With only a year of serious distance running behind him, Noah Droddy somehow managed to qualify for the 10,000-meter finals at the July 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon. Alas, his moment in the limelight seemed brief. The then 25-year-old finished last, lapped by the leaders. Still, social media fell in love with the hipster, who was sporting an epic ’stache, long locks, and backward baseball cap. Droddy dug the attention, but after his performance, he wanted to prove he wasn’t just “some deadhead who had wandered onto the track on a bender.” Three months after the Olympic Trials, he took second at the U.S. 10-mile championships, and in March he finished seventh at the New York City Half Marathon. Not bad for a guy, who, four years ago, was running Division III cross-country at Indiana’s DePauw University. Droddy moved to Boulder in 2015 to work with the Roots Running Project, a new team led by head coach Richard Hansen that implements the notoriously grueling training practices of legendary Adams State University track and field coach Joe Vigil. To date, the Roots team has boasted a dozen national-caliber runners, and Droddy—in atypical hipster fashion—gladly conforms to the group’s tough regimen. The hard work suits his branding goals. He’d rather be compared to the blue-collar distance runners of old, like Steve Prefontaine, than a trendy Willamsburg twentysomething. “Those guys ran for nothing,” he says. Droddy, on the other hand, will be running for something this month when he races in Chicago in his first full marathon as a pro: namely, validation.