A while back, DtB heard through the grapevine that Adam Steele. the 2003 NCAA 400m champion and a member of the gold medal -winning USA 4 x 400 meter relay team at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in 2003, had hung up his spikes. The Eden Prairie High School and University of Minnesota alum, who has trained with the Eugene-based Oregon Track Club Elite program for the last two years, had endured more than his share of injuries and frustration in his transition to life as an 800 meter runner.
We finally tracked down Steele (pictured), who is busy these days with his new career training to become a member of the Eugene Police Department. Here's what he had to say about his old and new careers ...
DtB: We understand you've decided to retire from competitive running. What all went into the decision?
Steele: It was a tough decision but one that made when I got out of college. I knew I wanted run until 2008 and was fortunate to compete for a number of years after my collegiate career ended. I knew during the summer of 2008 I would reevaluate my situation and make a new decision on what direction I wanted to the next step to be. The last couple of years I dealt with over-use injuries and decided my body and mind were not willing to put up with more injuries. At that point I started looking into other career options. The two options that interested me most were, law enforcement and coaching at the collegiate level.
DtB: How difficult was the decision for you? Was it hard to make the final decision? Have you doubted it since making it?
Steele: As I stated earlier it was a plan in progress. The hard part was deciding what career path I should take after my career. Did I want to stay in Oregon or come home to Minnesota? Did I want to stay in the sport coaching or choose a different career path outside of athletics? Although I miss running over the last 6 months I am constantly reminded I made the right decision to retire from running. I still wake up with pain in my Achilles on a weekly basis. Certain activities cause more pain than others, which I am slowly learning what those activities are. Sometimes it is as simple as running hills or a pick up game of dodge ball. For the general health of my own body I know that I made the best decision for my general health in the future. I am glad that I am still in Oregon, I will have many opportunities to see many of my friends in the sport of track and field as there are many major meets coming to the area in the next 4 years.
DtB: What are you doing now?
Steele: Prior to retiring from my running career I had made plans to ensure that I had a career lined up so I could transition smoothly. After thinking long and hard about which career path I would take after college I decided law enforcement was my what I wanted to do. About a month after the Olympic trials I was hired on with the Eugene Police Department. It should be noted that the hiring process began in October of 2007 almost 10 months worth of physical test, written exams, background investigations and interviews. Currently I am at the Police Academy with a graduation date planed for December.
DtB: What aspects of post-collegiate, professional track do you think the average fan might not understand.
Steele: I believe the hardest part for the general fan to understand is the reason I chose to keep running. No one can understand why people chase personal dreams or aspire to reach the highest goals. Time and time again I would hear the same question, Why are you still training? The most basic answer that most people understand is, it is for me I want to know how far I could take my own body and could I prove the people that didn’t believe in me wrong. The last thing I wanted to say to my kids or grandchildren is, I could have been this good or I could have done this. For the rest of my life I can always say, I am a National Champion, a World Champion and I took a shot at making the Olympic team. I know exactly what I did and what I aspired to do and I will never regret chasing my dreams and finding out the exact answer. Too many people are caught up in the dream story and forget that it is okay to push your limits and see how far a person can go. Far too many people quit early (the easy route in my mind) and criticize from afar.
DtB: If there's one thing you could do over since starting your post-collegiate career, what would that be?
Steele: I don’t think that I would change much. There are times that I wish I would have stayed in the 400m (especially after watching the rounds at the 2008 trials) and there are times that I wish I would have had more than 2 years to try and learn the 800m. In the end I tried something that so many people talk about and don’t actually do. I consider myself a 400m runner and had better than average success at the 800m. I feel as though I had more in the tank in the 800m but I didn’t have enough experience to figure out why I would get hurt in the last phase of training.
DtB: Looking back on all you accomplished in high school, college, and beyond, what are some of the things you're most proud of?
Steele: I feel very fortunate to have great memories from all levels of competition; high school, college and professionally. I feel as though I had some of the greatest coaches at all the levels, met a lot of great teammates and saw a lot of the country and the world that I would have never dreamed of seeing if it weren’t for my running career. After getting outside of my “bubble” of working with and being around elite athletes I am starting to realize and cherish some of the accomplishments I had on the track. While I was competing I was just enjoying the ride and not thinking that I was doing anything different or special then the next person. Everyone else was doing something that I wanted to do so we were all equal.
DtB: What advice would you offer to a talented high school 400/800 meter runner hoping to do well in college and beyond?
Steele: If I were a HS 400/800m runner today I would say train with the 800m guys. The 400m at that level is more of a strength event in the state of MN. By training with the distance runners you will be strong enough to close hard in the last half of the race. The athlete will see much more than short-term benefits. Training with the distance runners and running cross country will prepare/build that work capacity needed for the long college season, training and competition. As you get into your first year of college you can decide the better event for you 400m or 800m. This will depend on the athlete’s speed and strength. That is when the coach and athlete can make a joint decision on the best event for success in the future.
Find photos, vidoe, and statistics from Steele's racing career HERE.
Photo courtesy of USA Track and Field.