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October 19, 2023 41 mins

Allyson Felix has more Olympic medals than any other track and field athlete in U.S. history, including a walk-off Gold medal win in her last Olympic Games. But her greatest triumph may have come off the track, as she fought for the maternal rights of female athletes.

Allyson and her brother and agent Wes Felix talk with host Jon Frankel about overcoming a dangerous pregnancy emergency and how she stays in shape now that she’s no longer a competitive sprinter.

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Speaker 1 (00:02):
In the game of life, Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and
nurturing meaningful connections with family can be among the most
formidable challenges we face.

Speaker 2 (00:11):
I tried to do simple things in my body wasn't responding,
and so that's really when I start to question, can
I get back to me yet?

Speaker 1 (00:21):
For many professional athletes, fostering both has proven to be
a triumphant recipe for success.

Speaker 3 (00:27):
There was something that I told her that I haven't
delivered on yet, but I still will is I will
make sure you are the highest paid female athlete in sports.

Speaker 1 (00:36):
I'm John Frankel. For the past two decades, I've traveled
the globe covering some of the most impactful human interest
stories in sports. On this show, I'm sitting down with
some of the biggest families in the game, the legends,
current superstars, and the up and coming playmakers to understand
what's really making them tick. What can pro athlete families

(00:56):
teach a new generation about the importance of caring for
your health and finding success in the face of adversity. Together,
we'll hear stories of their remarkable comebacks, setbacks, and the
crucial role their family and self care played in their paths.
To championship glory.

Speaker 4 (01:13):
This is part of the game.

Speaker 1 (01:18):
In the pantheon of US track and field superstars, Alison
Felix stands alone. Over the course of five consecutive Olympic Games,
Felix collected eleven medals, including one bronze, three silver, and
seven gold. Felix also dominated the World Championships in track
and field, winning more medals in those competitions than anyone else. Ever,

(01:44):
her success on the track has given her a platform
to push for change for female athletes. For example, in
twenty nineteen, she spoke out publicly against her then sponsored
Nike for not providing guaranteed financial protections for pregnant athletes
and new moms.

Speaker 2 (02:01):
They were asking me to tell women and girls that
they could do anything, and when we're having this like
internal battle. So that was a moment where I was like,
you know, we've got to speak on this.

Speaker 3 (02:11):
We were on the same page, but we were also
both really terrified. I think if she would have said no,
I don't want to do it, I think I would
have been like, Okay, no, I understand, but I'm so
glad she was willing to do it.

Speaker 1 (02:25):
Going public with her concerns Felix sparked a firestorm of
controversy and turn the spotlight on pregnancy discrimination. Just under
three weeks, it pushed the sportswear giant to change its
contract terms for female athletes, but the track star and
Nike would part ways, and as the sun was setting
on her athletic career, Felix would have one last race

(02:47):
to run. At the twenty twenty Tokyo Olympics. She would
end her historic career by winning the bronze medal in
the four hundred meters and helping Team USA win the.

Speaker 4 (02:56):
Gold in the four by four hundred.

Speaker 1 (02:58):
Meter relays that helped to overtake Carl Lewis to become
the most decorated American Olympic track and field athlete of
all time, and she did it wearing sneakers from her
own brand, Sash. The risky move came about after she
split from Nike, and her older brother, an agent, Wes Felix,
had encouraged her to take control of her career. The

(03:19):
end of her competitive career marked the beginning of a
fresh start, working together with her brother. Alison Felix is
now part activist and entrepreneur with a goal of making sure,
mom athletes get a fair shake. Thank you, guys, I
appreciate it. Thanks for joining us. Let's go back to

(03:39):
the beginning here, Allison, was track always your first love?

Speaker 5 (03:44):
I wouldn't say it was. I kind of stumbled into it.

Speaker 2 (03:47):
I loved basketball, that was like my thing, and Wes
is two years older than me, so whatever he was doing,
I was kind of trying to keep up. But it
was very apparent quickly that basketball was not my gift.
So kept searching and eventually found track.

Speaker 1 (04:06):
What was the appeal about track? Where did it kick
in for you?

Speaker 6 (04:09):
No?

Speaker 1 (04:09):
Pun intended that you found this spark.

Speaker 2 (04:12):
Well, I'm a competitive person, you know, we come from
a competitive family, and I just love the idea that,
like on that day, you could figure out right away,
like who was the fastest, nothing subjective about it, And
that just really appealed to me.

Speaker 5 (04:25):
And I always loved racing the.

Speaker 2 (04:27):
Boys and kind of all that stuff, so it was
the perfect thing for me.

Speaker 1 (04:31):
Speaking of racing boys, when was the first time you
two matched up on a track?

Speaker 5 (04:36):
I think we ever matched up on a track?

Speaker 4 (04:38):
Like?

Speaker 1 (04:39):
Or was it more informal than that?

Speaker 6 (04:41):
Yeah?

Speaker 3 (04:41):
Yeah, there's an even better story here, John, that is
when was the first time Allison beat me. We would
train a lot when we were both competing, and we
got to get like good workouts in together. But at
the end of each season, we'd go on a vacation
and we would do a brother sister race. And you know,
it started when we were both competing, so I think
like my opportunity to win was pretty high.

Speaker 4 (05:03):
I would have like put your money on me. As
time went on, I think.

Speaker 3 (05:07):
Allison started to become the favorite and the distance would
get shorter, which would give me a chance to hold
on a little bit longer. And then it was twenty
twenty one, coming right off of Tokyo Olympics.

Speaker 4 (05:19):
We're on the beach and we run.

Speaker 3 (05:21):
She gets out ahead of me, which kind of expecting
she just came back from the Olympics and I was
far far from that, but I just knew I was
going to catch her.

Speaker 4 (05:30):
You know.

Speaker 3 (05:30):
I'm just like looking out in front and I'm like, oh,
it's just a matter of just nope, I'm about to
make my move.

Speaker 4 (05:35):
And then I'm like, wait, the move's not happening.

Speaker 3 (05:38):
And we start getting towards the finish line and realize
this isn't happening. She's she's going to beat me, She's
going to beat me for real.

Speaker 4 (05:45):
I didn't let her win.

Speaker 3 (05:46):
She beat me, and so there's a new person who's
been thrown fastest in the family, in the Felix household.

Speaker 1 (05:53):
Alison, do you remember for real the first time that
you were able to catch your older brother and gave
you this realization that you were really, really good?

Speaker 2 (06:04):
Yeah?

Speaker 5 (06:05):
I think that was the beauty of it.

Speaker 2 (06:06):
I never won, you know, he ran track, and that
literally was the first time I ever won. So I
think that like made me where I wasn't scared to lose,
and also where I was just like eager for the
next challenge because in my own family, my dad and
my brother like you know, super competitive, and I literally

(06:26):
could not beat them. I mean he was, you know,
a great athlete. But yeah, it didn't phaze me. I
think I never expected that I would win every race.

Speaker 1 (06:35):
Did you have the bond before you both noticed that
track was your passion or did your competitiveness and your
participation in track create the bond that you have today.

Speaker 5 (06:48):
I would say that we had the bond before.

Speaker 2 (06:50):
I mean I think we had a very normal kind
of like fighting growing up like very typical brother sister,
and I think for me, I remember like somewhere around
like middle school, feeling like we're actually on the same team.
That was kind of like a turning point.

Speaker 3 (07:06):
Yeah, I would agree. I think the bond really formed
in middle school. But I think what Track did was
took it even deeper and solidified it. It started to
give us real like shared problems almost, you know, and
the problem being like you get really nervous before a race.
Sometimes you run well, sometimes you don't run well, and
how do you deal with disappointment? How do you make

(07:27):
sure that you're working really hard? You know, all of
those things. So we really started to have a shared goal.
That just solidified the bond a whole lot more.

Speaker 1 (07:34):
Given the nature of the bond that you had in
developing that at a young age, would you have expected
that you would find yourselves here today working as agent client?
Was that something you had talked about and envisioned.

Speaker 5 (07:50):
Wes, I feel like you talked about it. Me I
feel like not so much.

Speaker 2 (07:55):
But I also not totally surprised because even through college,
you know, starting out was very close. We shared an apartment,
and so yeah, it doesn't totally surprise me. But I
feel like, Wes, did you have a master plan?

Speaker 5 (08:09):
I feel like you better.

Speaker 3 (08:11):
I think you know, I don't even know that if
it was necessarily my master plan. I think it might
have been our dad. Our dad knew that I was
really interested in sports management, and you know, when I
was in high school, I told him like, oh, I
think I would love to do sports and entertainment law
after college. I didn't even really know what that meant.
But then got to college and my second year of college,

(08:32):
that's when Allison decided that she was going to go pro.
And as she was going through that initial first deal,
my dad really brought me along and said, I want
you to see every part of it. And so I
went to the meetings. I sat on the calls, I
took notes, I asked questions. Then when a few years later,
I said, what if we actually worked together and said,

(08:53):
that's Alison and we took it to our parents. I
think I may have thought it was my idea, but
I think he might have been maneuvering a few things
behind the scenes along the way.

Speaker 1 (09:03):
Allison, were you receptive right away to this concept?

Speaker 5 (09:06):
It just came at the perfect time for me.

Speaker 2 (09:09):
I was having like some frustrations around like where I was,
and I felt like I really needed to focus in
on the track part of things, and I needed to
be able to trust whoever I was working with to
do all the other stuff, and so it was just
kind of like, yeah, the perfect timing for us to
do this.

Speaker 1 (09:27):
There are times, Wes when an agent tests to tell
a client to superstar athlete what to do, what not
to do. Has that been difficult along the way.

Speaker 3 (09:39):
You know, It's really interesting because not so much with Alison,
it's been okay. I've had been fortunate enough to represent
a couple of other superstar athletes and it was really
challenging with them, and I almost, you know, in my head,
I thought it would have been the flip the reverse,
thought it would have been much harder to tell Alison
the hard things, but it wasn't. It was much harder

(09:59):
to tell some of the other clients the hard things.

Speaker 4 (10:01):
And I think I was.

Speaker 3 (10:02):
Just a little bit more used to her disappointment process,
her frustration process, and I think I was more used
to knowing this will just take time. So I knew
how to kind of let that be and know that
I could say the hard thing and that she knew
not only did I love her as a brother, but
I wanted what was best for her and for her career.

(10:25):
So it wasn't too too bad, but it was scary
at times, you know, especially at the beginning, when you
had to say the thing that you knew she didn't
want to hear.

Speaker 1 (10:32):
Allison, do you remember a specific example when Wes may
have told you something and you vehemently disagreed with him,
and you even tried to do it your way and
he said, no, just listen to me, trust me on this.

Speaker 2 (10:44):
I feel like the hardest moments were really around when
I was much older, you know, when I was dealing
with having a child and with Nike, and I think
those were kind of some of the hardest moments of
just communicating a lot of things that I felt like
very disrespected with. And so it wasn't necessarily that we disagreed,
but it was he was delivering information that was really

(11:08):
devastating to me, and so that was probably, I feel
like the most challenging kind of phase.

Speaker 3 (11:14):
There were times when my advice was we just need
to sit tight, and I think that that's really hard,
especially if you're at a point where you're out of contract,
money's not coming in, You're not sure if money is
going to come in, and for the advice to.

Speaker 4 (11:30):
Be trust me, sit tight. Here's what we're doing.

Speaker 3 (11:33):
And Allison and I would talk a lot about as
an individual athlete trying to negotiate a deal with a
large sports apparel company. You don't have leverage. That company
doesn't need you. Their business is still going to work
whether you're there or not. And there are very very
few athletes that those companies don't survive without.

Speaker 1 (11:54):
Allison Felix won her first international title at just sixteen
years old. After graduating from high school, she gave up
her college eligibility and signed an endorsement deal with Adidas.
Like her big brother, she would attend usc the University
of Southern California. Adidas picked up the tab for her tuition,
and Felix would graduate from college with a degree in education,

(12:17):
and she kept running. In two thousand and four, at
just eighteen years old, she would begin an historic Olympic
journey with the US Track and Field team. You compete
in five consecutive Olympics. Correct, yes, in the two hundred
meter You win silver in two thousand and four, two

(12:38):
thousand and eight. It's not until London in twenty twelve
that you take gold. That seems like a long journey.

Speaker 5 (12:46):
It was a long journey and it was really challenging.

Speaker 2 (12:50):
I think also at those particular ages, you know, like
my first Olympics, it was it was all good.

Speaker 5 (12:55):
It was new.

Speaker 2 (12:56):
You know, I was eighteen, and I'm so excited and
I was disappointed getting soilber, but you know, family quickly
helps me realize, like, you know, this is great. The
second Olympics, that's when it really hit, you know, when
everything changed.

Speaker 5 (13:10):
I was the favorite.

Speaker 2 (13:11):
You know, I have sponsors and expectations and responsibilities, and
I'm navigating still being a young woman and competing professionally
while being in school and just all these different things.
And when I got that second silver medal, I was devastated.

Speaker 5 (13:25):
I was embarrassed.

Speaker 2 (13:28):
I just felt like, I'm not sure if this is
ever really going to come together. And on that stage,
you know, thinking about committing for another four years with
no guarantees, that was challenging.

Speaker 1 (13:41):
Given that you had so much success in the Olympics. Overall,
you won I think eleven medals, seven of them are gold,
some are individuals, some are team in relays. As the
games go on, do the goals change or is gold
always the standard?

Speaker 2 (14:00):
Gold has always been the standard. It's always been very
clear cut for me, and I think that's partly what
makes it challenging is that I always measured the success
like gold or failure. It was after London, I would say,
when everything came together for me. I won the three
gold medals and we set a world record, and you know,
it's everything that I always wanted, and it didn't quite

(14:22):
measure up to what I thought it was going to feel.
Like I think I thought everything was going to be different,
you know, and I've made it, like finally checked that box,
and I think I had to kind of unpack like
what that was really about. And I think it was
the journey and the process and the failures along the
way that was a turning point for me where I
think I started to measure the success differently, like I

(14:45):
could find bright spots even when everything didn't go perfectly right.
And that's also I think where the point of my
career where I found more purpose and like trying to
create some impact, and it just became a little bit
bigger than just a.

Speaker 5 (14:59):
Sport for me.

Speaker 1 (15:04):
At the twenty thirteen World Championships in Moscow, Felix was
trying to make history to win a fourth consecutive gold
at the event. Instead, she endured a devastating injury. You
talk about having to wait four years, all the training
that goes into something the disappointment twenty thirteen, You were

(15:26):
trying to become the first to take four gold medals
in the same event at the World Championships. You want
to take it from there or do you want me
to lay it out? The gun goes off your fifty
meters or so into the race, into the turn, and
what happens.

Speaker 2 (15:41):
I fell, just a popping in my hamstring. I think
that was probably my first major injury. I crumbled to
the track and I remember just kind of looking up
and seeing the race happen without me before I even
got to the track or out there. You know, my
coach was saying, like, I think something special is going
to happen, Like I felt t to like do something

(16:01):
really great, and so to come falling to the.

Speaker 5 (16:04):
Track and Howison Felix has fallen.

Speaker 2 (16:08):
That was not something I was familiar with at all,
and it was Yeah, it was a tough moment.

Speaker 1 (16:20):
Take me into the mind of an elite athlete while
you're sitting there on the track for that time, you're bummed,
maybe angry, but can you really allow yourself to express
your emotions because you know the cameras are on you.

Speaker 5 (16:34):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (16:35):
I think in that moment, I was definitely showing the emotion.
And I remember there's this moment like you get hurt
on the track, and my thing is like, how how
do you get off? Like I've never been in this
position before, Like how am I going to get out
of here? And I am in Russia and there's a
language barrier with the people who come running over to me.
They bring like a stretcher and they can't figure out
how to get it up. And I remember just being like,

(16:56):
I just want to get off of here. And the
next time I lifted my head. Somehow Wes managed to
get down on the track.

Speaker 5 (17:04):
And out of nowhere. I'm like, how did you do this?

Speaker 2 (17:08):
But he literally just picked me up and carried me
off the track, And I think that symbolizes our relationship.

Speaker 5 (17:15):
It's just like, you know he's there when I need him.

Speaker 2 (17:17):
But that was a really yeah, the first really big injury,
and we kind of went through it together.

Speaker 7 (17:24):
That's her brother Wes and her training partner Jennifer Tarmal,
who are taking her off the track. She will not
leave here in a stretcher. She leave instead in the
arms of her brother Wes.

Speaker 1 (17:35):
What do you remember, what was your initial thought and
how did you get to the stretcher to lift your
sister up?

Speaker 3 (17:41):
You know, I remember just Alison being on the cusp
of history with this fourth consecutive world championship. So I'm
sitting there with my parents in the stands, and she
got a good start, which that doesn't happen all the time,
which I think, you know, maybe also led to the
injury of how much force she was really putting on.

(18:02):
And there were a couple steps before the actual injury
where you could just see something was off and so
noticing that, my dad and I kind of looked at
each other and then before we know it, she's down
on the track. And so in that moment, it wasn't
an agent, It was a brother who knew that not
so much. Even Oh, she's going to be so disappointed,
but she's hurt, you know, and how do I get

(18:24):
to her because she's hurt. But I remember looking at
my dad, and I said I'll go down there, and
he just said okay. And I think there was something
in the way he said okay, that didn't make it
sound crazy. So I get down to the security guard
and it's as Alison mentioned in Russia, and really I
just said to him somehow in a way that he understood,

(18:45):
probably in the like pain in my face, you know,
that's my sister. I have to get to her. And
it was pretty easy. He just moved to the side
and I hopped over the railing and jumped down there.
And once I was on the track, I think they
knew me enough that I wasn't, you know, or something,
so they let me be there. And I could see
in Allison's face just this deep, deep hurt. This was

(19:09):
a moment she just wanted to hide and she needed
to process the feelings and emotions on her own, you know.
And they're trying to get her off the track and
it's not working. And so I asked her, you know,
do you want me to pick you up? And she
said yes and then carried her off.

Speaker 1 (19:33):
When we return. Alison Felix on calling out pregnancy discrimination
and how it led to perhaps her greatest victory.

Speaker 2 (19:41):
I remember I was in my daughter's nursery, she was
born two months early, and Wes calls me and he
is saying that Nike is requesting to use my image
in a Women's World Cup campaign. They were asking me
to tell women and girls that they could do anything.
When we're having this like internal back, that was a
moment where I was like, you know, we've got to

(20:03):
speak on this.

Speaker 1 (20:05):
Part of the game.

Speaker 4 (20:06):
We'll be right back.

Speaker 1 (20:14):
And now back to part of the game, we should
take a moment to ask about your daughter, who's now
five emergency C section premature.

Speaker 2 (20:28):
She doing okay, Yeah, she's thriving now and she's doing
so well and can't even believe the journey that we've
come from. But yeah, she's doing great. Thanks for asking.

Speaker 1 (20:38):
Alison. You gave birth to your daughter in twenty eighteen,
and the following year you write an op ed in
The New York Times the challenge Nike, who was your
sponsor at the time, over the contract terms. They were
reportedly asking you to take a significant pay cut, right
almost seventy percent of your salary and not guaranteeing that

(20:58):
you wouldn't get fired if you didn't live up to
their performance marks. Is that right? Did I sum that
up pretty well?

Speaker 2 (21:06):
Yeah?

Speaker 5 (21:07):
I think that's a good summary. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (21:08):
Were you reluctant at all to go public with this?

Speaker 5 (21:14):
I was terrified.

Speaker 2 (21:15):
I mean it's just so outside of who I was
as an athlete, Like for the majority of my career,
I barely said anything, you know, head down, did the
work stayed in my lane. I was very i think
scared to have like strong opinions on anything and really
just like fought to fit this like perfect image. So
this was like when my world just like turned upside down.

(21:37):
So I was really really scared.

Speaker 1 (21:39):
Tell me, what was the tipping point for you in
this Where did it hit you in the gut that
you said, that's it, I have to speak up.

Speaker 2 (21:46):
Yeah, it was this very specific moment. I mean, all
of this had been going on. The money was the money,
and we had really moved off of that. It was
asking for the maternal protections, which meant a time period
to recover from having birth and to be able to
get back to top form to not receive a reduction
which would be standard in the contract.

Speaker 5 (22:06):
And so that was the major point.

Speaker 2 (22:09):
And they had told me that I could have the time,
but they weren't willing in the contract to legally tie
it to maternity or pregnancy so that it didn't set
the precedent for all their female athletes. So that was
the point where we weren't landing in the same place.
And I remember I had been home for a little
bit and I was in my daughter's nursery. I had

(22:30):
a very traumatic birth experience with her. She was born
two months early, She's been a month in the NICU,
and I'm in her nursery and Wes calls me and
he is saying that, you know, Nike is requesting to
use my image in a Women's World Cup campaign. And
that was like the final thing because we're still at

(22:52):
this point, we're still going back and forth, you know,
fighting over these maternal protections, like it's all happening right then,
and that final request was just like such a miss
to me. It was like they didn't see what was happening.
They were asking me to tell women and girls that
they could do anything, and when we're having this like
internal battle. So that was a moment where I was like,

(23:13):
you know, we've got to speak on this.

Speaker 1 (23:16):
You felt they were being somewhat duplicitous in.

Speaker 5 (23:18):
This yeah, I did.

Speaker 2 (23:20):
I couldn't put my face out there and stand for
that when I felt like we're going through this whole
thing kind of behind the curtain.

Speaker 1 (23:32):
Wes as manager and brother, I'm guessing you were torn
somewhat emotionally. You could understand what Alison felt. On the
other hand, you got to do what's in the best
interest of your client. You have a fiduciary responsibility in
a sense. Were you in favor of Alison speaking out
or did you try and say to her, look just
lay low.

Speaker 3 (23:50):
I felt there was a real problem in the industry already,
and separate from Alison, was on background helping the New
York Times reporter connect with different athletes that I thought
would be good for her story, helping her to understand
the landscape of what was happening in Sport and what
was wrong with what was going on in Sport. And
you know, as she started to see some of what

(24:12):
was going on with Allison and her birth experience, she
asked me, do you think Allison would be a part
of this? And you know, to Allison's point of not
rocking the boat, being really terrified, my immediate response to
her was equally the same.

Speaker 4 (24:25):
I was terrified. I felt very.

Speaker 3 (24:27):
Strongly on what the right thing was, So it wasn't
hard to know what are you supposed to do here?
But you mentioned that fiduciary responsibility. It was Yeah, if
we blow this up, for sure, you're not going to
be able to go back to Nike. That's not an option.
But it might be really hard to go anywhere because
a lot of times people don't like the troublemaker, and

(24:50):
there's a fear that all you're going to do is
come into the next organization and cause trouble. As time
went on, what started to become a real conversation where
I could then say to her, is this something you
would consider? And I'm so glad she was willing to
do it.

Speaker 1 (25:07):
In fact, you were right Nike and Allison collectively as
a team. You parted ways, right, But you got Nike
to change its policies in the process.

Speaker 2 (25:17):
Yeah, it was about two and a half weeks after
the op ed came out they changed their policy and
today they offer eighteen months of maternal protections for their
female athletes. And some other companies came forward as well.
So that was all great, you know, it was amazing
for all the women who get to benefit.

Speaker 5 (25:32):
But I was done and out and I didn't get that.

Speaker 1 (25:38):
Were you disappointed or you knew that that was coming
and so it was inevitable.

Speaker 5 (25:43):
I didn't know it was coming.

Speaker 2 (25:44):
I was really disappointed in the fact of like, that's
exactly what we asked.

Speaker 4 (25:48):
For, you know.

Speaker 2 (25:48):
It was like, it's only because we went public that
anything changed. And so I just a company of that size,
like I always felt like it was doable, you know.
So there was just so much resistance since and then
when it didn't look so great then for them to
come around to me, that was the disappointing part. But
at the end, I was happy that the policy changed,

(26:09):
for sure.

Speaker 1 (26:10):
Both of you talked about the industry specifically female athletes.
But do you see any difference between that instance and
what other women have been experiencing in other workplaces for years?
In essence, choose your path, choose your course. You want
to be a mom, you want to you want to
be a wife, or do you want to work?

Speaker 5 (26:28):
Yeah?

Speaker 2 (26:28):
I mean to me, that was a thing, like I
wrote the New York Times op ed, and a flood
of women came to me like it resonated they had
been through something similar and to me, it's devastating, like
that was twenty eighteen, twenty nineteen, like that that many
people have been affected, and I guess it shouldn't be
shocked by that, but really heartbreaking that, you know, even

(26:52):
in the spaces where people are saying the right things,
women still know they might get taken off of things,
or they're still hiding pregnancies, and it's just really unfortunate.

Speaker 1 (27:03):
We talked about your five consecutive Olympic appearances twenty four, eight, twelve, sixteen.
Here comes twenty in Tokyo, and you don't have Nike,
You've given birth a couple of years before. How hard
is it, both physically and emotionally to say I want

(27:24):
to do this one more time, I want to race
in the Olympics in Tokyo.

Speaker 4 (27:28):
I think it was.

Speaker 5 (27:29):
Easy to say that I wanted to.

Speaker 2 (27:31):
You know, I think I was on fire, especially after
parting ways with Nike. I felt like no one believed
that I could do it. But then I think after
I set out to do it, then I started to
like have the doubts myself, like, Okay, well maybe they
are right.

Speaker 5 (27:45):
I'm a new mother.

Speaker 2 (27:46):
I don't have the support of Nike, during that time,
we were trying to figure out how to do it ourselves,
and it was a lot of pressure to be up
against and being thirty five and just unsure if it
would come together was tough.

Speaker 1 (28:02):
Can you speak in broad terms? And obviously everybody's story
is different, but since you wrote about it in the
New York Times, it created this split with Nike. You
feel so.

Speaker 4 (28:12):
Strongly about it.

Speaker 1 (28:14):
What is it like to give birth and then try
and come back as a world class athlete.

Speaker 5 (28:19):
It was so humbling.

Speaker 2 (28:21):
I think, like things I never ever even thought about,
like doing drills or jogging.

Speaker 5 (28:27):
They were things that I could not do.

Speaker 2 (28:29):
And so I had this whole plan of I'm going
to give birth and I'm gonna be back four weeks later,
and I know how to train hard, I know how
to do all those things, but my mind was telling
me I could do those things. But after the emergency
C section, after being in the NIKU for a month,
spending time around the clock there, it just threw off everything.
And so it was like starting from not even from

(28:53):
the bottom, but from like below that. It was like
it felt like I wasn't even an athlete, Like I
tried to do simple things in my body wasn't responding,
and so that's really when I start to question, can
I get back to me? Because I didn't feel any
parts of myself.

Speaker 1 (29:10):
Did you feel that other athletes were looking at you
at this point in your mid thirties without a sponsor
and saying what are you doing here?

Speaker 4 (29:17):
Oh?

Speaker 5 (29:18):
Yeah, I felt like everybody was.

Speaker 2 (29:19):
And I've heard the chatter also, you know, it wasn't
just a feeling. It was like they're literally saying it.
You know, I'm the oldest, I have a new baby,
like I'm competing against like kids, and so I felt
very different than everybody else who was out there.

Speaker 1 (29:39):
I'm assuming there was also some thought in that this
is going to be your last Olympics, most likely in
twenty twenty in Tokyo, win or lose, and that you're
going to make the transition into a new career. Where
does the idea come from to create your own company?

Speaker 4 (29:54):
Sache?

Speaker 2 (29:55):
Yeah, it really came just in the conversation of me
venting to Wes, and it was at or that hunt
of like, Okay, is there anyone out here who will
give me shoes to run in the Olympics? And I
just felt so disheartened because I felt like, Okay, I
feel like I have enough of accomplishments to get a sponsor,
and when we couldn't find it was it's like, I

(30:16):
think we should do this ourselves.

Speaker 5 (30:17):
And at first I was like, that's too big of
a thing.

Speaker 2 (30:20):
At the time, it was like, you know, the beginning
of the pandemic, the Olympics had been postponed a year,
there was just so much going on. But then I
sat with it and I realized that it was actually
a great idea and it gave us the opportunity to
create change and do things our way. And we thought
what we were doing was creating shoes that I could
just wear in the Olympics and that maybe other women

(30:40):
would want to support that too. But as we made
the deep dive into just that industry, we learned that
shoes they're made off of mold, and it's a mold
of a man's foot used to make women sneakers.

Speaker 5 (30:51):
And that was kind of the turning point for us.

Speaker 2 (30:53):
It was like, not only are we going to try
to do something and create change for me, but we're
going to try to push in industry and do something
that isn't being done and then we were off to
the races.

Speaker 1 (31:05):
This might seem like a fairly trite question, you know
when somebody asked you, oh, can you pick one moment,
but I'm going to take giving birth off the table,
so you can't use that one on me.

Speaker 4 (31:17):
But you know, you go.

Speaker 1 (31:19):
To the twenty twenty Olympics in Tokyo. Everybody's wondering why
you're there. You're hearing it. You don't have the sponsor,
you're thirty five years old.

Speaker 7 (31:26):
And another a seventh gold medal to go home on
and retire from the Olympics for Alison Felix.

Speaker 1 (31:33):
And you come out of there with a bronze and
the four hundred, but a gold medal is part of
the four hundred relay team? Is that the icing on
the cake is that I'm done moment wave goodbye?

Speaker 5 (31:43):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (31:44):
To me, it was literally crossing the line like in
the safe spikes that we created, was like it was
bigger than the sport. Like for me for the first time,
as someone who's very clear cut about success and failure,
that moment was just about so much more than any
of that. And so you know, I did one more
year after that and kind of said my thank yous,

(32:05):
But that was the highlight looking back of everything, and for.

Speaker 7 (32:10):
Alison feel like she is the goodbye gold for her
three sixteen eighty four.

Speaker 1 (32:17):
Wes you see that moment in Tokyo dropped the tough
exterior tears.

Speaker 3 (32:27):
Yeah, I think that there was so much emotion in
all of the ways. We had just fought so hard
and fought a battle that we didn't even know was coming.
And there was a conversation Allison and I had two
nights before her final where she really opened up and
was just telling me that she was scared and she
didn't know if she could do it, you know, And

(32:49):
our conversation I'll never forget was the goal is the same,
but it's different, and you're saying you don't think you
can do it, but that's because you think there's only
one medal, but there isn't only one medal, there are three,
and you need to think about shifting what your goal

(33:09):
is for the very first time, you know, and I
think as a brother and a manager, it was the
first time I ever felt safe telling her you don't
have to win, and that's how I knew, like, Okay,
we're at the end, you know, like we're at the
end of this part of the journey because gold isn't
the goal anymore and it doesn't need to be. That's

(33:30):
so beautiful, but that means I think, as a brother
and sister, we've done something for real, in real life,
we understand actually what the purpose was, and it was
never winning. And so seeing her sitting there on the
track COVID Olympics, so we weren't able to be there,
but it's five o'clock in the morning, and you know,
we're sitting on my parents' couch and Cameron is sleeping,

(33:53):
you know, on her dad's lap, and we're waking her
up and we're jumping and we're screaming, and she's getting happy,
and you know, we just see Alison down there trying
to catch her breath the way I've seen her with
her hands around her knees probably hundreds of times before,
just exhausted, and seeing her in the shoes. I think
also knowing for me there was something that I told

(34:14):
her that I haven't delivered on yet but I still
will is I will make sure you are the highest
paid female athlete in sports. And what I was able
to think about in that moment was here you are
You're in your own shoes, we made them. Your company
has a ten figure valuation that is more money than

(34:35):
you would ever have a chance to ever make in
your entire career at Nike as a runner, and you're
doing it your way, on your terms, for your daughter,
and you're showing every other woman that you don't have
to just do what you're told, you can actually create

(34:55):
something different. And so yeah, I can't imagine a moment
more emotional or where I've really been more proud of
anything else and did on the track.

Speaker 1 (35:15):
Allison, You've got a future of motherhood in front of you,
a successful company, social activism, an advocate for women and
female athletes in general, so much to look forward to.
But I've never spoken to an athlete who's reached the
levels that you have that hasn't had a moment of,
oh gosh, it's over. There's maybe a little bit of depression.

(35:38):
It's tough emotionally, it's tough physically. What's been the hardest
part stepping away from the track.

Speaker 2 (35:45):
I think it's definitely working through the sadness of it,
the loss of it that I absolutely loved every single
well not every single but I loved running. I love
that I got to wake up and train for five
hours a day, and that is just a part of
who I am. And I think the most challenging part
is not like what is my next step or you know,

(36:05):
I feel really grateful and blessed that that's all mapped out,
But I think it's waking up and not having that training,
not getting to see my coach every day, not having
that very tangible goal and working towards it.

Speaker 5 (36:19):
You know, it's just a very different thing.

Speaker 2 (36:21):
And so I think no matter where you end at,
if it's at the highest of the high or if
you didn't quite do the things that you wanted, I
think that part is all the same, the walking away
and the missing it.

Speaker 1 (36:33):
How different is life today without competition like that in
terms of eating and just simply exercising every day.

Speaker 5 (36:40):
Yeah, it's so different.

Speaker 2 (36:42):
I think the biggest thing I'm like, when do people exercise?
Like I didn't know that this was a thing like
either early in the morning or late at night and
trying to fit that way, and also just like trying
to find my new relationship with sport. And I think
I've been so used to such an intense training schedule.
I was at the track a couple months ago when
I was doing this insane workout and pushing myself to

(37:04):
the limits, and I just kind of had this moment
where I paused and I.

Speaker 5 (37:07):
Was like, I don't have to be here like this.
I don't have to do this.

Speaker 2 (37:11):
And so right now it's just been finding the new things,
you know, taking tennis lessons and trying to like dial.

Speaker 5 (37:17):
It back a little bit and do new things.

Speaker 1 (37:21):
What are you guys looking forward to with the shoes.

Speaker 2 (37:23):
I think we're most proud right now that we just
launched the Felix Runner, which is our performance running shoe,
and so excited just to see it in the world
and get to see women wear it and running it.
And our hope is that we continue to grow, that
more people know about us, know our origin story. For me,
I love when I get to see women wearing the
shoes and I connect with them and they usually have

(37:46):
a story about feeling like it's so much bigger than
the shoes. It's a movement. It's a sign that they
stand for women and with women. I just hope that
you know, we continue to get out there and see
more of that happening.

Speaker 1 (38:01):
Let me ask you this as we close, and I
would like each of you to just take a minute
to think about this, or maybe it'll jump to.

Speaker 6 (38:07):
You right off the net.

Speaker 1 (38:09):
What does the heart of the game mean to you?

Speaker 3 (38:11):
To me, it's understanding the real purpose of the game.
I think that so many times we think it's about winning,
it's about pushing yourself. It's really about other people. I
feel so fortunate for us it's getting to be around
the Olympics and the World Championships. The heart of the
game is the beauty, the purpose, the essence of why

(38:34):
we actually play these games, and it's not to break records.
I think it's to inspire Allison.

Speaker 2 (38:42):
For me, I think it's very similar, but really why
you ever do it? And I think for many of
us it starts out being because you want to win
and because you're competitive and you want to be the best.
And that was my experience, and then you kind of
uncover what's really at the heart of it all. And
for me, it was learning about myself and learning about

(39:04):
that I'm so much more than just the game, you know,
I'm here for a bigger purpose than that, and my
experience led me to that. So to me, it's about
really uncovering the layers of what's really at the core
of it all for you as the person discovering it.

Speaker 1 (39:23):
And let me just close this way, because I wanted
to ask you this, and you can tell me, Allison,
what does it feel like to run that fast?

Speaker 5 (39:33):
When I have the race that goes pretty well?

Speaker 6 (39:37):
For me?

Speaker 2 (39:38):
It actually feels kind of easy. It feels like everything
is clicking. It makes sense, it feels natural. I'm not
fighting against it. It just kind of feels like time
is almost slowing down. That's the best way that I
can put it.

Speaker 1 (39:57):
Her running days may be behind her, but a US
and Felix isn't done competing. She continues to push to
help female athletes and put them on a level playing field.
It's a positively Olympian goal, but a career is proof
that Alison Felix knows how to win. On the next
episode of Heart of the Game, we'll talk with brothers

(40:17):
in former Bad Boys of Tennis, Luke and Murphy Jensen.
Murphy shares how his personal demons derailed their career and
how he survived a terrifying heart attack.

Speaker 6 (40:29):
It took seventeen minutes for the ambulance to get there
and in that time, he had flatlined four times. What
do you say to someone who's been your best friend,
your brother, and you're saying goodbye. The only thing that
kept popping in my mind is we have this model
that Jensen's never quit. You can lose, you can be tired,
but Jensen's never quit.

Speaker 1 (40:53):
Part of the Game is a production of Ruby's Studio
from iHeartMedia. Our show is hosted by me John Frankl.
Our executive producer is Matt Romano. Our EP of Post
Production is Matt Stillo. Our supervising producer is Nikiah Swinton.
This show was edited by Sierra Spreen. Our writer and
researcher is Mike Avilla. Thanks for listening. We'll see you

(41:15):
next time.
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