Honestly, I’ve been feeling down. Online kindergarten for a five year old is challenging, particularly with a two year old in the house too. I’m doing white-collar work from home in the garage and it’s cold. The dogs aren’t getting along and one of them rolled in something really smelly. A lot of people have it worse, but I needed a pick-me-up and thankfully, David and Megan Roche are incredibly positive people.
I wanted them to answer the phone with a joint “woohoo,” just like on the couple’s “Some Work, All Play (SWAP)” podcast, which is also the name of their coaching business, but David started much more formal before flipping to his characteristic “you’re awesome.” I rib him that I don’t believe it at all, but it does make me smile and that’s really the power of it. “Achievement’s fleeting. It’s the little things that make something or someone awesome,” David explained. “There are sparks of beauty in everyone and everything. When we focus on that, and others see that, incredible things can happen.”
The couple has been married for six years, together for 10, and has crafted a career from this sport. They’re some of trail and ultrarunning’s best-known and most popular coaches, and accomplished athletes and writers too. The Roches split time between Boulder, Colorado and the San Francisco Bay Area of California, where Megan is partway through a Ph.D. in–get this–epidemiology. “Before this year no one knew what epidemiology was, but now everyone knows it,” she cheered. I don’t record these calls and rush to keep my notes on pace; Megan is a very fast talker. She’s taken part in a number of research projects as part of the program, including a recent study of the mental-health impacts of COVID-19 on professional athletes. “It’s interesting being back in school at age 30. I’ve certainly got less pressure on exams,” she said. She’s already a medical doctor too, and the collective education and experience funnels into their coaching business. “Opportunities will pop up, but I really look forward to continuing to work with athletes, growing up SWAP,” she said of the future. “Megan’s teaching me something every day,” David followed.
“We check in with every athlete, every day,” David said of the team. “It’s a hell of a way to start a day. We have a close relationship with every person, if they want it. It’s great for our coaching, and they’re our close friends. It adds a layer of fulfillment, a layer of richness to our lives.” David’s first athlete was Megan, and Megan first coached her mom, but the group now includes a who’s who of top trail runners and ultrarunners, and a number of obstacle-course pros too. The earliest non-family athlete though has been with them for 3,000-plus days. “It gives me chills, honestly,” David professed of this runner in Washington state, “thinking about all she’s accomplished, so fast, so strong, so inspiring.” Megan’s right there too, with another female from Minnesota. “She was a great first athlete, willing to run in any Minnesota weather condition. If you reflect back to the beginning, you can really see the minutiae of life unfold, and we get so much from our athletes.”
In all of their podcasts, writing, coaching, and research studies, the couple hits frequently on mental health, and other sometimes uncomfortable topics. Megan is a medical doctor, but David earlier was a lawyer, and I dig on where the mental-health push comes from. David answers without pause. “It gets back to being a part of people’s lives, breaking down the barriers of vulnerability. We are running coaches, not psychologists, but we are friends too and can help people realize they’re not alone.” Megan follows, “Mental-health issues are really common. Most athletes will bring it up within the first three months of coaching, and the numbers are staggering in the research I’ve done.”
“We’ve gone through a lot of shit,” Megan admits. “We’ve struggled in our relationship, being together all the time. We’re literally only a few feet apart for days in a row. We have different communication styles.” It’s something that the couple has talked about on their podcast too, and Megan doesn’t shy away from the tough talk. “We’re open books at this point, and everyone goes through stuff. We’re all in this together.” David answers wisely too, “I want her to feel fulfilled and happy all the time, but that’s not my decision. You’ve got to have space for different emotions, and that’s not a bad reflection on me or her.”
That podcast is incredibly fast-flowing, without pause for 30 minutes. “We do a very sparse outline, but a lot is not scripted,” David revealed. “It’s really just back-and-forth banter after 10 years sitting at the table together,” Megan said. They both noted that it’s helped in their ability to listen to each other too, and but neither has an answer when asked who cooks and who cleans. David speaks up, “We do a lot of DoorDash, like everyday. There are some things we care about deeply, and some things we are not great with. I juggle a lot of balls, but there are a few on the floor too.”
The couple’s dog, eight-year-old Addie, fits their personalities and appears to still hold tons of energy. “I think she’s forever a puppy,” Megan said. The couple is really active with their dog, so much so that I ask about a second dog, and Megan explains that too. “We debated the idea of getting a second dog, but Addie actually doesn’t like other dogs.” David’s 32 years old and Megan 30, and they do plan to grow their family beyond Addie. “We definitely want to have kids,” Megan shared. “I used to say I wanted to when I was 28, and then I said when I was 30, 32. I’ve definitely pushed it back. I think the big hamstring injury changed our timeline. I want to have two to three good years on the trails.” David jumps in, “And then you can explore after kids too. Megan will be an incredible mom.”
In June of 2019, Megan tore her hamstring, a devastating rupture that tore tendon off bone, but she’s made a full recovery. “We’re both super fit,” David shared. “Megan did the Mount Audubon Duathlon [near Boulder, Colorado]. You bike from Boulder, run to the top [of Mount Audubon], and then bike back. Her time was insanely fast. I love racing, but don’t feel the need to travel for races, and I just love training too. We want to do a lot of races in 2021 though.”
“Way Too Cool 50k, Lake Sonoma 50 Mile, I’d love to do CCC,” Megan said of 2021 planning. “I’m hesitant that early 2021 races will happen though.” David echoed a similar thought, “It’s like we’re living in a science-fiction novel, it’s exciting, tragic but exciting.”
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