CIM (California International Marathon) has always held a special place in Oiselle's heart. It is a race where big goals get tested, where numerous Oiselle athletes of the past have snagged PR's and punched their tickets to the Olympic Trials. Our next Underbird, Briana Boehmer, has been shaped by a lifetime pursuit of purpose. Bri dismantles the notion that dreams have an expiration date as she heads into her last chance attempt at qualifying for the Olympic Time Qualification. Our Underbird shares a journey that defies timelines and proves that it's truly never too late to achieve your big goals.

Life goes by in a blink.
Now or never.
If not now, when?

How often I've heard these sentiments, disguised as irrefutable mantras. But are they as absolute as they seem? For as long as I can remember, a sense of urgency has pervaded my life. I lost my mother when I was 19 months old, instilling in me the ever-present knowledge that my time is not guaranteed. She only lived to be 32.

This sense of urgency propelled me to live life to the fullest, yet it also instilled a misleading belief – that life’s doors, once closed, remain sealed forever. But at 42, I proved that belief, while not without merit, was very much refutable.

Growing up, I often felt isolated, the odd one out, never quite fitting into conventional molds. To cope, I immersed myself in academics and extracurriculars, excelling in every task, partly as a distraction, and partly as a quest to feel alive and purposeful. My dad worked a lot, and being an only child, coming home to an empty house was something I dreaded. I liked (err, still like) constantly having something to do.

I became what felt like a cliché: a perfectionist young girl in accelerated programs, yet without any innate talent – just a relentless work ethic. In sports, where hard work doesn't always equate to excellence, I struggled. Sport was a significant part of my life; after all, my dad was a Division I tennis coach, so I felt the pressure to excel. But I sucked at everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Tennis, volleyball, softball – I tried them all, to no avail. Then, in a twist of fate, running entered my life.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, my dad, sensing my frustration, suggested running. Running? Like for more than a mile? No way. Nonetheless, more than skeptical, I agreed to try a local 5k. My preparation was modest, but on race day, something clicked. I ran those 3.1 miles with some zip and had a lot of fun. That day, I found more than a sport. Little did I know, I had found the thing that would give me a place to go instead of an empty house, a family, confidence, and, most importantly, a sense of safety, strength, worthiness, and the feeling that time had no limits.

I decided to go out for cross country, and by my junior year, I had become a top runner, defying my own expectations. Yet, it wasn't until a fateful injury and a subsequent comeback leading to a state title that I got my first glimpse that it’s never too late, that 'now or never' wasn’t real.

When I took up running, I never imagined it would take me anywhere besides the roads around town and zig-zagged loops on golf courses and city parks. But I was just good enough to have schools willing to give me a fighting chance. Some more than others. I ran my first two collegiate seasons on the now-historic University of Colorado team. I entered a team with some pretty big recruits and current stars; it was intimidating, and I was starting at the bottom. But by my sophomore year, I placed as high as #2 on the cross-country team and ran top 10 times in the country in the 3K and 5K on the track. There was a sense that maybe there really was more to my running. Maybe I could go to the Olympic Trials. Spoiler: my sophomore year was the best year I had in college. I transferred to the University of Wisconsin for my junior and senior years and proceeded to be injured every season. I started to let reality set in and hung up the dreams to look ahead to what else I could do with my time.

Post-college, I turned to entrepreneurship. Building businesses took me back to the hard work mantra, something I felt I could control much better than sport and injury. To scratch my sports itch, I ventured into triathlons (I had been injured so much that cross-training was sort of my jam). I wasn’t half bad at triathlons and eventually worked my way up to really long ones (that cover 140.6 miles or so. Yet, my love of running always remained. And with that love came a deep feeling that I had let the world convince me of the worst time limit of all… that it’s too late. The unwritten rule of the universe. This timetable. The way things should be, the way things ARE. If not now, when? You are too old, Briana. When has passed.

When the pandemic hit, the pools closed, and races were postponed, I went back to my love. I just ran.

Some days for hours, some for a handful of minutes. I would go as long as I felt on any given day and just enjoyed doing that thing that taught me I controlled my narrative and that, rain or shine, the road was always there waiting for my feet. As the days clicked by, so did the miles. As the days clicked by, I saw glimpses of what I knew all along, that if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, then it’s never too late. Like really, it isn’t. Go after that thing you know you not just CAN do but that you are MEANT to do.

At the age of 42, over two decades after my dreams of running in the Olympic Trials were formed, I raced my first marathon, the California International Marathon. I ran 2:33. I set a new master's course record.

Who says it’s too late? Not me anymore.

GAH, Briana… it really is never too late. When I crossed that line, I realized the fallacy in our pre-set rules. While I could lament over time lost believing this narrative, I’m confident without a doubt I needed to learn it just as I did.

The cruel yet beautiful part of my journey is that when I ran that time, I ran it 3 weeks too early to qualify for my dream. To qualify for the Trials, I would have to run the time again. 3 weeks. 21 days. 3 tiny weeks TOO EARLY. As is the beauty and frustration of my journey, I’ve been dealing with hamstring injuries ever since and haven’t had the chance to run the time again. Just like in college, injuries have reared their ugly head. I now have one last shot, one day before the window closes (December 3rd), at the same race that brought me back to my dreams (the California International Marathon). How fitting, right?

While I’d love to end my narrative here, I would be remiss to say I am still dealing with my hamstring as I type. The certainty of my fitness on race day may be in question, but what's unwavering is my newfound belief: it's not too late. Thanks to the support of friends and brands like Oiselle, I've already won in ways that matter most. Two decades removed from the start of my “prime,” I have a brand supporting me (yes, I couldn’t get sponsorships in my 20s, but hey, it’s never too late for that too, thank you, Oiselle) and friends who love me.

On December 3rd, I will hopefully line up at the start, not just with a prepared body but with a heart full of dreams and a spirit unburdened by false narratives. Time doesn't define me; I define my time. And in this journey, I have found my truest victory - the realization that it is, indeed, never too late.

Blink, and you might just find yourself living your dream – at any age, at any stage.

Now or never... Now, or whenever you are ready.

If not now, when? If not now, decades from now.

Bri will be chasing her dream at the CIM Marathon this Sunday, December 3! We’ll be cheering for her and celebrating the process her effort represents.

Tune in to our coverage on Instagram and check out in-person events listed in the Volée App.

Check out our other Underbirds' blogs (Carrie Verdon and Ari Hendrix), and more about the program here.

Bri Boehmer