Sara Vaughn has been one of the nation’s top middle distance runners for 15 years, since she was a student at the University of Colorado. But except for one year when she raced for Adidas after graduating in 2008, she had never had a substantial sponsorship deal.
After several years, she gave up on trying to get one, realizing that the best way to stay in the sport as an elite athlete would be to have a job. Nine years ago, Vaughn, now 35, got her real estate license and started a successful business selling homes around Boulder, Colorado.
Even when she was part of the US team for the 2017 world championships over 1,500 meters, she received little sponsor interest. Here and there she would get an offer of $ 5,000 a year and free materials. Vaughn came by.
“It wasn’t enough for me to marry a company and call it a sponsorship,” she said. The world of runners January 3.
She continued to do things her own way: work, train, run the track – she competed in the steeplechase in 2021 and set a PR of 9: 38.52 – and raised her four children aged 15 , 11, 6 and 2 years old.
On December 5, Vaughn made his California Marathon (CIM) debut in Sacramento. She won it in 2:26:53, more than 2 minutes ahead of second place and an average of 5:36 per mile.
A few hours after his victory, sponsors came to call him. And a few weeks later, Vaughn signed a two-year contract (with an option year for a third year) with Puma.
“It’s been so long since I had a sponsor, I even stopped asking,” she said. “To be honest, it was a bit of a surprise.”
Vaughn isn’t sure whether she’ll run a spring marathon or wait until fall and get back on track first, although she said she has to decide soon. His agent, Tom Ratcliffe, helps him evaluate these options, which would include substantial appearance fees for a race like the Boston Marathon, for example. His 12 week build up to CIM went almost flawlessly and his mileage hit 130 in one week.
Whatever direction Vaughn takes over the next few months, Puma, Vaughn’s new sponsor, plans to compete in the U.S. Women’s Marathon for years to come.
An accomplished list
At the start of the first running boom, the company was one of the few brands to make running shoes. But in recent decades, Puma has focused on sprinters (sponsoring Usain Bolt) and jumpers and moved away from running. Now he’s making another push focused on the female distance market in the United States. Puma signed marathoner Molly Seidel, 27, in early 2021.
She went on to win an Olympic bronze medal in Sapporo, Japan in August, and was the top American in the New York City Marathon in November.
In addition to Seidel and Vaughn, the company has two other recent signings: Annie Frisbie, 25, who ran 2:26:18 on her marathon debut in New York City, and Dakotah Lindwurm, 26, who won the marathon. grandma’s last June in Duluth, Minnesota, in 2:29:04. She also performed well in October in Boston, visible with the lead pack for half the race, before finishing 13th in 2:31:04. Last month, she placed third at the US Half Marathon Championships with a PR of 1:09:40.
“I am so proud that Sara, Annie and Dakotah are joining Puma as our new elite athletes,” said Erin Longin, Global Director of Running and Training at Puma, in a statement provided to The world of runners. “The fact that we are now sponsoring four of America’s 10 fastest female marathoners is really exciting for Puma. We believe women are the future of running and want to support these athletes as they continue to develop their careers. “
Seidel’s time of 2:24:42 in New York was the second fastest American time of 2021 behind Emma Bates’ performance in Chicago. Frisbie was fourth on the list. Vaughn would have been fifth and Lindwurm ninth, but their performances do not appear on the World Athletics list as they were not on record-eligible courses.
Support for escape stars
Frisbie (on the top corner left) and Lindwurm train with Minnesota Distance Elite in the Twin Cities. Both are represented by Hawi Keflezighi of Hawi Sports Management.
“Annie and Dakotah have accomplished a lot with the support of Minnesota Distance Elite, and I know this additional and meaningful support from Puma will help them achieve their next goals,” he said.
Puma’s support immediately changed the life of Lindwurm, who quit her job as a housing advocate, helping people with low and no income and people with disabilities find affordable housing. “I quit my job when I got the deal with Puma,” she said. “I am delighted to be entering a phase of my life where I can focus on racing. ”
Lindwurm was noticed by viewers in the October Boston Marathon Run (rescheduled from April). In the leading pack, it was she who had the big smile on her face.
“I do it for every race, especially every marathon,” she said. “I literally love to run and run. For me, I feel better when I smile. And I take advantage of it. When I look around and see the leading bunch of women, and everyone is so serious and a little cranky, I’m like, “Come on, don’t you guys like that?” Aren’t you having as much fun as I am? It’s kind of like my little quirk and it’s honestly what’s keeping my mind in the game.
Frisbie had the busiest week of her life after the New York Marathon, answering calls from potential agents before settling on Keflezighi, who then began accepting offers from sponsors. Puma was the big winner.
“I am very excited to be a part of their team,” said Frisbie. “Hearing them get excited about me joining the team makes me even happier with the deal, and it’s like a perfect fit. “
But she remains for the moment at her full-time job in a healthcare start-up. She might reduce her hours in the future.
“I’m not making any permanent moves at the moment,” she said. “I don’t want to do anything too fast. Whether it’s coming back part-time, being more of a consultant, or staying full-time, I’m still figuring out what I want to do there.
Frisbie will compete in the Houston Half Marathon on Jan. 15, then hopes to return to the track in the spring, with the goal of running fast 10,000 yards and qualifying for the US Championships in June. She won’t be doing a spring marathon; Lindwurm will.
Back to Boulder
As for Vaughn? She doesn’t quit her job either. Her last days were long as she worked on the phone, trying to help friends and clients who lost their homes in the Marshall fire find accommodation. She’s doing her second run of the day on her Peloton treadmill the night after her kids have gone to bed and the house is quiet.
She is thrilled that Puma is supporting her and that the landscape for runners has changed dramatically, especially for those who are mothers. When Vaughn came out of college with a child, she got used to hearing brands tell her they weren’t interested in her; his situation made no sense to them. She’s gone numb, she said.
And she didn’t understand the power of a marathon.
“I’m a little annoyed that it took a marathon run to get a contract, for sure,” Vaughn said. “Once the race was over I was super happy and totally in love with the marathon and super happy to forge, it’s almost like a new career is moving forward. At the same time, I feel like I’ve done some equally cool things on the track.
Even before Puma signed her, she began to see the marathon attracting fans. Her Instagram account has grown 20% since she said she was training for CIM.
“People don’t understand how to make 10 by 300 [meters] in 46 seconds on the track. They can’t relate to it, ”she said. “They can understand that they have to walk 10 times a mile at the pace of a marathon. It’s so much easier to understand, I’ve been in contact with a lot more people.
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