April 27, 2023
"It’s really amazing because I’m 27 years old. I’ve made an Olympic team. I’ve made an Olympic final. I’m an indoor national champion. I have all these accolades and I finally have a contract."
U.S. Olympian Val Constien has signed a pro contract with Nike and will make her debut for the Swoosh at the Doha Diamond League next week. She will stay in Boulder, Colorado and continue to train under Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs.
Constien was a three-time NCAA Division I All-American at Colorado. Her breakout season came in 2021 when she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics with a third-place finish in the 3000m steeplechase. Her personal best of 9:18.34 puts her at No. 7 on the all-time U.S. list.
This past indoor season, she claimed her first-ever U.S. national title by winning the women’s 3000m in 8:48.29. It was a major step forward for her. Last April, she was diagnosed with a stress reaction, which forced her to take a month off from training. She then contracted COVID-19 in June – just before the U.S. Outdoor Championships and then finished 8th in the 3,000m steeplechase final and missed the team for the 2022 World Championships.
Constien has raced unsponsored for the past two years while balancing her full-time work with Stryd as a quality assurance specialist and a volunteer assistant coach at Colorado.
On the latest episode of 'More Than Running,' Constein discusses signing her contract and chasing her athletic goals post-collegiately while balancing full-time work + coaching.
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What pushed you to continue running after college?
“I just knew that I wasn’t done. I knew that college wasn’t the best. I knew there was more left in the tank. I just wanted to compete at the Olympic Trials. I didn’t think that I would be a professional runner ever. I never thought I’d make a team but I knew I could be better than I was in college. I just had to prove to myself that I could do it. That’s what I’ve continuously been doing. I don’t have anything to prove. I don’t have anything to lose. I just want to see how fast I can run.”
What did you expect to happen after the Tokyo Olympics and what ended up actually happening?
“I assumed that if you make an Olympic team and if you make the final, then you’d get a contract. That obviously didn’t happen. I thought that I had to do a lot of things differently. I thought I had to amp up a lot of stuff like running more, training harder, lifting more and dialing in everything. But it seemed like the harder I tried to be the best, the worse I ended up getting and I dug myself into a hole. The biggest thing was letting go and trusting the process. It was realizing that I’m good enough. I don’t have to do anything special. I just have to be patient and let the races come.”
How do you approach races differently in the last two years?
“I still have the no-expectation mindset. That’s what I learned from last year. There was too much pressure last year and I couldn’t deal with it. It was too much on my mental state and it took a toll on my physical state. This year, I was like, ‘I just want to go and run fast.’ I didn’t care about the time. I didn't care about anything else but just trying to win the race. I wanted to do my best. I wanted to lay it all on the line. It was my first race on a 200-meter track and my first time in Boston. And so I was just happy to be there. And so I think that the best thing for me is to let go of that pressure and that control and just try to have fun and enjoy the experience.”
How does it make you feel that you have this contract and pro kit now?
“It’s really amazing because I’m 27 years old. I’ve made an Olympic team. I’ve made an Olympic final. I’m an indoor national champion. I have all these accolades and I finally have a contract. It’s really cool because it’s just confirmation that I’m not an imposter. I deserve this kit. Now, I finally have it. I am so happy that it’s Nike. I am genuinely so happy because I love Nike products. One of my close friends from college works at Nike. It makes so much sense. I don’t have to change anything.
It fits into all other aspects of my life so seamlessly I don't have to worry about, ‘Oh no, which shoe am I going to train in? Oh geez, I hope the spikes are okay.’I was going to the Runners’ Roost – the shoe store here – and buying this stuff with my own money anyways. Now I just get to order it with Nike credit. It's honestly so perfect. I just have to continue to count my blessings, right? This is an amazing opportunity. This doesn't change anything except maybe give me a little bit more credibility. I just get to keep living this amazing life but with Nike backing me, which is pretty impressive."
What are your goals on the track?
“I would like to make the World team this year. That’s a big goal that I have on the track. I think it’s possible…This is the deepest steeplechase women’s category that we’ve ever seen and I’m excited to be part of it.”
What about off the track?
“I’d like to learn French. I downloaded Duolingo and I have the free version. I’ve been doing it pretty well for a year. My goal is to just stay after that. Just keep trying to learn French and see how it goes.”
Is that potentially related to some big event in France next year?
“Yeah…That’s mainly why. I would also like to go to some Diamond League races in Europe. That would be fun. I also feel silly because everyone else in the world speaks at least two languages and we’re the worst. I want to try to at least learn one. When I learn French then maybe Spanish would be easy. I just want to try. It’s never too late to learn something new.”
After a decorated NCAA career at Dartmouth and a stint as a pro with the Boston Athletic Association, Dana has relocated to San Francisco, where she continues to proselytize the sport, and dabble in new hobbies like gravel biking and skiing.