Pro Runner Popularity: How Social Media Is Shaping Pro Runners’ Careers

Embrace the influencer age or let race times speak for themselves?

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In the age of technology, there’s no doubt that professional runners are more than just athletes. Social media has emerged as a pivotal tool for professional athletes to navigate their careers successfully. 

For professional runners, the intersection of athletic success and online presence has proven to be a game-changer

In this article, we’ll explore the various reasons why many professional runners embrace social media and also take a look at the relationship between speed and social following. Do faster runners rely less on social media for their following? Or are some runners just not fans of being in the spotlight? 

Pro Runner Popularity: How Social Media Is Shaping Pro Runners' Careers 1
Photo Credit: Jason Howie

Why Runners Embrace Social Media

Brand Building and Personal Branding

Social media platforms provide an opportunity for professional runners to craft and showcase their personal brand

Through curated content, athletes can share their unique journeys, victories, and personal stories, creating a more relatable and engaging image for fans and potential sponsors. 

In an era where authenticity resonates with audiences, social media becomes the stage on which pro runners develop the narrative to support their careers.

The interconnected nature of social media also enables networking opportunities for professional runners, further helping build their brand. 

These platforms offer a space to connect with fellow athletes, coaches, and industry professionals, which can lead to collaborations, partnerships, and opportunities that extend beyond the track, contributing to the athlete’s overall career growth.

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Fan Engagement and Inspiration

Direct interaction with fans has become a cornerstone of an athlete’s online presence. 

Social media enables pro runners to share the intricacies of their training routines, race updates, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of their lives. 

This direct engagement not only fosters a sense of connection but also builds a dedicated and supportive fan base – a community that rallies behind the runner through both triumph and challenge.

Beyond self-promotion, social media allows pro runners to inspire and motivate others. 

By sharing the highs and lows of their journeys, athletes can uplift aspiring runners and fitness enthusiasts. 

This not only contributes to the athlete’s personal brand but also has a positive ripple effect on the sport, fostering a culture of inspiration and determination.

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Photo Credit: Jen Aragon/Flickr

Brand Sponsorship And Event Promotion

In the competitive world of professional sports, sponsorship deals are often a key source of income for professional runners. 

A strong social media presence enhances a runner’s marketability, attracting sponsors seeking a broader reach and exposure. 

Platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok become chances for runners to showcase not only their athletic abilities but also the brands they endorse, creating a strong relationship between athletes and sponsors and opening the door to further financial opportunities.

Participation in major races and events is also a significant aspect of a professional runner’s career, and social media is a powerful tool for promoting these events. 

Runners can share event details, updates, and engage with organizers and fellow participants. This not only generates excitement around the event but also enhances the runner’s online presence as a key participant in the broader running community.

Educational Content

Professional runners often find themselves in a position of expertise regarding training, nutrition, recovery, and injury prevention. 

Social media becomes a platform to share educational content, positioning the athlete as a source of valuable information within the running community. This not only enhances their credibility but also contributes to the collective knowledge base of the sport.

Pro Runner Popularity

Some runners double as social media influencers, whereas others aren’t particularly fond of the spotlight.

Let’s take a look at some of Instagram’s most popular runners.

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Photo Credit: Jen Aragon/Flickr

Allie Ostrander

Allie Ostrander was a college running standout, winning three consecutive NCAA titles in the 3000m steeplechase during her career at Boise State University. 

Following a successful college career, she signed a professional contract with Brooks Beasts Track Club. 

However, in 2021, she made the hard decision to leave Brooks Beasts to focus on her mental health and eating disorder recovery.

Following her departure in 2021, Ostrander hadn’t run or raced consistently until after February 2023, when she signed with Nnormal, and has since favored trail running.

Ostrander’s social media presence truly soared following her vulnerability with her mental health struggles. She has posted emotional and raw content to both her Instagram and YouTube, documenting the highs and lows of her mental health journey.

Additionally, Ostrander has now become a mental health advocate and uses her social platforms not only to showcase her various running adventures but also to create a conversation around mental health for runners.

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Photo Credit: COROS

Molly Seidel

Molly Seidel became a household name in the running world after her shocking bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Marathon. Her bubbly personality and good sense of humor made her a fan favorite.

However, it also came with something she hadn’t expected: the spotlight and an onslaught of social media fans.

Seidel used to enjoy social media when it was just her close circle who shared her life. However, an instant gain of thousands of followers, she felt a lack of privacy, and keeping up with content was a toxic chore.

She doesn’t love to post on social media, but she is required to for sponsorship agreements. When she does post on her socials, she likes to have fun with it and share her sponsors’ products through humorous posts, further showcasing her personality.

Over the years, Seidel has been able to become more comfortable with social media and now shares some aspects of herself outside of sponsors, such as her annual Turkey Trot tradition, where she competes in a local race in a full turkey outfit.

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Photo Credit: Steven Pisano

Katelyn Tuohy

Katelyn Tuohy, an upperclassman at NC State University who recently turned pro with Adidas, has been in the spotlight since she was a young teenager in high school.

Tuohy turned heads early in her career when she broke numerous US high school and junior trakc records, in addition to being a three-time NXN champion.

Her success continued into university, where she claimed multiple NCAA individual and team titles in cross-country and track.

However, Tuohy has never been a fan of the spotlight and rarely posts on social media. With only 51 posts since 2018, including collaborator posts, Tuohy’s 110,000 Instagram following came naturally with her raw talent.

Her coaches and peers reiterate her humbleness and lack of desire to throw herself into the spotlight.

Unique Stories And Varying Goals

Every runner has their own unique story, and some use their social media to share it and be advocates for topics they are passionate about. Whereas others prefer to let their running speak for itself and develop a following more naturally.

In the fast-paced world of professional running, social media has become an indispensable tool for athletes seeking success both on and off the track. 

From brand building and fan engagement to securing sponsorships and contributing to the running community, the impact of social media on pro runners is profound. The digital realm remains a crucial lane in their journey, offering opportunities to further their career and reach new milestones.

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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