Alexi Pappas: I'll see you at practice

TrackTown Fitness has become a Sunday morning destination for hundreds of people at Hayward Field each week. (TrackTown photo by Josh Phillips)

EUGENE, Ore. – On the days when my team has no organized practice, the most challenging thing for me is deciding which moment to step out the door. If I haven’t scheduled a time to run with someone, I often find that I linger longer than I should.

I’ve always loved organized practice and strict “ready to go” times. One of the things I look forward to most each week is receiving my e-mail from Coach on Sunday night explaining our training plan for the days ahead. The e-mail doesn’t divulge the specific details of my workouts, but it does tell me where to be and when.

“TrackTown Fitness does not adhere to a one-size-fits-all mentality. Rather, it is designed to support individual goals in a supportive group environment.”

– Alexi Pappas

The funny thing is, my teammates and I hardly ever do the same training – but we all get the same e-mails. I train with a group that is heavily miler and steeplechase focused, and also mostly male, so it is rare that I am doing the exact same workout and paces as anyone else. But the most important thing about meeting for practice is not that we are all doing the exact same training, it’s that we are all gathering in the same place and at the same time with the same overall goals.

At its best, practice is about stepping into a group mentality of communal support that naturally translates to individual benefit.

TrackTown USA President and 2016 U.S. Olympic men’s head track and field coach Vin Lananna provides weekly training tips at TrackTown Fitness (TrackTown photo by Josh Phillips)

Vin Lananna and TrackTown USA’s TrackTown Fitness program is an incredible manifestation of the same “practice” concept that motivates me as an Olympic athlete. TrackTown Fitness, at its core, is a team. Each one of the hundreds of participants (of all ages and abilities) has the same start time and the same coaches. The primary objective of the program is to provide people with a reliable weekly commitment, complete with a team cheer. It provides the most basic yet necessary backbone to improving as an athlete: practice.

And just like Coach Ian’s elite team, TrackTown Fitness does not adhere to a one-size-fits-all mentality. Rather, it is designed to support individual goals in a supportive group environment. So, while Coach Vin and Coach Ian show up each week with a suggested plan in mind for the athletes, every TrackTown Fitness athlete adjusts based on his/her needs and self-assigns to either the walk, walk-jog, or run groups. Within each group there may exist any number of variations on the week’s workout plan.

Olympian Alexi Pappas is one of several local elite runners who provide assistance and inspiration for TrackTown Fitness participants each Sunday morning at Hayward Field. (TrackTown photo by Josh Phillips)

The idea is that while some athletes might be preparing to run the Eugene Marathon, which falls at the culmination of the TrackTown Fitness program, others might have a different goal entirely – and that’s completely fine. Even injured athletes might show up and engage only in the warm-up active stretching routine. This year, there is even a special scan-card TrackTown Fitness athletes bring to each practice to sign in – how’s that for checking in to practice!

For me, having a firmly set practice time and team accountability have been crucial to my growth as an athlete. Even when I’m no longer running competitively, I will still probably dedicate a time each day simply called practice. There is something comforting about not being able to linger in the mornings, even if I want to.

Previous TTUSA stories by Alexi Pappas

On adaptation in winter

On staying put in TrackTown USA 

On the best women’s 10k race of all-time

The night before my first Olympic Games

Training with the boys at altitude

How I spend my Sundays

The longest run

Run like your best 12-year-old selves

On being happy to compete

Watching greatness

Staying connected

My growth as a runner

Running as a team sport

Race decisions can be invisible 

Trust your race plan 

Outside my comfort zone

On budgeting willpower

What the President said

Channelling your inner racing bug

No easy way to prepare for marathon pacing

Alexi is an avid tweeter and her thoughts can be  found @alexipappas.

Alexi Pappas graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College before joining the Ducks as a University of Oregon fifth-year student, helping lead the team to two NCAA championships in 2012 and 2013. She currently runs professionally for the Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene, Oregon. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Alexi set a personal best and Greek national record of 31 minutes, 36 seconds with a 17th-place finish in the 10,000 meters.

As a filmmaker, Alexi co-wrote, co-directed and stars in the feature film, Tracktown, which was produced with support from the Sundance Institute and premiered at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival. She contributes poetry regularly to Women’s Running Magazine and most recently she and her partner Jeremy Teicher created a 5-episode short film series entitled “Speed Goggles in partnership with Kodak, published by the New York Times. She is also co-founder of the Portland chapter of the Film Fatales, a nationwide group of female directors.