Riley Masters opted for a subtle approach to make the public aware that he has retired from professional running.
A change of status on various social media platforms was enough to do the trick for the former Bangor High School and University of Maine distance standout.
“I just decided to hang it up,” said the 30-year-old Masters. “I hadn’t made a formal announcement or anything but I had surgery last June and just decided to call it quits for now.”
Masters starred at the University of Oklahoma before embarking on an eight-year pro career that included two U.S. Olympic Trials and winning the 2018 U.S. Track and Field 1-mile road race championship.
“There’s a chance I go back and maybe run some marathons at some point, but I wanted to dive into my next career at this point,” he said. “I hadn’t really made a formal announcement but just changed my status on Linkedin and my social media accounts and told my agent and Nike that I was done.”
Masters’ running career was put on hold in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement of that year’s U.S. Olympic Trials and the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. That led him to have surgery to remove a Haglund’s deformity, a bony bump that forms where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel.
“It was pretty bad,” Masters said. “I’d been running over 100 miles a week for a year and a half and I was fairly compromised just trying to get ready for the 2020 Olympic Trials. Then when COVID shut everything down it opened the window to get surgery, but I knew it was going to be difficult to come back from that.”
By late summer, he knew that he was physically unable to train at the required level.
“I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get the training in that was necessary to make the team,” he said.
Masters believes he still could have still been competitive at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials scheduled for June 18-27 in Oregon.
He competed in the 1,500 meters at the 2012 trials and then qualified for the 5,000-meter trials final in 2016.
“I had been at the trials a couple of times before and this time was all about trying to make the team, so if I wasn’t going to have a realistic shot at that, I wasn’t interested in pursuing it,” Masters said.
Masters’ running career began in earnest at Bangor High School, where he helped the Rams capture the Class A state championship both indoors and outdoors in 2007 and as a senior won individual state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 outdoors and the mile indoors.
He began his college running career at UMaine, where he was a two-time All-American in the mile. He broke the 4-minute barrier on Feb. 10, 2010, when he ran a 3:58.17 at the Boston University Valentine Invitational.
Masters also was a two-time America East cross country individual champion.
He transferred to Oklahoma, where in 2012 he was the Big 12 Conference champion in the 1,500 and earned All-America honors in the indoor distance medley relay.
Masters turned professional in 2013, originally running for the Brooks Beasts before landing a contract with Nike in 2017.
He became a national champion in 2018, besting an elite field of 20 runners in 4:03.12 to win the USATF 1-mile road race title in Des Moines, Iowa. He has remained one of the nation’s top competitors at distances ranging from 1,500 meters through 5,000 throughout his pro career.
“Winning state titles when I was at Bangor, breaking 4 minutes when I was at the University of Maine and then winning the U.S. road championship are probably the three highlights of my career from each stage that I feel very fortunate for,” Masters said.
“When you get to this level it’s very easy to feel like you’re a failure if you don’t make the Olympic team or you don’t win a gold medal, but there’s certainly some great accomplishments along the way that I look back at very fondly.”
Masters is pursuing a career in sales, but he won’t stray too far from the running scene. The Boulder, Colorado, resident is a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Colorado and his wife, Sara Sutherland, continues to run professionally.
And while distance running has taken Masters many miles from his running roots, he remains thankful to those who helped him get started.
“I feel really fortunate about how much support I’ve gotten, especially from the Bangor community, in these last 15 years,” Masters said.