The surge behind the GameStop stock has been the talk of the town the past week, with the subreddit r/wallstreetbets taking on Wall Street.
What I didn’t know was the man behind the GameStop surge is Keith Gill, a 34-year-old Massachusetts father. Gill takes on many hats. According to Nancy Dillon at New York Daily News, he is a father and runs a “Roaring Kitty” YouTube channel from his home. He worked a marketing job for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. On Reddit, Gill is known as “DeepF***ingValue,” and is a folk hero of sorts as a millionaire and Robin Hood (no pun intended) of today.
Gill initiated shockwaves through Wall Street, but what makes me connect to him on a human level is his career as a runner. According to Brittany Hamilton at Running Magazine, Gill was no scrub — a list of his personal records on TFRRS, a directory of college running results, show he ran 4:03 in the mile, 1:52 in the 800 meters, and 2:24 in the 1000 meters. In 2005, Gill ran a race with Alan Webb, the American mile record holder.
For people who don’t know much about running, the mile time is the most impressive — he was three seconds away from breaking 4 minutes in the mile, a feat in the running world that shows you’re going from great to elite. Also, his 4:03 mile was indoors, suggesting he could have run much faster outdoors.
It shocks me that someone who has rocked the world so much in the last week is such a great runner. He’s much faster than me. Only 1,497 people in the world have ever broken 4 minutes in the mile, and Gill was very close to being one of them.
“He was actually a star runner in high school and college…When he puts his mind to something, he can be very focused,” his mother said.
In college, Gill attended Stonehill College, a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Stonehill is a Division II school, and Gill won his fair share of accolades while at the university. In 2008, he was the Division II indoor track athlete of the year, getting featured with his younger brother in Sports Illustrated. He was the first person and only person in his school’s history to earn All-American honors for cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field.
He graduated from the school in 2009, entering the Stonehill College Hall of Fame in 2016. He had aspirations of becoming a professional runner. Instead, he’s become a paper millionaire. The Wall Street Journal interviewed Gill and people who knew him. The bane of Gill’s career was injury. In June 2009, a YouTube video of Keith Gill running a solo mile in 4:33 states he took five months off.
In March of 2008, he ran his last race. He had problems with his iliotibial band throughout high school. He no longer raced after suffering from Achilles tendonitis. While at school, he had a reputation for being a very mentally focused runner. According to his Stonehill coach, Karen Boen, Gill’s focus was something she “had never experienced in other athletes.” But injuries would frequently devastate Keith personally. He experienced significant leg pain, and MRI and CAT scans didn’t show anything wrong at one point. He told the Boston Herald in 2006:
“I tried to run the New Englands at Franklin Park and had to drop out, which I’ve never done before in my life. I wasn’t able to recover. It became very frustrating. Finally, in early January, they found out I had (mononucleosis). When they tested they also found out I was anemic. They put me on a multi-vitamin, which I take every day.”
After taking iron pills consistently for his anemia, his college career took off. Running track and field and cross country wasn’t his first choice in sports. He originally wanted to be a baseball player, but failed to make the baseball team. In high school, that tends to be pretty common — many of my friends who ran cross country originally failed to make the soccer or basketball team. And when running didn’t work out, Gill turned to stocks, which is working out really well for him right now.
Like running isn’t overnight success and improvement, the GameStop surge wasn’t overnight success either — he purchased $53,000 in the stock in mid-2019, and attracted little attention. Last year, Gill posted several YouTube videos, TikTok videos, and tweets about a possible GameStop short squeeze. In December, he posted memes and tweets with just “$GME” as his caption every day.
On August 21, 2020, the Roaring Kitty channel posted a video titled: “The Big Short SQUEEZE from $5 to $50? Could GameStop stock (GME) explode higher?? Value investing!” His profile is full of educational investing videos, and the plan was to spite hedge funds who bet the GameStop stock would fail. So the short squeeze was a plan in the making for a long time, much like his running career and fitness.
Gill would also build a big online presence in running forums online. He posted frequently on Dyestat, a running message board. A former DyeStat editor remembered Gill as “Wizard,” gaining a reputation for being an online troublemaker.
“He was mischievous, and I’m pretty sure I banned him a few times, but he was clever,” the editor said. “He wasn’t just some dumb kid posting obscene, vulgar stuff. You could tell there was intelligence behind what he was doing.”
It seems like his online presence in the running community brought Gill substantial notoriety. One poster on a 2008 forum on LetsRun said Gill has “penis envy for the state of Connecticut” and didn’t attend the University of Connecticut because he may not have gotten in.
“[Stonehill] will be much relieved when the elder Gill graduates — or fails to do so but leaves nonetheless,” the post says.
Most people called Gill “Wizard.” Another poster suggests Gill faked his injury and calls it “convenient” given its timing. In a very grammatically poor post ridiculing Gill, “cawky tease” said:
“that loser keith gill needs to stop getting rub and tugs by little dyestat kids. maybe if they stop his ego will deflate and he will run again. ps victor gras crushed you, does it hurt?
Victor Gras was a runner Gill raced against in high school, according to DyeStat archives. Today on LetsRun, the profile and narrative around Gill are very different, with some posters worrying he could get in trouble with an SEC investigation given the media coverage, and others remembering him as a very legit runner. LetsRun is trying to get Gill to do a podcast interview for Gill to talk more about his running career, which I’ll be very interested in seeing.
As of now, Gill no longer runs, and I’m sure he has his hands full as the father of a 2-year-old during a pandemic. Gill doesn’t run anymore. Now that he’s a very rich man, Gill wants to fulfill a dream of giving back to the sport: he wants to build an indoor track in Brockton, Massachusetts. In stocks, like in running, Keith Gill is using his gift of extreme hyperfocus, to change the world in a way he probably never imagined.
Originally published on Medium on January 30th, 2021.