Nick Symmonds is Leaving the Sport Better than He Found It

Nick Symmonds

Nick Symmonds is a guy who knows how to get attention. If you don’t know him as the guy who auctioned off his skin as ad space twice, or the guy who passed on joining the U.S.’s World Championship track and field team because he wouldn’t sign the contract limiting his ability to promote his sponsors, then you might know him as that runner guy who dated Paris Hilton, that runner guy who was rumored to star on a season of The Bachelor, or that runner guy who was on American Ninja Warrior.

More importantly though, those stunts, as many people have called them, have helped make Nick Symmonds as close to a household name as any American 800 meter specialist could be. Despite his 2013 World Championship silver medal and making it to two Olympics, even placing 5th in 2012, Nick argues that corruption at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and U.S.A. Track and Field (USATF) make it almost impossible for many top-level track athletes to earn a subsistence living, let alone pay to train at the level necessary to compete with the best in the world.

Nick, himself, has made it his mission to clean up the sport he loves, but also to be personally successful whether on the track or off. As he approaches retirement from his own professional running career, he’s shifting his focus to the company he started with his former coach, Sam Lampray, Run Gum.

I was eager to talk to Nick about Run Gum, his feelings about doping, the Olympics, USATF, his future, and to get to know the real dude behind the “stunts”.

[Just a quick note before we get into the interview. I didn’t want to completely rehash what Nick has talked about in many of his other interviews, so if you’re not very familiar with him and want a baseline knowledge of what he’s about, I’d recommend taking a listen to his recent interview on the Runners Connect Run to the Top Podcast. I used it as a jumping off point for my questions and refer to it several times in the interview as well. And with that, grab a cup of something and enjoy!]

Salty: So tell us about Run Gum.

Nick: I used energy drinks for years, but they were so hard on my stomach. So I loved the way they made me feel but I hated the way they made my stomach feel. So we took everything that’s in an energy drink and then fused it into two pieces of chewing gum. So a packet of Run Gum has two pieces of gum and they have 140 mg of caffeine, 40 mg of Taurine  and B vitamins in that pack. You absorb it up to five times faster, sublingually, rather than absorbing it through your stomach, it’s sugar free, it’s calorie free and it gives you the energy to get through a busy day. I always say I want energy, I’m not thirsty. And that’s what Run Gum is; it’s a quicker, more efficient, more affordable way to get energy, whether you’re running errands or taking the kids to school, running into a meeting or actually out running, Run Gum is a much better way to get energy into the body.

S: What’s Taurine?

N: Taurine, it’s basically an amino acid that’s critical for all cellular function.

S: You know what would be the perfect time to take it? When you have to wake up at 5:00am to run straight out of bed.

N: Oh yeah. You don’t have time to make coffee and you don’t want to have a bunch of coffee in your stomach. So there are times when I have to jump out of bed and get my workout in. Or one of our employees is a surfer, and the surf is best at dawn. And he’s got his board in his car and he’s out and he says, he gets headaches (because) he’s a caffeine addict, but he’s not gonna brew an espresso out on his board. So he just packs a pack of Run Gum and he’s good to go. Mountain climbers love it, rock climbers love it, because it’s so lightweight, it weighs almost nothing. We have some users in Wasilla, Alaska that like to use it because they do overnight sled dog racing. And Red Bull or energy drinks will freeze on them. But Run Gum doesn’t freeze because there’s no liquid in it. So many people find that Run Gum is a superior way to get these performance enhancing stimulants.

S: Why is it better than a different caffeine gum? Because there are other caffeine gums on the market.

N: There are. And we don’t really call ourselves a caffeine gum. We’re an energy gum, just like an energy drink doesn’t just utilize caffeine. Taurine and B vitamins are very very powerful stimulants and effective for bodily functions. We infuse our gum with B vitamins, B-6 and B-12 specifically, and taurine. It’s an energy gum that, if you try it, it really hits you efficiently and quickly. That’s one of the reasons that many people who try Run Gum and purchase or repurchase it feel this immediate flood of energy and focus.

Nick with Sam Lapray, his partner and former coach
With Sam Lapray, his business partner and former coach

S: You’re an amazing pitch person. Do you practice this over and over? Does it come naturally?

N: You know what, I built this product because I needed it. When my coach and I designed – we own this company 100% between the two of us – when we designed this product it wasn’t to bring it to mass market, it was literally just for me because I needed it. When we’re racing, a tenth of a second here or a quarter second there in the 800 can be the difference between medaling or not medaling or winning or losing, and sometimes that means tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So investing money into bringing this product to market for me only made sense, but once we saw how efficient it was my training partners and teammates started using it. We thought to ourselves this is a really fantastic product that we need to share with the world. And we launched the business in October of 2014 and I have of course pitched a lot since then, but I think when you hear it flow naturally it’s because I truly believe in this product. Again I’m a two-time Olympian and the biochemist that created this product for myself.

S: You’re amazing! You just drop everything in, I love it.

N: I hope what you hear is authenticity and sincerity. Because I really do believe that this product is a better way for people to get energy. And I see kids walking down the street and they’re carrying a big, you know, sugar-rich caloric-rich energy drink, and I remember in high school, you know I was playing three sports at once and being pulled in 100 different directions and trying to get through busy days, and I was tired all the time. And I wish I’d had a product like this back then. We don’t market to high schoolers, but if a high schooler is gonna walk around with a big nasty energy drink I’d rather see them ditch that for a packet of run gum that has zero calories and zero sugar.

S: Sure, sure, sure. It’s obvious you genuinely care a lot about it. But it’s funny, I was listening to the Runners Connect podcast and it was just remarkable. You just slip it all in so nicely. I wish I could do that. You should coach people on this.

N: Thank you very much I appreciate that

S: So you said that you were using other stimulants. Was it just caffeine and energy drinks?

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Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. By day she's a camera assistant for films and tv in New York, and by night she's on a quest for zen in the 10k. Her writing is a mix of satirical humor, finding wholeness as an average runner, cheering for runners at all paces and more.

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  1. I loved this interview and really appreciated a lot of the things he had to say, in fact he surprised me a few times. I really appreciate his thoughts on the doping situation (black and white when it comes to breaking the rules) but also acknowledging that grey area. As well as on genetics and when it comes to intersex/trans athletes. As someone who admittedly is VERY grey (I rarely see things in black and white, though I agree that if you break the law or rules…it’s pretty clear) its nice to read that I’m not alone in believing it isn’t always as simple as yes/no etc. Same thing with the PETA stuff, you can eat meat/hunt/fish and still believe in animals being treated properly etc.

    1. He’s a very talented guy all around – athlete, pitch-man, entrepreneur, advocate, conversationalist … I was impressed and I really enjoyed talking to him. I think the one thing that was most surprising to me is that he possesses humility. He is confident, opinionated, and assured, but knows his place in the world too. He is grateful for his gifts, his success, and aware of the power those things afford him and is committed to doing good work with that power. How can you not be a fan?

  2. Great interview. Nick does come across a little cocky and brash at times, so it was great to see something more long-form and get to hear his thoughts. I enjoyed this obviously thoughtful responses.

    I really appreciated his comments on the USATF — as a “sub-elite” (apparently, according to Spikenard’s article posted last week!), I ask myself somewhat regularly if I need to join USATF. But I struggle to see the benefit for me as an athlete, and I don’t think Siegel needs my money for jet fuel.

  3. Love this guy and what he has brought to the sport…and I’m not just talking about the gum 🙂 I had previously listened to the Run to the Top Podcast and this was a great change up from all the usual stuff you hear from Nick. Thank you!!