get somewhere more productive. It's super frustrating because I love running so much and it's just been really hard to keep myself motivated; it's tough to do every single little thing you need to do to be a world-class runner and know that other people that you’re gonna be racing against can do that.
There's so many people who are successful unsponsored and successful working full-time. So it's not something where I want to... scapegoat that as an excuse because that would be pretty soft of me. But it's a change and on top of that, a lot of people who are successful at that are working full-time jobs so at least they are financially stable, or they're in a happy relationship. They have a family, they're kind of happy and stable and...
Honestly, it's been a really bad year.
I started seeing a therapist at the end of the year and I started taking anti-depressants in December. That's been a change.
It got to the point where I felt like I needed a little bit more help, just day-to-day.
Thinking about doing all of the little things you need to do, it's been really all I can do to just get out the door every day and not retire on the spot and move on and do something else. It's really tough, I'm at an in-between place since last year. I'm ready to get back to work and I'm ready to do it with people, but I'm gonna need a little bit of help.
I know I haven't really performed on the track, which is a prerequisite to getting in a good training situation with a contract, but its kind of this catch-22 where I feel like I need that to get back on track and jumpstart things and get back to work. I'm super frustrated.
I have to get some blood work done which is gonna be tricky.
I feel kinda like how I did in 2016 when my vitamin D was off, or 2012 when my ferritin was plummeted and I kind of have a suspicion that the anti-depressant is interacting with some other stuff, be nutritionally affecting something. I’m calibrating.
My focus is on overall life happiness and getting back to where I'm going to be for 2019, 2020, 2021, and finding a new home, new track family, so to speak.
In the grand scheme of things, it's an off year. We have some Americans who are running incredibly well. Erik’s running out of his mind, I just wish he had the standard, Donavan’s obviously running, having a once in a generation talent year. It's impressive, 800m running in America is so strong as it is. It's tough.
How do you like coaching?
To be perfectly honest, I don't really do a lot of coaching. I wish I could do more.
That's absolutely something…it's funny, last year I felt at times I was more invested in other people’s running than mine. And it's a little counter-intuitive but it does make sense. I think I have a good head for it and it's definitely something I'd like to do in the future.
But I think I'd be doing myself a disservice if I didn't… This is the only time in my life I'm going to be able to do this. It's really frustrating not feeling like I'm having an opportunity to do it to the best of my ability. But it's fun, I enjoy being at these meets. I've raced a lot this season. I'm kind of banging my head against the wall. I think it's just time to reset, take some downtime, take a full week off and just build back.
It's a long year next year, Worlds is so late next year. There's a ton of time, I'm just running out of runway where I'll be able to keep doing this.
I really hope something changes soon and I'll be able to get back to somewhere where I feel like I really have the tools to succeed.
And a lot of that is just, not even people to train with, but just... I don't know. Just, like, a home.
I feel like I've been living out of a suitcase and everything's been temporary since last March and I'm just trying to put that behind me and get back on track. And I'm happy I went back to school, I'm happy I'm trying to put more of an emphasis on my mental health, and me as a person, and trying to be a good friend to everyone I can, and prove from a social level that I can be all in and be a good teammate.
It's tough. I'm really not happy right now.
It's hard to do everything I need to do to be successful in that circumstance. I'm feeling a little lost with that. I know I'm still a talented athlete, I know I still have all the physical tools, it's just not set up the best. Even this week with travel.
Do you still have an agent?
I do. We've had a couple talks the last couple weeks, that's something that's between him right now. Everything like that's a little frustrating. In this sport, everyone's helpful and supportive when you’re on top and I've learned a lot about who my real people are when it comes down to it this past year.
I'm so thankful for some of them. Danny [Mackey]'s been incredibly helpful still, I'm in touch with him every week; a couple of my old teammates, Jess [Tonn] has been phenomenal, Laura Roesler has been phenomenal; everyone at USATF’s been some of the best resources I've had, Josh Glass, everyone, the whole USATF team's been great, Dustin and all them; Billy, I think he's at my house in Penn State, WOOP’s been great, they're pretty much the only company I'm working with right now.
So things, I think, are trending up, it's kind of darkest before dawn, you hear that thrown around. I'm really hoping I'm close to the turning point where I can hope I can get back on track but right now it's not the best.
It's one of those things I think is important to talk about though.
A lot of people have been struggling with depression and struggling with mental health, and I think it's a really important topic that shouldn't be nearly as taboo as it is. It happens, it's one of the most widely prevalent things.
Is this your first time taking anti-depressants?
No, I did in high school... And through exercise and running and camaraderie and my track family and everyone at Penn State and moving out to Seattle [I was able to self-medicate].
I dealt with another bout of [depression] my fifth year when I went back to try to finish school the first time.
And then to come to Seattle again, it was like a godsend. I was so happy to be there. Really just living that healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly and getting sleep and having friends and all that -- is such a big part of helping to mitigate that and I really think you can deal with it in other ways than taking medicine.
You know, I'm just at another time where I'm very isolated and it's hard.
I'm very stubborn and I don't do well with seeking help. So that's something I've tried to put an emphasis on this fall since I've been back at school. I don't think it's hard to talk about, I'm pretty comfortable with it, but I know there's a lot of other people that struggle with it and don't really talk about it.
It's hard to get out of bed in the morning.
It's really hard to train at a high level and be one of the best professional runners in the world, and I just have my fingers crossed that we're close to a turning point where I can get somewhere else.
And if not, I'll move on and find something else to do but I love this sport and I love the people in it. It's obviously a shitty weekend and I didn't run well and I'm very frustrated but at the same time, this is some of the only social time I've had this year so it's good to see everyone and be around people that I care about and care about me and hopefully we can make some changes soon and get back to a good place.