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Finding a New Lane: Working in the Running Industry


I fell asleep every night under the triangular silhouette of an NYU pennant. It was small. Nine-year-old me liked that it was small enough for my Kit Kittredge American Girl doll. She was a writer, and I was going to be too.

It started with a household newspaper that I would painstakingly type up on my mom’s 2006 Dell desktop. I’d sweep the house looking for the hottest gossip — who really broke the glass mysteriously found in the trash? Why wasn’t I allowed to stay up past nine?

Slap a rainbow-colored WordArt headline on the front page, hit print, and I was published.

I kept diligent journals, wrote short stories about girls who could secretly turn into mermaids (hello fellow H2O fangirls), and drooled over the chance for my essays to be read aloud to the class at school.

My senior year of high school, my father told me that I’d never make a living as a writer. Being a scientist himself, he encouraged me to pursue a career in science if I truly wanted to be a self-sufficient woman. Young and impressionable as I was, I followed his advice.

I didn’t go to NYU like my little purple pennant hoped I would.

Instead I attended Purdue University at first, and majored in Health Science. After a first semester battling anorexia and barely attending class, I transferred to Villanova University to be closer to home. I double majored in Biology and Classical Studies because who doesn’t love taking a break from Orgo homework to translate Cicero’s smart-ass ravings? (Few people, is the answer).

As graduation loomed near, I was again confronted with the same lost feeling I had my senior year of high school. I was afraid of my future, not because it didn’t offer anything, but because it offered too much. How was I supposed to choose one career path when my interests ranged from cancer research to Greek prose?

My Latin professor suggested I apply to Villanova’s graduate program in Classical Studies. I had a natural predilection for the subject and strong writing skills. Plus, she said, it could buy me time to figure out what I want to do.

So I did. I fell in love with Classics. From training in ancient language to courses debating human sexuality, I felt satisfied for the first time in my life. I graduated on December 30, 2019 with an acceptance to a prestigious doctoral program, and a hopeful outlook on my future career.

On January 21, 2020, the US confirmed the first case of COVID-19. On February 3, the US entered into a state of public health emergency.

On March 11, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

In the wake of the pandemic, universities across the country shut down, including the graduate programs I had been accepted to. My plans of beginning doctoral study in the fall no longer existed.

So, like so many times before, I turned to running.

Through all the uncertainty of life, running has remained a constant. Through the ebbs and flows of recovering from anorexia, the stressors of college, the lonely moments of adulthood, running centers me and offers the embrace of a wide-reaching community.

I began applying to jobs where I could use my writing and language skills I developed in graduate school. I found an open copywriting position with a large run specialty retailer, Fleet Feet, applied, and got lucky with a job offer.

As a copywriter, my wheelhouse was large. I was responsible for any written language on the Fleet Feet website, from promotional sales, to articles, to shoe reviews. On a given day I would write about the newest products in Fleet Feet’s inventory, interview athletes sponsored by brand partners like Asics or Brooks, or write shoe reviews to be featured on the Fleet Feet blog.

It was the process of conducting athlete interviews and sharing their stories through Fleet Feet that brought me to The Oval Magazine. I got to interview men and women I had looked up to my whole life, and I wanted more.

Even though I had no background in marketing, I absolutely fell in love with copywriting. It challenged me to be both creative and analytical, to carefully compose each sentence with cutting-edge grit.

After about a year with Fleet Feet, I decided I was up for a bigger challenge. I was sure I wanted to stay in the running industry, and wanted to be the voice that inspired young runners just as I had been.

I found an opportunity at Brooks as a Brand Copywriter (where I currently work) and applied. I immediately felt connected to the future direction of the brand and their mission, and it didn’t hurt that I had been running in Brooks since I was 11.

Now, I work to develop Brooks' brand voice from their website to social media to athlete visibility. I work with people who are passionate about running and facilitating positivity in the sport.

I often feel a pang of melancholy and wonder, what if the COVID-19 pandemic never happened? Where would I be then? Would I have earned my PhD in Classics and be teaching somewhere now?

But then I’m reminded of the little girl falling asleep under her NYU pennant, dreaming of being a writer, who was told writing wasn’t a viable career.

I live that little girl’s dream every day. I think she would be proud.

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1 Comment

Sarah, I’m so happy you’re on your way to realizing your dream! Your piece is beautifully written; thanks for sharing! I’m proud of you.

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