(Reuters) – Noah Lyles has a little project in mind once his athletics season ends this weekend and while sprinting may have a part to play, this one moves to a very different beat.
The specialist 200 meters runner wants to offer his fans a taste of another of his favorite pursuits – rapping.
“I’m working on a few songs,” the multi-talented American told Reuters. “I’m trying to put together an EP (extended play) which is four to five songs. Not big enough to be an album yet but big enough to be more than a single.”
But don’t look for the finished product just yet.
“I just started messing with it probably about six months ago,” Lyles said. “It may take some time, but you never know.
“I’ve been approached by a few people who are engineers in the music business wanting to work with me to see if I have any talent.
“But I tell them all the same thing. I hope to do this for fun. I’m not in it for the money.”
The recently turned 21-year-old Lyles sees his prolific social media, the rapping and showmanship as a way for fans to get to know him.
“As an athlete, it is building my brand,” said the outgoing Lyles, who might turn a back flip or show off a new dance move after a successful race. “People learn a little about me moment by moment and I hope that they like me.”
Diamond League 200m champion for two consecutive years and also an outstanding 100m runner, Lyles thinks the exposure is good for his image.
“You are putting yourself out there and you have to be able to handle the good and the bad,” he said. “Some people are going to like what you say. Some people are not. So it is really a maturing moment.”
His athletic credentials are eye-catching.
The world indoor 300m record holder, he recovered from a hamstring injury last year to become the third fastest 100m runner of the season behind compatriots Christian Coleman and Ronnie Baker and has also run 2018’s two fastest 200m times.
Yet, in a sport struggling to attract new fans, he knows fast times alone are not enough.
“Track and field isn’t just racing, it’s putting on a show,” he said.
So he pops up on Twitter, often with video, plans post-race moves and encourages meeting organizers and media to move with the times.
“More energetic intros. Having intro music,” he offered for starters.
New approaches, he believes, are also needed at news conferences, where the same questions seem to follow athletes around the world.
“You have athletes with amazing talent,” Lyles said. “Yet for some reason we still get the ‘Now that (Usain) Bolt is gone, do you think you are going to be the next replacement?’ question.
“Come on, we can do better than that. We can show our audience we have runners out there who love to cook, love to create, love to go fishing.”
But speed remains a driving force with audiences and Lyles has big plans on the track.
“I had a dream where I ran 9.41,” the American said, a time that would obliterate Bolt’s 100m world record of 9.58 seconds.
For now Lyles is focused on closing out a successful season despite a disappointing third-place finish in the recent Birmingham Diamond League meet.
“I want to redeem myself,” he said before this weekend’s Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic. “I felt like it was not my best put-together race.”
Lyles will also run in the 4x100m relay, probably his last races for months.
“At the moment, indoors is not on the menu,” said Lyles, aware, like all athletes, that down time must be found before the long 2019 outdoor season which will not end until October.
So he will relax, enjoy his new home in Florida, watch his mother get married and work on his music as well as finding ways to improve his start.
“My mom says if you are having fun doing your job, you’ll never work a day in your life,” Lyles said.
“I’m out there being a kid, doing my thing. It’s a job but I have a different way of handling it.”
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Ed Osmond