I’ve run off and on since college, but I became more serious about it almost three years ago (August 2011) when I decided to train for my first half-marathon. Several factors went into that decision including a desire to do more for myself and my health. I had a couple friends on the Twitterz who were serious academics *and* athletes (looking at you Lori Emerson & Kathy Harris) who not only raced themselves (cycling and triathlons respectively) but who also warmly encouraged me to give it a try. As a result, #13orBust was born, and I probably annoyed my Twitter feed for three or four months with my training. By the time I reached the finish line, I had learned a very important lesson: “or” was the wrong conjunction for the hashtag. That is, it is/was possible to do both–finish the course and bust in the process (thank you per anserine bursitis). I finished the race and got my medal. And landed myself on crutches for a few weeks thereafter. While the outcome of that first race left much to be desired, I came away from the experience determined to get myself healthy and keep training so I could do it again, better this time.
Since then, I’ve run four more half-marathons and one full 26.2. I’ve also run lots of 5Ks and few 10Ks (I like 10Ks quite a lot, there just aren’t many of them where I live). I’ve also battled shin splints off and on and flirted with other overuse injuries, most recently a mild quad strain. Last year, my brother gave me a pair of Oiselle arm sleeves for my birthday (the ones he gave me are black, but those aren’t currently available, it being July). I had heard of Oiselle (pronounced wa-zell) before, but none of my local running stores carry the line, so I hadn’t seen any of their clothes in person.
I fell in love with a pair of arm sleeves. Yes, I know how weird that sounds.
But it wasn’t just about the arm sleeves. It was about the fact that the company was driven by women and dedicated to supporting women runners. I’m a professor at a women’s college, and two of the five things I care most about in the world are female empowerment and running (the others being rescue animals, books, and pizza). A few months earlier, Molly Baker, the woman behind Girls on the Run had delivered our commencement address and gotten me especially fired up about girls and women and running, so Oiselle seemed a logical complement.
Soon thereafter, I learned that Oiselle had a team of ambassadors, the Volee: a group of women who represent the brand, especially at races, and I wrote to the team manager to get more information. I had missed the application window but hoped to participate the next time-around. In the meantime, I read more about the company, its mission and personnel, and I began to follow the athletes: the high-profile Lauren Fleshman and the many other members of haute volee, the Oiselle elite racing team. The more I read, the more I liked. And then they pulled off the unthinkable: they signed Kara Goucher, a marathoner whom I’ve long-admired. My transition to full-on fangirl was complete, as evidenced by the 2.5 hr drive to Atlanta last weekend to attend a meet and greet with Lauren Fleshmen, Melissa Lawrence, and Caitlyn Comfort at West Strides running store (they were in town for the Peachtree 10K on July 4th). The night before, I was having some serious second thoughts about driving all that way for maybe a half-hour in the store, but that morning, the sun was shining, and the road was calling. Plus, I was under doctors’ orders to rest my strained quad for a couple more days. Driving would keep my from running, which had increasingly been tempting me especially on that beautiful morning . . . Anyway, the meet and greet was great. I can easily and honestly say that all of the Oiselle athletes were really cool and friendly. I am happy to have had the chance to meet them. AND: all Oiselle gear was 20% in the store. There wasn’t much left in my size by the time I got there, but I did get a Lesko Bra, something I’ve been eyeing on the web. As an extra-special bonus, I managed to not get a speeding ticket despite the heavy police presence on I-85!
Earlier this week, Oiselle announced an opportunity that I had been waiting for: the Flock. Different from their previous brand ambassador program, Volee, the Flock has a one-time membership fee ($100), which includes a racing singlet, a track bag, $20 towards racing bottoms, (I went for the Roga in Graphite) and a $25 contribution to the Emerging Runner fund that offsets expenses for the Oiselle elites.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about paying the membership fee, but ultimately, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and pony up the support for one of my favorite companies. So now I’m a member of the Flock. It’s been really cool to see such excitement from across the United States come across my Twitterfeed. So many women who share my enthusiasm and excitement! My local running community is awesome, but it’s predominantly male. I treasure my female running friends (Hi Cate!), and it’s exciting to be a part of a larger community of women who share a passion for running and actively support each other.
[Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Pranav Yaddanapudi]