This past August, we launched our Year of the Underbird program: an open application for aspiring Olympic Trials marathoners, with a promise to select 5 women for a 6 month contract encompassing a stipend, gear, storytelling, community support, and Olympic Trials event support. An impressive group of women applied - we’re living in an exciting era for women in running!  

The Underbird program was inspired by you, the tenacious, determined, resourceful, joyful women of our Oiselle community. Together, we get to rewrite the narratives we learned growing up, and build the future for girls and women in sport. Our Year of the Underbird program was a commitment to a refreshed brand-athlete support system, designed to look and feel empowering and positive throughout. Athletic careers don't just need to be about the glory or the heartbreak: we want to develop healthy long term relationships with sport, and women today are designing their own unique paths forward. Boldness, courage, grit, determination, fierce competition, and hard work can coexist with grace, self-care, and sisterhood.

We welcomed Ari Hendrix-Roach, Bri Boehmer, Carrie Verdon, Elena Hayday, and Molly Bookmyer as they joined our Haute Volée athletes Theresa Hailey and Carrie Mack in the journey to the Olympic Marathon Trials. They courageously shared the realities of their process: the foundations that built them into the athletes they are today, and the nuances of this specific marathon buildup. They shared both the hardships, and the joys found along the way!

These past 6 months, we’ve gained new teammates, friends, and athletes to cowbell for in running and in life. They’ve shown us that with intention and grace, and the space to be uniquely ourselves, powerful bonds of sisterhood and support can grow. Hopefully by engaging with the Underbirds' stories you (our readers and community) were able to connect with them over more than just their pace. Whether it be the Olympic Trials or your local 5k, there are many parallels along the way. Thank you for supporting the Underbirds and their process, and for fueling our mission to improve the sport!

As we reach the end of our flight with our Underbird athletes, we invited each of them to share a few reflections on their past 6 months as teammates.

Left: Ari Hendrix-Roach racing during the Olympic Marathon Trials. Right: Portrait of Ari in her Oiselle uniform

The last 6 months as an Underbird have truly been a dream come true. The Oiselle team has been so incredible not only to me, but to my family as well. I truly believe the friendships that I have gained will last a lifetime. In early October, after just becoming an Underbird, Oiselle asked me to come do a photoshoot and asked if my fiancée Veronica would like to be part of it - this told me all I needed to know and that is that, these are my people and this is the best and right place for me.

The support for and from the other Underbirds has been truly amazing and I feel like we really were a team, a team I will root for forever.

I think it is so special to have had this opportunity and to have been able to be a part of this. Throughout the whole experience Oiselle has been there for me with anything I needed or any questions I had.

My day at the Trials was a tough one, the toughest I have ever had. At mile 23, I just knew I needed to get to the Oiselle cheer section. I did and Justine hugged me and held me as I cried, and the whole section checked on me and cheered for me and helped me continue on to finish the race. Such an amazing group, I cannot say it enough! Thank you to Oiselle, and the rest of the Underbirds for this part of the journey and I am so glad I got to share it with all of you.

Check out Ari's blog to learn more of her story: From Basketball to the Marathon

Left: Carrie Verdon racing the Olympic Marathon Trials. Right: Portrait of a happy Carrie Verdon in her Oiselle uniform

I can’t believe my time as an Underbird is already coming to a close! The support I received from Oiselle throughout my entire build up to the Olympic Marathon Trials was a one of a kind experience. It allowed me to train my heart out, challenge and grow in new ways, and connect with women around the country (and world!) on so many levels.

My journey to the Olympic Trials start line was fun, and challenging, and tough, and filled with so many emotions… but mostly just gratitude. I was being supported in a way that I have never felt before and that made a huge difference in what I was able to accomplish! Although my race didn’t pan out as I had hoped - I am a better athlete because of it, and I will always be grateful for the experience and all that failure brings with it.

The weeks since the race have been filled with a lot of downtime and reflecting. Reflecting on ways I can tweak things to get more out of myself on race day and in training, and reflecting on my personal journey with running as a whole. Running to me means so much more than medals or podium finishes.

Running is what allows me to connect with myself, to push my limits, explore the world both outside and inside of my head, and keep a smile on my face. It’s a thrilling thing to be able to do something as vulnerable as running where we find that line between reality and dreams and take a stride into the unknown. So, thank you Oiselle, for allowing me to chase my wildest dreams!

Check out Carrie's blog to learn more of her story: Rediscovering the Forget-Me-Nots

Left: Molly Bookmyer racing the Olympic Marathon Trials. Right: Portrait of Molly smiling in her Oiselle uniform

Being a part of the Oiselle Underbird team the last six months helped give me a purpose in running that is larger than myself. In the past, I felt that I did not belong in the pro running circuit because my background in running is not typical of what I saw when compared to those at the highest level. But, by joining the Oiselle community, I had the opportunity to learn about other women pursuing their best, no matter where they started.

During my time on the team, I ran a PB in the marathon at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, raced a windy half marathon in Philly, and prepared myself to toe the line against the best marathoners in the country. Training for the Olympic Trials went really well. My mileage stayed around 120-130 per week. I spent the last few weeks training in Florida to adjust to the warm weather and found a good balance with my day job.

As prepared as I thought I was, I DNF’d the race. I am still sorting through what exactly happened, and will probably never know for sure. Dropping out of the race was a really tough moment for me, but I know that it was the healthiest decision for me at the time. I have spent the past few weeks talking to doctors, getting some tests done and getting back into my routine.

Oiselle gave me a platform to share my story and I hope by being vulnerable through the good and the bad, another woman decides to keep trying.

Check out Molly's blog to learn more of her story: Running As a Celebration of Health

Left: Elena Hayday racing the Olympic Marathon Trials. Right: portrait of Elena smiling in her Oiselle uniform

When I submitted my Underbird application, I wrote that the ability to afford physical therapy through the program would be potentially transformative to my running. While I was indeed grateful that I was able to get treatment during the buildup, I couldn’t anticipate the facets of the program that were even more transformative.

As a mediocre runner throughout high school and college, the idea that any company would want to invest in me has been more impactful than I realized.

I’ve been working on being more confident as an athlete, and in doing so, it's been very special to wear Oiselle’s logo across my chest. Most importantly, though, Oiselle’s support of my story has been wonderful. Oiselle gave me both a platform to share it and the support to feel comfortable doing so. Justine, Oiselle’s Athlete Partnerships Manager, sent me an email just after I submitted the draft of my blog for approval. In it, she told me that what I was doing was powerful, and that it was going to help people. I was quiet about my struggles for many years, and I needed the push and the support from Oiselle’s staff, my Underbird teammates, and the Oiselle community to make the leap. I’m glad that I did. Regardless of how the Trials went, I will always be grateful for my experience as an Underbird.

It’s no secret that the Olympic Trials marathon was not a good day for me. I’ve since debated a lot with myself whether I ultimately made the right move to step off the course. It’s likely that I could have dragged myself across that finish line in one way or another, and some part of me feels like I should have. On the other hand, considering I earned a trip to the medical tent at mile 17, the next 9 may have wreaked havoc on my body. I ran a road 10K last fall shortly after having COVID where I felt awful from the gun but forced myself to stay in it. While that was the right move in such a short race, days later leg muscles I didn’t even know I used were aching, and I ended up with IT band tendonitis for months. The Trials were something different even than that - I was overheated, my blood pressure was low, and I was throwing up. By dropping out when I did, I allowed myself to heal quickly, and, after taking a few weeks to lick my wounds, I’m already back working out and feeling very good. I’m going to try out my fitness on the track this spring, and I’m excited to have new, non-marathon goals to chase.

None of this is meant to serve as an excuse for the DNF next to my name. In fact, the biggest thing I’ve learned from this experience - DNFing on the largest stage I’ve ever run on - is that no one in my life, including the Oiselle crew who invested in my performance there, cares about justifications.

The love of my friends and family, it turns out, is not conditional.

I felt so embarrassed after the race and, truthfully, ignored texts and messages because I felt that I’d let my support team down and didn’t know what to say. With some time to wrap my head around the situation, I can appreciate that while the people in my life want me to do well, I am the only one with real expectations for how I perform. Although my (lofty and arguably

overambitious) expectations for myself likely won’t change anytime soon, this realization does give me a bit of freedom going into the upcoming track season, where I’m entering uncharted territory and opening up the possibility of failure. As a lifelong perfectionist, it’s been hard to wrap my head around, but I think I’ve learned far more than I would have if the marathon had gone perfectly. It turns out that failure really isn’t that bad.

Check out Elena's blog to learn more of her story: The Therapeutic Relief of Running

Left: Bri Boehmer racing on the roads in Oiselle apparel. Right: Portrait of Bri smiling in her Oiselle uniform.

Perhaps it's a bit cliché or cheesy, call it what you will, but I hold a select few mantras close to my heart that I repeat on the regular. One in particular haunts me, if I’m being honest: “And the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse… what will your verse be?” For the longest time, I’ve questioned whether my contributions hold any significance. It's not that I believe one must be famous, wealthy, or distinguished to matter; rather, it's the gnawing doubt when you're unsure if your actions truly make a ripple. Despite this, a part of me has always believed that every verse, no matter how it's perceived, adds to the collective narrative. Yet, life has a way of tricking us into doubting our heartfelt beliefs sometimes, doesn’t it?

After years of striving towards one of my life's ambitions - competing in the Olympic Trials - and yearning for support from a running brand, both suddenly became tangible possibilities. I ran well under the qualifying time (just 3 weeks too early), and Oiselle accepted me into their Underbird program. The moment Oiselle extended their support, despite me not yet having the qualifying time officially for the Olympic Trials, was pivotal. Their belief in me, or rather, their support for my 'verse,' before I could even officially represent them, underscored what it meant to be part of the Underbird program.

I was embraced, uplifted, and supported from the get-go, not for potential outcomes, but for simply being me.

So when it came to my final shot at getting the qualifying time again, the gift of all of this became abundantly clear. I couldn’t race, and yet I was still their Underbird. And every one of my Underbird teammates told me I was too. My contributions WERE significant. They always have been. I hope YOU, the person reading this right now, know this to be true in your life as well.

 As the Trials came and went, and I watched from the sidelines, I felt an immense sense of pride for the Underbird team and what we accomplished together.

We dreamed really freaking big, and though not all of us reached the finish we initially envisioned, the outcome was, in many ways, more profound than we could have imagined. We added a powerful new word to our verse, experiencing a form of victory that transcends an Olympic berth. We also reinforced how powerful our individual verses are to the collective narrative. Reflecting on this journey, we wrote a pretty awesome story, and I wouldn't trade my place as an Underbird for anything. It's a testament to the belief that what truly matters is not just the goal but the journey and the community we build along the way.

Check out Bri's blog to learn more of her story: If Not Now, When?

Each of these women have truly embodied the Underbird spirit. We wish them the best as they take flight for the next phase of their running journey!

You can follow along on their Instagrams: Ari Hendrix-Roach, Bri Boehmer, Carrie Verdon, Carrie Mack, Elena Hayday, Molly Bookmyer, Theresa Hailey.

Head Up, Wings Out!

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