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Sub-Elite Trail Coaching Scholarship

Mission statement

As a professional runner, coach, and mentor, I hope to use my skill set to empower the next generation of trail and ultra runners. Rather than the burnout marathoner discovering trails at the age of 35, let’s have a 24-year-old ex-collegiate runner try to tackle the 100-mile distances. Let’s have a 26-year-old thru-hiker try to run the entirety of the 212-mile John Muir Trail. Let’s have runners from diverse backgrounds and with unique perspectives refresh and enhance a historically white and male-dominated sport. I’ve seen too many talented runners and athletes give up on ultras after crashing in a fiery ball of defeat at their first race or ignore the trail running world entirely, intimidated by either the distance or wilderness.

Trail running is awesome and empowering. I was so happy when I discovered that running didn’t have to happen on a track or road. Why not try running through woods and over mountains? The process to develop into a stronger runner requires patience, ambition, and curiosity. I want to cultivate passionate, younger, and talented athletes, and to introduce them to a world which I love so much.

I’m offering a scholarship of a year of free coaching for three athletes. This program has two goals:

  • To develop talent in the future generation of the trail and ultra runners, and mentor those individuals to succeed in running and life.
  • To broader the diversity of the sport to include those that have historically been underrepresented and/or discouraged from participation.

The ultramarathon distance has historically been where aging road and track runners go to retire and where a few elite athletes are able to dominate at a few select races. However, COVID and the ensuing current running boom have contributed to more runners looking to run trails and ultras or set Fastest Known Times. At the same time, the distance is grueling and complex. The strategy of a multi-hour or multi-day effort intimidated me as a younger runner, and it took me years to finally start asking the right questions and to improve. I hope my mentorship will encourage a few select young people to pursue trail and ultra distances and to accelerate their learning and enjoyment of the sport.

In the US, the ultramarathon distance is dominated by white athletes and individuals who identify as heterosexual males. While that isn’t a knock on previous generations of runners, I strongly believe our sport will flourish and be much more impactful if we have more Joseph Gray’s, Courtney Dauwalter’s, and Ryan Montgomery’s. I hope to attract and select individuals who bring a different perspective and/or background to mine, and that, by working with me, these individuals will find their footing and voice in the trail running community.

Should I apply?

This scholarship is meant to support younger adult runners who are looking to develop themselves as a competitive ultramarathon- or Fastest Known Time-focused athlete. See criteria below:

  • Between the ages of 20-28*.
  • A resident of the United States, Canada or Mexico. (coaching is remote/no geographic location required)
  • Athletic individuals with thru-hiking backgrounds; or,
  • Individuals with competitive running backgrounds. Time suggestions listed below:
    • Men: 4:15 mile, 14:40 5k, 30:45 10k, 1:10 HM, 2:26 marathon & competitive ultramarathon performances
    • Women: 4:50 mile, 16:30 5k, 34:15 10k, 1:18 HM, 2:43 marathon & competitive ultramarathon performances
  • I encourage individuals with various racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds and/or sexual orientations or identities to apply.

*With these scholarships, I’m hoping to encourage and mentor younger athletes who might not otherwise have an opportunity to obtain or confidence to seek out high-quality coaching. That generally means folks around, 20-28; however, if you feel that you should be included within this group but are older than 28, please consider applying and telling me more about why this scholarship would be a good fit for you.

A runner on a remote trail in the French Alps
Running can take you to some amazing places, like the French Alps


I am offering sponsorship spots for three athletes to join the Bean Sprouts for the year of 2022.

  • 12 months of my one-on-one coaching services (a $2,400 value). Including:
    • Customized training plan via Google Docs
    • Private training Slack & Strava groups
    • Tempo, track, hill and long run workouts
    • Weight program consulting
    • Race nutrition consulting*
    • Gear and fast packing consultation
    • Injury consultation*
    • Sponsor discounts (Columbia, COROS, TrailButter, and more)
  • $300 worth of apparel and shoes from my sponsors
  • Additional mentorship: If possible, I will pair you with a regionally located athlete who is able to offer additional mentorship and potential transportation assistance for events. If events require travel, I will work to help you find local support from the community with transportation, lodging, and support if possible

*Please note: While I make every effort to provide athletes with correct information that is tailored to you, I am always learning and am not a licensed medical professional. I study modern running practices to attempt to keep any athlete injury-free and healthy, but running may cause damage to your body. For medical issues, you should see a licensed professional. Under no circumstance shall Joe McConaughy be held responsible for injury or damages.

Application info & process

Please apply using this link. If you have questions about your application, please leave a comment below, or message me via social media.

In the application, you will be asked to answer questions about your personal history, training history, and goals. You will also be asked to submit a 500 word written essay.

See timeline. When the application period ends, I will review applications and narrow down a list of finalists. Finalists will be notified and scheduled for a follow-up call. The purpose of this call is to make sure that I am the right fit for your needs as an athlete. Non-selected applicants will be notified, by 12/20/21 at the latest.

Application period: 11/17 – 12/14/21
Beginning of December: Interview of finalists and selection of 3 recipients
Coaching start date: 1/1/21

If selected, what will be required of me?

As your coach, I will work with you to set goals and a training calendar for 2022. I expect any athlete…

  • To dedicate significant time and effort to training (8-12 hours per week)
  • To have a long-term interest in developing into a competitive trail runner, ultra runner or fastpacker
  • To attend bi-weekly one-on-one check-ins with me
  • To set a race calendar for 2022 with at least 3 efforts/events
  • To write a monthly blog article on a running-related topic. This could be on the running experience, a race report, a gear review, or whatever topic is interesting to them. Link to blog.
  • To be an engaged member of their local trail running community and steward of the sport, including at least 8 hours as a volunteer or pacer at a trail running event or race at two separate events
  • To engage with my coaching client team for both their benefit and for that of the broader group

Maximizing your potential as a trail and ultra runner is a multi-step process. In this program, I’m interested in helping younger athletes establish a program and process to develop their craft rather than focusing purely on results. Most ultrarunners post their best performances in their 30’s; becoming a strong trail runner takes years to develop, immediate results will not be the best measure of long-term success.

About me

I am a white, heterosexual male. I see a lot of ‘me’ out there on the trails, but change is coming. I want to be a resource and mentor for the next generation of trail runners. I want to increase the diversity of the people who participate in my sport. I want to guide runners to reach limits they never could’ve dreamed of.

I finished my collegiate track career as a miler at Boston College in 2014. That summer, I became the fastest person to run the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail. When I finished, I told myself, ‘I never have to run again if I don’t want to.’ Unfortunately, I wanted to keep running. Even worse, I was most interested in running long distances. And not marathon long. I’m talking 50 miles, 100 miles, or even 2,190 miles.

Joe McConaughy at the terminus of the 800 mile Arizona Trail
Me at the end of the 800 mile Arizona Trail, setting a new Fastest Known Time

Since the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve gone on to become an experienced ultrarunner, fastpacker and running coach. However, my path wasn’t straightforward. I struggled with racing. While my first ultras showed promise, it took me years before I started running to my potential. My growth was stunted by a lack of mentorship. I didn’t understand race nutrition or exercise physiology, have the confidence to run in big races, and structure to help me succeed. 

Making the transition from a strong collegiate runner or marathoner to an ultramarathoner isn’t easy. Most runners struggle in their first few races. Often, I’ll see these athletes dismiss trail running – they don’t think the sport is right for them and move on. However, this is what so many runners are missing out on: trail running is awesome, but it takes time. Trail running is an opportunity to explore the natural world around us. Trail running requires strategy and tactics, not just speed. Trail running is creative. Trail running creates bonds and friendships for life in a way that road and track running does not.

Read more about me here.

Please support this scholarship

My biggest issue with this application is that I’m worried that it will not be presented to the individuals who would most benefit from it, and they will not apply. For those of you reading this, I ask that you to please support this scholarship by expanding the reach and network of this opportunity. Our success will likely depend on the recommendation of a friend of a friend to apply or by the goodwill of a stranger who shares this scholarship with their local trail running group.

If you would like to help this program succeed, I ask:

  • Share this scholarship with any local trail running organization via social media or word of mouth
  • Recommend the scholarship to an individual who you believe would be a good fit
  • Make an introduction. I’d love to make connections with individuals or organizations who might be able to help the mission of the scholarship
  • I will happily facilitate financial contributions to cover travel-related expenses or in-kind gifts for scholarship recipients, please get in touch with me on Instagram or in the comments below.
  • Give me feedback: How can I increase the potential or value of this scholarship?

Reach me on Instagram or in the comments below.

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