Please note, these thoughts and opinions are my own, and are reflective of my personal experience as part of this team. This post is in no way endorsed by Oiselle.
Months ago, I started this post about being a part of the Oiselle Volée team. The draft was originally entitled “Why The Flock Is About More Than Running.” The title may have changed, but this sentiment remains true.
Since I first joined, after at least two years of hoping to one day ‘being good enough’ to finally be a part of it, the flock as a whole has grown immensely to hundreds, perhaps thousands of birds and “bro birds.” It has gone through many growing pains, as any growing team will, and now as it comes time for current members to decide whether to keep flying with the flock or to spread their wings, I find myself in a place where I refuse to look down.
I am looking only up, at the sky, and to where we can fly, together.
As some may know, I work for a women’s outdoor, athletic and sportswear apparel company as a copywriter and brand voice. This is actually how I first learned about Oiselle, and the influence of my team at work has a lot to do with my taking up running — and, naturally, how I feel about being a part of the Volée team.
During their most recent visit to the office to meet with the merchandising team, I was fortunate to get to meet and shake hands with Atsuko, president of Oiselle, and see chief bird Sally once again. My first pair of Roga Shorts were purchased around 2008 at a Super Jock’n Jill store in Greenlake, WA. I was on a work trip, what was perhaps even my first ever work trip, and had seen some Oiselle samples around the office at work so I was familiar with them. A lifelong soccer player who had often had to wear whatever smallest men’s size was available, regardless of how poorly it fit, their mission spoke to me. Knowing their desire to depart from poofy running shorts, I was excited to get my paws on a pair of Roga Shorts when I saw them in the store — a pair of shorts I still own and wear.
Later, I worked with Oiselle more directly in 2012, during the Title IX 40th anniversary t-shirt collaboration with Title Nine. It has been incredible to see them grow both as a company and as an undeniable force in the women’s running community. Thus, when opportunity arose to join their non-elite team, I jumped at the chance.
As my second year as part of the Oiselle Volée team progresses, I find myself reflecting more and more on the impact the team has had on me as a person, and on my life as a whole. There is a lot of power and significance in donning the team uniform, much of which I did not fully recognize until I experienced it myself.
Yes, it is of course about running.
There are locally organized group runs that let us take to the trails and street together, and even if we are unable to physically be together, we are still cheering each other on. There are uniform pieces we wear at races, letting other birds know we are there, we too are there to represent and cheer one another on.
An affect of stemming from an apparel company, there are many, many discussions about the Oiselle clothes we all love. From what shorts work best for which build, to sizing advice, to helping each other find “unicorn” items others are seeking from within our own closets, the gear love is strong. There are meet-ups, Flight Night run clubs, and Bird Camps, the regional running camps team members can attend.
But it’s not just about that.
That sense of team goes far beyond yelling “wings out!” to the singlet you see on the course, meeting up to cowbell on a corner at a marathon till your fingers are blistered and raw, or being able to say “we’re on the same team!” you see the elites go by. I feel very fortunate to live in an area where there are lot of Volée birds, and we meet up in person to run or just socialize, in groups both big and small. It creates an automatic sense of community. My local Moms Run/She Runs This Town chapter is very, very small — but when invited, birds always show up.
It is about women raising other women up.
I cannot tell you how many times I have born witness to or been a part of this. It’s the seemingly small things, like finding each other on social media and following each others journeys. It’s the small things like words of encouragement, sharing our own experiences and stories and giving each other perspective that can turn into very, very big things.
It’s the mamas who reach out to other running mamas to express their fears, frustrations, journey hiccups that only other running mamas would understand. It’s the safe place to admit our big, hairy, scary running goals, or to go when the sport we love so dearly breaks our hearts. It’s where we can unleash our hurt and rage when we’re harassed on the run just because we’re women. It’s the community we turn to when we need a rallying cry, a reminder of how beautiful, powerful, strong and downright incredible we really are.
It goes so far beyond running.
These women have helped each other through things seemingly unrelated to running. Through pregnancy journeys and heartbreaks, through relationship ups and downs, through things that are our own personal life’s equivalent of a Boston Qualifier and the disappointment thereof when it alludes us. From recipe swapping to advice on how to handle unruly teenagers, from “what run stroller should I get?” to “my relationship is over” there is nothing I haven’t seen tackled. Every time, there is love, support and safety within the flock.
It is a place of faith, friendship, confidence and safety.
Together, we are unafraid to breech the ‘scary’ topics that affect the women’s running community. we speak about them openly, making it safe and normal, things that are often hard to come by.
Ammenorhea isn’t a forbidden word. Ditching hormonal birth control to try to better performance isn’t taboo. Reaching out to ask for help in difficult or questioning times isn’t unheard of. As someone who has battled body dysmorphia and eating disorders (and who is comfortable talking about both,) I completely understand that for many women, how they feel in their own skin is the biggest dictator of everything else. If they don’t feel good in their skin, they don’t feel good about their run, their marathon time, their place in this world. There are too many things squawking constantly at women, telling them they don’t belong for x, y or z reason. This is why I love running: there is a place for everyone, and I feel the same way about this team.
There are birds of all shapes and sizes, of all speeds and every ilk. The flock has a place for every bird whether she’s curvy or willowy, fast or fighting to finish. The team draws from one another’s energy, inspiring, pushing, driving. From postpartum body battles to battling our own demons, there is a constant reminder that strong looks different on everyone, and we should not only celebrate our own strength, but each other’s. When I am in need, the flock reminds me that they have confidence in me even if I don’t feel I do — and sometimes, like my big PR race on Sunday proved, that’s all you need to start believing in yourself again. I was losing confidence in myself, in my abilities, and who but another bird was there to give my wings lift so I could fly again.
When I first toed the line postpartum in my Oiselle singlet, there was an overwhelming sense that I would somehow not do it justice. Was I fast enough? Was I good enough? Would people on the course expect me to place just based on how I was dressed? I see now that I was fretting for naught. There is power in the uniform, but I had given it so much power, I was blinding myself to the power within myself: the power that Oiselle wants all women to find within themselves.
When I donned my 3/4 crop singlet on Sunday, I knew I was running not just for myself, for my family, for my coach. I was representing a team who would cheer me on no matter what, but damn, I wanted to do them proud. As I toed the line, I knew that I was going to run my own race, fly my own flight, and no matter what happened, the flock would have a place for a bird like me.
Head up, wings out, I will go fast, I will take chances, and I will wear my Volée gear with pride.