Running With Something to Prove
District Track Club athletes and their coach, Tom Brumlik, like to say they are a blue-collar program.
A group of grinders. A group that doesn’t shy away from workouts in the rain or on the pavement. A group with something to prove and the ability to prove it.
It was this mentality that drew Vincent Crisp to move from Lubbock, Texas — where he was an All-American for the Texas Tech Raiders — to Washington, DC to join the District Track Club.
Trading Texas heat for Mid-Atlantic unpredictability, Crisp joined what he believes to be the nation’s most up-and-coming middle distance program. Focusing primarily on the 800 meters, the members of DTC are hungry for more.
Crisp recounted stories of District Track Club’s tenacity, sharing a story from their time training during the Covid-19 pandemic. When all the tracks in the DC area were closed, the District Track Club athletes met for practice outside of a Dick’s Sporting Goods. “We would run to Dick’s Sporting Goods with our flats, put our flats on, do our drills, and run around doing repeat 1000s, repeat 400s. And Tom [Brumlik] was on the other side of the building, waiting for us to come around.”
It was this no-excuses training that Crisp believes helped get he and his teammates to where they are now.
“We aren’t happy to just be there. We want to go farther. We want to be Olympic athletes. World Champions. World record athletes,” says Crisp of his team.
While these goals may seem Texas-sized, Crisp is not one to shrink away from a challenge. He approaches races and training with what might be the most fun-loving demeanor in track and field.
As soon as he joined the Zoom call for his interview with The Oval Magazine, it was clear that his energy would be hard to capture on paper. From talking about his time with DTC to discussing his race day warm-up dances, Crisp brings an air of lighthearted fun to any story he tells.
When recounting his experience at the 2021 US Olympic Trials meet, Crisp talked about the importance of keeping his warmup enjoyable to remind himself that it was just another track meet. Before all of his races, he tries to “just dance it out” and says that “if you dance and have fun, you’re going to have a good race.”
Despite this mindset, there were reminders everywhere that the US Olympic Trials meet is not just your typical track meet: “I looked to my left and it was Alyson Felix. I was like, ‘this is not a regular track meet… These are people that I grew up watching when I was 10 years-old or 12 years-old.”
The Olympic Trials wasn’t exactly the race Crisp was hoping for, but he had battled an injury heading into the meet and was just grateful for the opportunity to compete.
His experience at the Olympic Trials meet was not Crisp’s first time on the national stage, as he competed at the NCAA DI National Championship meets multiple times for Texas Tech. One of his favorite memories from his time at NCAA DI Championships was getting the baton in front of Fred Kerley, the silver medalist in the 100 meters at the 2020 Olympics. “I get the stick and I hear the crowd just going crazy… I just know he’s about to fly right past me,” Crisp recounted laughing.
Getting the baton in front of a future Olympic medalist is a challenge a lot of runners would shy away from. But Crisp and his District Track Club teammates refuse to let challenges scare them, and instead embrace them as opportunities to show their worth, as Crisp says he and his teammates “really just love proving ourselves.”
It is a combination of these two mentalities — a blue-collar work ethic and an appetite for having fun — that Crisp tries to impress upon the high school athletes he coaches at Wakefield high school in Arlington, VA.
And for all of his own success, nothing lit Crisp’s face up quite like talking about coaching did.
“At one point I thought I loved coaching more than running,” Crisp laughed as he expressed the pride he gets from coaching. “I love coaching, honestly. I want to do this for the rest of my life as well.”
Crisp is adamant that coaching has helped to improve his own running career, too, as it keeps him honest, both on and off the track. In fact, Crisp is so confident in the impact that coaching has on his own running career that he said he agreed “150%” with the fact that it has made him a better athlete. Whether he is hurting in a race or thinking that he just doesn’t have time to stretch, he can look back to his time with the athletes he coaches and think about what he would want them to do.
“I tell my kids to ‘work the middle,’ ‘keep their form,’ and ‘stay relaxed.’ So when I’m at practice or I’m at meets, I’m yelling that at myself in my head… because that’s what I tell my kids. I can’t be a hypocrite.”
While many coaches claim to lead by example, Crisp couldn’t embody this mentality any more literally. He uses his 1:46-800 meter speed to pace his kids through workouts and help them to reach their goals. And when his athletes have races on the national stage, Crisp has the experience to guide them through their nerves.
As he heads into the 2022 outdoor track season as both a coach and a competitor, Crisp is focused on maintaining confidence and a love for the sport both for himself and for the athletes he coaches.
In the meantime, let’s all take a page out of Crisp’s book and make sure we love what we’re doing, whatever that may be.
Favorite running experience:
“Making the US Junior team. When I was 18 years old, I ran 1:46 for the first time. We went to Poland for 10 days to race against the other countries.”
A 600, rest 30s, 200. It’s a broken 800 and I think if you do the times together, it’s a conversion of 3s and that’s what you can run the 800 in.
Hot weather or cold weather running:
[Hot weather] every time. Every time. You can take more clothes off but you can’t put more clothes on.
Favorite Under Armour gear:
I like our shirts, we have some cool logos, either in the middle of our chest or the top left, and the fabric is always good and cool… And the shoes. The shoes that we just started coming out with, like the Hovr, the Machina 2, and the Sonics, I really like those too.
Half tights or split shorts?
Half tights. We don’t do split shorts. That’s a miler, two mile, cross country thing.
Some kind of pasta or fish.
Best place to run in DC:
In Georgetown under this big bridge. It's, like, a long bridge–at least about 600 meters. So when it snows and rains, Tom’s like, ‘it's snowing outside, that's fine, meet under the bridge.’ So no matter the weather, no matter if it’s 15 degrees or 99 degrees, you can go under the bridge and get your 600 repeats in. And it’s right next to a canal that goes like 10 miles, so it’s like a trail where people can ride their bikes or go on long runs.”
Cookies and ice cream. Or when you get that jumbo cookie with ice cream on top or like a brownie with ice cream on top, one of those two.
Note: We interviewed Athing Mu and this was also her favorite dessert. When Crisp heard this, he said “Well let me start running Athing Mu times then”
Current favorite artist or song:
Drake. Drake’s new album. That’s what I usually listen to. So, you know you do the Apple Music replay and it tells you how you did your last year? It said, like, 130 hours of Drake and then my next artist was like 20 hours… a lot of Drake in my house.
The biggest obstacle for me, I told you earlier that I ran 1:46 at 18. I am now 24 and my PR is still 1:46, so really to break that 1:46 barrier and be a 1:45/1:44 guy is my biggest goal. The biggest obstacle for me is to break that 1:46 barrier and then I think I’m just going to keep PRing after that.