EUGENE, Ore. – Two-time Olympian and World Championships silver medalist Nick Symmonds will be 35 years old in the summer of 2019.
That’s too old to keep racing at an elite level, right?
Khadevis Robinson was 36 when he represented Team USA in the 800 meters at the 2012 London Olympics. There are numerous other examples of professional runners thriving into their mid-30s.
For Symmonds, there’s one more tantalizing carrot that could keep the former Oregon Track Club Elite athlete competing five years down the road – if the 2019 IAAF World Championships are held in the U.S. for the first time in history at Hayward Field.
“(Eugene) has already proven that it can handle the highest caliber track and field meets in the world,” Symmonds said. “So (that) might be enough to keep me running through 2019. Probably not, I’d be 35 then, but I tell you what. I would love to be a part of the World Championships if they were held down here (in TrackTown).”
Eugene is one of three candidate cities vying for the bid to play host to the 2019 IAAF World Championships, along with Barcelona, Spain and Doha, Qatar. The final decision will be made by the 27-member IAAF Council on Nov. 18 in Monaco. The 2015 and 2017 World Championships will be held in Beijing and London, respectively.
Symmonds, who is eager to get back to competitive racing after missing all of last season with a knee injury, is among those who believe the time is right for the IAAF’s crown jewel to be contested on U.S. soil.
“I think it would be phenomenal for this community, and phenomenal for U.S. track and field,” said Symmonds, a Springfield resident for the past eight years.
He broke into a wide smile at the prospect of competing on a global stage at what has essentially been his hometown track since 2006.
“Any time you get to race in front of your home crowd, whether it’s a Springfield kid racing at Hayward Field, or an American racing on U.S. soil, it elevates everything,” Symmonds said. “You don’t want to disappoint the fans, and it gives you that extra surge of adrenaline that gets you that extra tenth of a second that could mean medaling or not medaling.”
As he chewed on a stick of his latest entrepreneurial endeavor, caffeine-infused RunGum, he continued to ponder the significance of staging the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Eugene.
In his recently published book, “Life in the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled,” – a well-written, entertaining and provocative read designed to raise eyebrows – Symmonds revealed that his best moments in track and field always come after the race, win or lose, when he is surrounded by the love and support of family and friends.
He understands that not all athletes are fortunate enough to be able to share those experiences with their families.
“I’m lucky,” Symmonds said. “My family travels to most of the big meets. I think they’ve made all of the World Championships, but I know a lot of athletes whose families aren’t able to do that and it’s lonely out there …
“So, I’d like for athletes whose families don’t have the means of getting out there to be able to share in those moments, and competing on U.S. soil would make that a lot easier.”
The five-time U.S. champion in the 800 believes that bringing the World Championships to TrackTown USA would give the sport a welcome boost in terms of market exposure, and perhaps even inspire a series of domestic track and field meets in the U.S.
“If track and field can get America back on board, and get them excited about the sport, that could spill over into other markets,” Symmonds said. “We haven’t seen a lot of meet creation in recent years, and if Eugene 2019 could inspire someone to host a series of domestic meets, that’s what we need in this country. That could be a stimulus to make it happen.”
Symmonds raced for the first time in six months on Oct. 17 by taking first place in the 3rd annual Nick Symmonds 800, a straight road course on city streets in downtown Springfield. As the only sanctioned event of its kind, his time of 1 minute, 51.2 seconds stands as an unofficial world record.
Today, as he looks ahead to the 2015 outdoor season, the Brooks Beast competitor is eagerly anticipating an appearance in the 5,000 meters at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on May 2.
“I’ve never run a 5K on the track before, so I’m excited for that,” he said. “It’s a long race, and I’d like to break 14 minutes, so my plan is to go in there and run 67-second laps for as long as I can. It’s the right time of year and the right place to do it … no matter what, it will be a PR.”
If that race goes well, Symmonds plans to enter some 1,500-meter races to test the waters for a possible run at that distance at the 2015 USA Outdoor National Championships, June 25-28, at Hayward Field. If not, well, he’s already pretty accomplished in the 800.
“I would like to run the 1,500 at USAs in 2015,” said Symmonds, who posted his PR of 3:34.55 in July of 2013 at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco. “It seems like it’s always a sit-and-kick race, and if I could sit on Centro’s shoulder for three laps, I like my chances.”
Just imagine the reaction from the Hayward Field crowd this summer should that scenario materialize.
Even though Symmonds, who grew up in Boise, Idaho and graduated from Willamette University in Salem, isn’t a University of Oregon alum like Matthew Centrowitz, he feels at home at Hayward Field.
“I’ve always been kind of a nomad,” he said. “But the two places that feel most like home to me are TrackTown USA and Boise, Idaho. Everywhere else feels like a training camp. I’m really excited the (U.S. Olympic) Trials are back here in 2016, and I want to do everything I can to support the bid for the 2019 World Championships.”