Joe McConaughy On Mentoring Trail Running’s Next Rising Stars

Joe McConaughy is looking to empower the next generation of ultrarunners. McConaughy, an ultrarunning and fastpacking coach at TheStringBean and accomplished trail runner sponsored by Columbia Montrail, is teaming up with some of the sport’s top coaches to develop a Sub-Elite Trail Running Scholarship program. This scholarship aims to give mentorship and coaching guidance to rising talent in our sport. “We want to mentor the next fresh faces of ultrarunning,” said McConaughy.

The scholarship is directed toward younger athletes (20 to 28 years), though applicants outside of this age range are still considered, and is seeking athletes with competitive track, road or ultramarathon running performances. Seven to ten athletes will be selected and the deadline for application is December 20, 2021 – Apply HERE!

McConaughy explains how his personal difficulties transitioning from collegiate running to fastpacking and ultrarunning in his early twenties was a large inspiration behind this scholarship project, “I blew up at ultras in my early twenties.” said McConaughy. “Something always went wrong in my races and there was much I had to learn about nutrition and pacing. This inspired me to think about what could be done to help athletes in this timeframe in their athletic career. I wanted to help talented athletes or those genuinely excited about trail running but can’t quite figure out exactly what the sport is about or what they should be doing in training. Having mentorship or a coach in their lives can be essential for unlocking their potential.”

Joe McConaughy

Joe McConaughy and Yassine Duboin at the CCC race in France.

McConaughy’s coaching team for this scholarship includes: Scott Traer (RunFastah), coach Yassine Duboin (Wy’east Wolfpack) and Rosa Moriello (East by West Distance). “Mentorship is what this program is,” said McConaughy. “This is not just about having a trail running coach but also having someone who can help you learn what this sport is about and how you can make the most out of it. We have a great group of coaches, with a variety of passions and skills, and applicants will be able to choose their coach based on who best fits their goals or preferences. For example, my experience with fastpacking might make me a better fit for someone with fastpacking goals , whereas Traer’s extensive long-distance track racing career might make him a better fit for someone looking to run a fast 100-mile track race.”

McConaughy dives further into his coaching philosophy and shares some of his tips for how coaching trail running is different from coaching other types of running saying, “Coaching trail running can be much more creative. There are 50-kilometer races on technical mountainous terrain, 100 mile races around a track or multi-day fastpacking expeditions. There are so many skills involved in all of these disciplines. In general, trail and ultra running has similarities to marathon training in that you need to develop a certain amount of speed and endurance fitness, but trail running is also much more of a ‘long game’ in terms of progress and development. It could take five or more years for runners to step into their own as ultrarunners. You have to be willing to commit to the long term approach. You have to build up tolerance for your body to be able to handle longer distances and more vertical gain. There’s also more skill and practice required in nutrition, hydration and pacing strategies than in other types of running.”

Joe McConaughy

Joe McConaughy racing the CCC in France.

As this scholarship is only in its first year, McConaughy sees it in many ways as a “ test run” that could transform into a larger community of dedicated trail running coaches and athletes in the future, “We unfortunately don’t currently have the resources to be able to work with everyone who applies this year, but we’d love to see this grow into something where we have more coaches and athletes. We hope to stay connected with everyone who applies and even if we can’t offer all applicants scholarships, we hope to provide some support such as the ability to contact us during weekly office hours, back-and-forth coaching guidance through email questions, and connecting applicants with each other to build community.”

McConaughy explained how this scholarship is not solely about coaching athletes to better performances but about strengthening community. “There’s so much coaching advice out there to be had, but what helps people the most is connection to the trail running community and personalization for each athlete. We want to create stronger communities and promote inclusivity in the sport. We seek to reach people that don’t have role models that look like them or trail running friends. We want to get these new-comers excited and interested in the sport and know that trail running is a place where they can belong. We hope that people look up to these first scholarship recipients, their performances and what they do for their local trail running communities and get inspired to be a part of the sport too.”

Curious to learn more about this scholarship? Read more and apply for the scholarship at this Trail News article.

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