How two professional runners found their voice
Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the last three years, due partly to their ability to make us feel connected in times of isolation. Whether we listen when we’re out running, sitting on the train or alone in our car, a good podcast makes us feel like we’re part of the conversation – like it’s happening right in front of us.
So it’s no surprise that more and more podcasts are popping up every day, but what many podcast creators are finding out is that it’s hard to hold people’s attention. As we exit the strangest period in modern history, time is once again precious. Many of us are trying to play catch up – in our careers, our social lives and our other pursuits. So, if I’m going to give a podcast an hour of my time every single week, it better be engaging.
Enter, For The Kudos. Many of our TEMPO audience would be familiar by now with the podcast created by Brett Robinson and Joel Tobin-White. Robinson is of course a two-time Olympian and the Australian record holder in the half marathon (59:57), while Tobin-White boasts a 62:03 half marathon best and a 13:38.99 in the 5,000m, making the pairing well qualified to share insights from the world of professional distance running. While FTK has only been around a couple of months, it has found a niche swinging between serious conversations about existing at the top level of the sport and the sort of candid humour you might expect to hear on Sunday long runs across Australia.
“Doing FTK is a good distraction from my own running. I feel like I'm doing something meaningful and not just spending all my time between my runs scrolling through Instagram.”
It was Joel who initially had the idea to launch FTK, after guest hosting on the Inside Running Podcast for a number of episodes.
“After doing three seasons on IRP’s patreon sideshow Road To Nowhere, I joked to Brett about starting our own. That joke quickly turned into a serious chat and before we knew it we were brainstorming names. The two of us would always laugh at how deep our conversations would go when we were running together,” Joel says.
Knowing it was Joel’s idea, I wanted to understand Brett’s motivation for getting involved.
“For the last two years I’ve been coaching at Pulse Running, and I’ve really enjoyed helping people and sharing the knowledge I have from 10 years as a professional athlete. FTK is another way to help people with their running while also having some fun and giving some insights into my weekly life that you wouldn't get unless you were one of my close friends,” Brett says.
FTK is a revealing look at the psyche of professional athletes. Brett and Joel will go into exacting detail about the splits of a random lap of training on a Tuesday morning, debating whether they ran the 400m lap in 66 or 67 seconds, but will then admit they skipped an afternoon run because they were tired or not motivated, and it’s this sort of contradiction that makes the pair relatable. I’ll (probably) never run 59:57 for the half marathon, but I can relate to being obsessive at times, while at others I see my motivations wane for no good reason.
“It’s quite fun asking the listeners to bombard people on social media. The bigger FTK grows, the bigger the names we can land. The sky’s the limit.”
And, as much as Brett and Joel are passing on knowledge and answering listener questions, there has to be an element of the project that fulfils a need of their own – to get things off their chest or take their focus away from spending too much time thinking about the next race.
Joel agrees: “One of the reasons I left the sport of triathlon – the other being I swam like a cinder block – was that it was totally life consuming. The training hours in running, while still high, allow for interests and hobbies outside of the sport. My biggest hobby is electronic music (I started up a label called Dart Echo as a creative outlet from running). FTK is another passion project that blends creativity and my day job, running – and I’m absolutely loving it. While both Brett and I are very serious about our running performance I’d say we don’t take life too seriously, and this shines through on the podcast. I think, in a sport as difficult as distance running, if you’re not having fun then you’re not going to perform at your best.
“Doing FTK is a good distraction from my own running, I feel like I'm doing something meaningful and not just spending all my time between my runs scrolling through Instagram,” Brett adds.
Aside from being uniquely positioned to provide glimpses into life as professional athletes, FTK stands apart for the comfortable back and forth Brett and Joel have with their guests. Whether it’s MTC training partners such as Rose Davies or Charlotte Purdue, or sprinters like Hana Basic, there’s an ease of conversation that comes naturally when peers talk to each other. Coming up soon on the show will be Molly Seidel – thanks in no small part to FTK’s listeners blowing up her Instagram.
“Molly will be great,” Brett says. “She always seems to be having fun on social media and seems more relaxed – plus, she is an Olympic medalist. In Australia we are pretty lucky because we know most of the athletes and everyone we have asked so far has been excited to come on the show. While I'm in America the next few months, I want to interview as many athletes as I can. We might ask for public support again soon to lock in some more big names … wait and see!”
“It’s quite fun asking the listeners to bombard people on social media,” adds Joel. “The bigger FTK grows, the bigger the names we can land. The sky’s the limit.”
While at the moment it’s all in good fun, there’s a lot more to a podcast than just the 90 minutes the mics are on each week. Joel explains that it’s having some side effects: “My screen time is at a disgusting all-time high. There’s a lot of work to do behind the scenes but it’s work that I enjoy. I was gifted a yearly Calm subscription for my recent birthday, so that explains a lot!”
Given how much time both Brett and Joel spend breaking down their training sessions, there are two obvious questions. Do their coaches, Nic Bideau and Collis Birmingham, listen to the show? And when can we expect them to feature as guests? Brett thinks they might be being coy about tuning in.
“They definitely listen to the show. They may sometimes claim they don’t, but I know they do. Nic wasn't too happy after the episode with Charlotte where I complained about this session he gave me. I was saying the times were too hard; he said if I was actually turning up to training with the right attitude I would have embraced the session and had a crack but, instead, I complained and folded. A few weeks later I had a bit of a turning point in training and I realised he definitely was right; mentally, I had just been turning up to training, and it showed.”
And can we expect to hear the dulcet tones of Nic Bideau behind the mic at any point? Joel says he and Brett have been campaigning.
“We would love for him to come on. We’ve been putting the pressure on but he says, ‘I don’t do podcasts.’ I think it would be great to have him on and I believe we’d have the biggest response ever with the listeners’ questions.”
Brett has already extracted a promise.
“Nic said if I qualify for world champs and Joel runs 10 races this year he will come on.”