By Heather Stephens

As I was warming up for a PNTF cross country race this past Sunday, my mind was flooded with uncertainty and doubt. “I can’t do this. Why am I even here? I’m not even fit right now. What if I bomb and someone sees my name in the results? I am so much better than where I am in my training right now…"

Within minutes of the start of the race, the NYC marathon was wrapping up. The Oiselle flock gathered together with our phones to see how Kara had finished. Our hearts broke as we read about the final stretch of the race. Kara, our hero, had hit a wall.


As we continued to warm up and get ready to toe the line, a beautiful realization struck me. “Woman up! If Kara can toe the line with confidence in an imperfect situation, you can too. You have to start somewhere.”

I began to wonder about the leap from “good” to “great”. What did it take for an athlete to make that jump to the next level? Attention to all the little details such as sleep, nutrition, recovery?  Sure, but maybe it was something bigger than that. Maybe it’s throwing perfectionism out the window, and with it that invisible shield we create to protect ourselves from uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Maybe this was the very thing keeping us from putting ourselves out there and tackling our dreams.

In any quest for greatness, there will always be critics. How easy it is to hide behind a mask and ridicule those brave enough to dream big and go after their goals. As Theodore Roosevelt so eloquently stated in his speech, The Man in the Arena, “It’s not the critic who counts… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming… who at the best knows in the end of the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”


The contrast between perfectionism and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to greatness or failure is not an easy gap to bridge. It takes strength, courage and support. The light of success owes its existence to the darkness of the struggles we face on our path to big things. Maybe Kara did “hit the wall for the first time in her career” and maybe she’ll hit the wall again, but how would we ever know what there was left to achieve if we didn’t show up and try?

Maybe today I would finish in the top five or maybe I would fall short, but I would never know if I didn’t show up and give ‘em hell. So thank you, Kara, for reminding us to embrace the journey which is sometimes marred by blood, sweat and tears. Thank you for the reminder to dream big and dare greatly.

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Allyson Ely