A Conversational Pace – Sam Wellman on the pros of negative self-talk, french discotheque, and sorting out life through running

Sam Wellman fancies himself an avid music head with a penchant for “bad film photography” and sci-fi. He can also be found working at a running store in DC where he is able to meet some truly dope people in the community. I know Sam as a potential “brother from another mother,” if people still say that.

There are those people that come into your life at the most random times that suddenly go from “I won’t remember this person” to “Who did I talk to before I met this person?” I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few of these types this year alone (all because of the power of merely saying, “fuck it, let’s go“), and Sam Wellman ranks in the top 3 at least of these peeps. (There’s no official ranking system at play here, btw… no favorites or anything… but I will say Sam and I did start off on a weirder foot given I was his replacement on the Dojo of Pain Hood to Coast squad.)

That said, and on top of the friendship we formed in the van, first over LCD Soundsystem and then continuing through ongoing shared personality traits, Sam is now one of the dudes I look to as a conversation starter where the world of mental health collides headlong into the world of running. He is also one of the prime examples of how a simple “what’s up” can turn into better mental wellness for both parties.

And for whatever reason, after going through this interview, I threw on Spaceman 3’s classic, “For All the Fucked Up Children We Give Your Spaceman 3.” You’ll see why….

Leggggs: Sam. My dude. What’s up. Thanks for agreeing to share your story with the Leggggs community and help bring this world even closer together. Starting at the top, who are you and what do you do?

Sam Wellman:  I am Sam Wellman!! Pretty much only on insta, @samuelwellman, if you like one rad 35mm pic every 3 months and then mediocrity the rest of the time.

I hate the what do I do question—mostly I run. Lately, that hasn’t been so much the case. I am an avid music head (shout out LCD Soundsystem and one of the most intense “did we just become best friends?” moments in van 2). Bad film photography. Sci-fi nerd, art nerd etc.

I earn a living working on the front end of construction design-build projects. Side hustle: working at a running store called Pacers Running in DC – a great way to meet some dope people. 

Leggggs: Sorry. I’ll tailor that question differently in your next feature. So, if you could sum yourself up in a sentence, or maybe just tell us your personal mission: What is it?

SW: – A couple come to mind.

  • Leave it better than you found it.
  • Be curious, not judgemental. (s/o to my fellow ted lasso fans)

Leggggs: Dig that so much. And really good reminders to just repeat daily, tbh. When did you first get into running? And more importantly, why do you do this?

SW: The year is 2018. I find myself out of shape, freshly single, living approximately 200 feet from the Mediterranean Sea. I decided to go for a run after work which was about 11pm. It was awful in the sense that I felt like I was breathing through a straw (thanks cigarettes/France), but wonderful at the same time. I immediately thought “I can go further” and years later, here I am. 

Leggggs: I love the simple honesty in that, as well as the fact that you were living that close to the Mediterranean Sea. Just a touch jealous about that. So now that you’re in the thick of this running business, what type of run gets you going most?

SW: Easy runs with pals that ends in coffee. Solo runs in the rain with some solid tunes and foliage.

Leggggs: Damn. Yes. I mean, how do you choose between. the two? You don’t. Both with their merits and bonus features. With that in mind, tell me about your favorite run ever?

SW: I did a pretty big run/hike in Tettegouche State Park/northern Minnesota that ended up being like 40+ miles total on the day. Mid-October, peak fall colors, Lake Superior, monumental stupidity, almost got lost in the woods, moderate panic attack.

Didn’t see another human for like 6 hours, it was great.

Leggggs: Dream. Even with the panic attack. Makes the highs ever better when you add in a semi-low. Conversely, and I think I may stop asking this because the past is passed, but what was the worst run of your life to-date?

SW: I like to leave the bad ones in the past (be a goldfish), but after Grandma’s Marathon 2021, I apparently was breathing so hard I tore some intercostals (the muscles in between your ribs)…? I would not reccommend. Couldn’t get out of bed, had trouble breathing for a while.

Leggggs: Holy hell. I didn’t even know those existed. Sounds brutal. Let’s get off the runs for a sec and chat gear, quickly. What are some pieces you never leave home without?

SM: A good hat. Also, splitties > half-tights.

Leggggs: To the point. I dig it. How about shoes? Best shoes for road/race/trail/etc. All that…

SM: Asking the REAL questions here: not much of a trail guy so pass.

  • Recovery: Hoka Bondi
  • Short/Daily: Been diggin the Hoka Clifton or Adidas Boston 10
  • Long Run: New Balance 1080 for an easy guy or Saucony Endorphin for speedier

Leggggs: I only ask the hard-hitting questions, Sam. Like this one: What is a saying you repeat to yourself when shit is getting real during a run?

SW: I’m a big negative self-talk guy, so it’s usually something like, “Keep pushing, you coward.” 

Leggggs: I get that. I tell my legs, often, “don’t even start whining now. This is what you were built for.” BTW, headphones or no headphones when running?

SW: Either, depends on the mood.

Leggggs: Fair, fair. LCD Soundsystem and our unbreakable bonds of friendship aside, what is your go-to for pump-up music?

SW:  I’ve been on a huge french discotheque kick lately, Lewis ofMan or L’imperartice get the juices going.

Leggggs: Sweet. I need some new music, so I will be checking that out ASAP. When the French discotheque doesn’t do it alone, how do you convince yourself to got for a run when you are 100% not feelin it?

SW: I was having a conversation w/ Jeff (of dojo) recently about how everyone has a different relationship with running.

We basically came to the conclusion that we are the lucky (or mentally unstable) ones who generally don’t have these feelings. I can’t remember the last time I didnt feel like running. Even through covid, heat, snow, and more recently – anemia, I always feel like a good run will sort me out.

Leggggs: I remember on the Hood to Coast tour when you just went for a run. It was something I could tell you needed, versus wanted. Always dug that.

Where, then, would you dream of running one day?

SW: Easy. Even though I’m not an ultra guy, it’s gotta be UTMB.

Leggggs: Sweet. So we’ll just coordinate that and go together, as well as meet Glenn there. And to inspire, maybe, others to get there too, what no-bullshit advice would you offer to someone looking to lace up for the first time?

SW: I get this all the time at the run store, and my response is, “Look, I really fucking love running, but I’m kinda fucked up, so I understand if it’s not for you.” I think you just gotta find what you like that gets you moving and outdoors. Biking, walking, hiking, fishing, climbing, etc… time spent in nature/improving yourself is time well spent.

Look, I really fucking love running, but I’m kinda fucked up, so I understand if it’s not for you.

Sam Wellman: honest if you ask about getting into running

Leggggs: Forest bathing. It’s now the hot thing, but there’s a good reason for it. Just being outside. It’s better.

Time to get thankful – Who do you have to hug/thank/high five for where you are in your running journey?

SW: Way too many peeps. I could honestly go on for a while here, but I’ll be brief.

The crew at Mill City Running in Minneapolis are the ones who really got me to love running. The sense of belonging and passion for the sport is unmatched. Dojo (of Pain) for accepting me and becoming my DC fam and being just a kick ass group of people in general. Definitely would not have survived in DC without this gang. From chill coffee hangs on sundays to helping me work thru all my shit to bullying me into fitness. I love this crew 🙂

Leggggs: I cannot agree more with the Dojo shoutout, though I’ve only met a fraction of the peeps. True blue, from what I can gather, and from who I’ve met. How about any races you got coming up? What’s on your dance card?

SW: CIM in december. Goal: finish.
Cherry Blossom 10 miler in the spring?
Other than that nothing concrete.
HTC summer ‘23 LFG

Leggggs: Hell yes. Anything else you want to promote right now? This is your time.

SW: Go read about our Hood to Coast adventure if you haven’t already. I’m just a dude who drove the van, my homies in the van are real badasses. Also, check out @Dojoofpain on insta to keep up with our shenanigans. A bunch of us (not me) are primed to absolutely rip some fall races. Most importantly, come run with us if you’re in DC!

Leggggs: Finally, parting shots. Final word:

SW: Take care of yourself first – mentally, physically etc.. go to the doctor. Running is life!

See what I mean about Sam? Relatable, aspirational, welcoming, honest, brutal, and “kinda fucked up” all in one radical person. Thanks for being a part of the community, Sam. And thanks for the open invitation to come to DC. Definitely going to take you up on that soon.

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