About 5 months ago in mid-December, as snow piled up outside and I tried my best to tune out the cold basement air and whirring of my bike tire against the trainer drive, I balanced my phone on the handlebars of my bike and watched the green grass and tan sand of a sunny cross-country course become obscured by a flowing river of brightly dressed runners on the Oiselle Periscope broadcast of the USATF Club XC Nationals women’s race. In contrast to the later official post-race broadcast by USATF TV, this view of the race was bumpy, loud, and chaotic, immersing me in the XC atmosphere on the sidelines and pulling me along as the video stream recorded the frantic cheering-spot-to-cheering-spot sprints that are unique to XC. The cheering around the recording phone increased with each passing Oiselle runner and I found myself smiling, remembering the excitement of running around on a warm-up or on aching post-race legs to cheer on the JV women’s squad or the men’s teams as a high-school and collegiate XC athlete. As I cross-trained alone in my chilly basement the brief vicarious feelings of team membership added to my growing desire to find some way to return to the team atmosphere in my running life.
5 months later and I am now a member of that same team that I enjoyed a live-stream based comradery with while watching that XC race. I had been looking for a way to return to the comradery and extra motivation provided by being a member of a team since a few months after my undergraduate graduation, and that shaky live-stream view of the competing Oiselle teams and supporting cheers reminded me of exactly what I missed about being on a team. When the Oiselle Volée started hinting at a potential new batch of team memberships this Spring I began seriously considering the idea of joining the team.
I had also looked at some other team options this winter, including racing for a team back in my home town that a former teammate runs for, trying to create a team with some other post-collegiate running friends, or just racing in my cycling club’s colors. However, the Volée had some additional aspects that appealed to me over these other possibilities.
Each of my options would provide a long-distance network of supportive and inspiring teammates and a jersey run in, but the Volée option had the added benefits of a much larger and wide-spread team, an established network of existing teammates and platforms for interacting with them online and in person, an association with a company that focuses on women’s running and female leadership, and the perks of free shipping and periodic special deals on running clothing line that combines beauty and function in a uniquely appealing way.
Lastly, by joining this team I had the opportunity to help support the professional division of the team, as 25% of the membership cost goes to supporting the Oiselle Emerging Athlete Fund. As someone with several former teammates who’ve gone pro (one of whom runs for Oiselle), and who cares strongly about the professional side of women’s competitive running, the ability to directly contribute even a small portion to helping developing professionals stay in the sport was incredibly appealing. Oiselle’s decision to use the team membership cost in part as a tool for supporting elite-level competitive female runners goes along with their history of a positive attitude towards competition and supporting the wider issues of fair play, athlete sponsorship that acknowledges athletes as whole people rather than purely numbers, and the balance between team/inclusion and fierce competitiveness.
I can’t wait to rejuvenate my own sense of team and competitiveness as I gain amazing new teammates to cheer with and for, local/regional runners to support, compete with, and learn from in-person, and an enormous virtual, world-wide cheering squad that I will have the privilege to represent every time I put on the Volée racing singlet.