“The Athlete Special” Spencer Brown on Being A Running YouTube OG, Becoming A Brooks Beast

The CITIUS MAG Podcast

September 17, 2020

“What I did, anyone else can do and more people should be doing that. The running market is starting to get a lot bigger. There are more people making YouTube channels because they’re thinking, ‘I can do that.’ You know I had an iPhone until I hit 30,000 subscribers. I’m still using iMovie until this day. It doesn’t have to be unbelievable quality videos. People are a little scared to make that jump. Having no fear helps me stay motivated to put out content and also show that I’m somewhat of an elite runner and I’m trying my best to continue.”

My guest for today’s episode is Spencer Brown but many of you might know him as The Athlete Special from his popular YouTube channel. Some of you who have been following CITIUS MAG from the start might be familiar with him because he was one of the original contributors to the site and ran a 4:16 Blue Jeans Mile back in 2018 to set a then-world record. He’s come a long way since. He has run 3:39 for the 1,500 meters and 3:59.97 for the mile while at Georgetown University.

Recently, Brooks decided to take a chance on him and sign him to a contract that will have him training with the Brooks Beasts and coach Danny Mackey in Seattle, Washington. His goal is to make it to the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials.

You’ll hear more about how that deal came to be, his goals and expectations for himself as well as the background story on when he got his start in running on the competitive Connecticut high school scene and then what led him to pick up a camera to start documenting it all to the masses.

Follow Spencer Brown on Instagram here.

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– “The intentions for my YouTube channel were never to have a massive following or anything like that. Early viewers saw this guy goofing around with his college teammates and maybe it brought you back to your own college days of having fun. It was showing that side of runners. Then, all of a sudden, I realized that people actually kind of like that storyline of that improvement in college with the ups and downs. Plus, the authenticity. I try to be as real as I can with my viewers – obviously, I fluff it up sometimes when I’m acting up for the camera – people appreciate that at times. Being very real with my viewers has helped it grow so much.”

– “I remember the first time a kid was like ‘Hey, man! I watch your YouTube videos.’ I felt so cool. I think I had maybe a couple thousand followers at that point. Now, it almost feels normal if I’m going out for a run and someone shouts me out like ‘Hey! I watch your videos!’”

– “What the sport is missing is seeing the runner as a person and not just the guy who lines up and races. It was weird because…people love watching me fail. They love watching me have bad races. They weren’t happy I would have them but it was more like ‘Oh! This guy is a human too. He can have bad races and talk about it.’ Just that authentic part of running is what people love to hear.”

– “We’re all at different levels of running but it’s such a similar sport from the highest level to the mid-tier to the low in terms of how serious you take it. It’s such a beautiful sport.”

– “I had always had that vision of breaking four. For a while, it was a mental barrier for me. I thought I was physically capable of doing it for a while but I just kept getting in my head about it. When I told myself to stop thinking about the times and just compete, I was able to break four. That’s when my YouTube channel took off. I started thinking about running in a different way when more and more people started watching me. I was like ‘Whether or not I win NCAAs or get a sick contract, there might be something I can do with this channel that’s going to allow me to keep going.’ I’ve got such a big support system with people that I feel like I owe it to everyone to keep going until I don’t want to do this anymore…Having a bigger support system having my back sort of motivated me to want to get better at running and want to push harder. I found that as my videos started to do better, my running started to do better – which is kind of crazy but it makes sense in some ways.”

– “I definitely missed out on a pretty good amount of money by the end of college…I would say $18,000 – just with ad revenue.”

– “I really am runner-first. I love my YouTube channel and I love having it but I really care about trying to run fast. I didn’t want to lose my scholarship at Georgetown trying to fight for something. I think it’s stupid that athletes, especially YouTubers – we’re like a different category – can’t monetize my videos because of the NCAA? No one is making money. Obviously the football players and the basketball players are one thing. YouTubers? I think it was completely unfair that we couldn’t monetize. I’m glad to see there’s changes.”

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.