Alexi Pappas makes me smile. I read her writing a few times before I met her in person. I liked her creative spirit and her joie de vivre. Then, I watched her run the 10,000m last summer in Eugene. In my notebook, I noted that she looked pretty natural over 25 laps.
Here is a piece by Lindsay Rossmiller on Alexi, done in February 2016.
2016 promises to be a big year for many athletes, but especially for runner Alexi Pappas. The 10,000 meter runner just announced her intention to compete internationally for Greece and hopes to make the Olympics this summer as well as release the movie Tracktown, which she acted in, co-wrote, and co-produced.
Because of the unique combination of her athletic and creative pursuits, it seems almost everyone wants to talk with Pappas these days. She is articulate, creative, and thoughtful in her approach to her sport and is willing to share those perspectives with others. She’s interviewed on podcasts, writes for Women’s Running and blogs, and is often a part of pre-competition press conferences. Her Twitter account is sprinkled liberally with poetry about running, retweets of fans’ poems, enthusiastic responses to the achievements they’ve shared with her, and musings about training.
People relate to her not just because of her personality, but because she has worked for success. She readily admits to being the worst on her cross country team as a freshman at Dartmouth, but steadily improved. (The impetus of this improvement and her success served as a disagreement she had with President Obama when meeting him at the White House.) She didn’t make NCAA championships until she was a senior at Dartmouth before helping lead the Oregon Ducks to two in her fifth year after transferring.
On the track, Pappas has run the steeplechase, 5,000 meters, and finally in 2015, the 10,000 meters. In her first attempt at the distance, she ran 32:02 (13 seconds below the Olympic qualifying standard). Pappas wrote in an email, “When I run the 10k I feel like I’m exactly where I belong, and that’s not a feeling I’ve had before. One of my favorite things about the 10k is that it is as mental as it is physical.”
This duality is an important value for Pappas as she pursues both her running and creative careers. She says filmmaking provides her purpose away from the track. And vice versa, it gives her reason to stay healthy running because managing injury and sickness can take time away from her film work with Teicher, their second project together.
Tracktown is about a runner named Plumb Marigold (played by Pappas) in Eugene, Oregon, aka Tracktown, USA. Pappas co-wrote it and co-produced it with Teicher. Currently in post-production, she and Teicher hope to release Tracktown this year. Pappas and Teicher, both Dartmouth alum, first partnered when they co-wrote Tall as the Baobob Tree (2012).
Pappas credits her study of English and Creative Writing in college with her ability to clearly communicate about things she is passionate about. And while she often speaks on behalf of young runners, Pappas is also particularly vocal about women runners. She grew up in a household with her father and brother, but has gained mentors in the sport like Deena Kastor. Pappas spent some time training with Kastor this past fall in California and considers Kastor one of her strongest mentors and inspirations in the sport.
“To me, she embodies toughness and gratitude — she is never done exploring her potential, but all the while enjoys the simple pleasures of running each day,” wrote Pappas. “She taught me to ask the most of myself, but also to believe in myself and I am grateful she has taken the time to run and not-run (chat, spend time) with me — it means so much to me.”
This camaraderie within the sport helps fuel Pappas. She ran at Dartmouth with Abbey D’Agostino (New Balance), at Oregon with Jordan Hasay (Nike Oregon Project), and has since developed another network within the professional running community.
“I am lucky to spend time with runners whose experience in the sport I can learn so much from,” Pappas wrote. “I think the gift of confidence is the greatest gift a friend or teammate can give and I am thankful to spend time with so many who have so much experience to share.”
Pappas describes how much getting advice from Hasay the night before her first NCAA Cross Country Championships. She is proud to be a professional female athlete because of the influence of others as well as for the fans of the sport who value the women’s side of the sport like the men’s side.
“Running is special to me because I know so many who discover it later in life. It’s a sport that can be learned anytime. . .” wrote Pappas. “I also think it’s a sport whose fans and supporters genuinely care about women as much as men, which is fantastic and important.”
Pappas hopes to be one of those women on the Olympic screen this summer in Rio. Her grandmother immigrated from Rhodes, Greece and so on February 26, Pappas announced her intention to represent Greece in international competition. She hopes to make her Greek team debut either at the IAAF Indoor World Championships in Portland March 17-20 or at the Greek Championships in May.
And while her Olympic goals and releasing Tracktown are lofty this year, Pappas values the long-term impact she can have in the sport. “It takes running fast and showing improvement to gain a voice in the sport, and I value that I am now in a position to inspire others even more than I was a year ago,” wrote Pappas. “. . .this took patience, hard work, being proud of my personal growth, and also a sense of humor about my journey. If I can share this sentiment of joyful perseverance with young runners, that is the best thing I could do in the sport.”