Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
The following are snippets from actual email correspondence I had with the recruiting coordinator at a professional running group the summer after my senior year.
Recruiter: “Hello my name is _____ and I am the recruiting coordinator at _____. We have a professional running group here called _____. We are interested in talking with you about running post collegiately.”
Recruiter: “…our club provides room, board, physio, domestic travel, and we have no shoe sponsor so our athletes are encouraged/allowed to secure any sponsorship they can!”
*I expressed to them that, while I was absolutely flattered, it was very important to me that I be able to get a job in engineering and begin my career while still training*
Recruiter: “My offer for you would be to consider putting ‘work life’ on hold for what sounds like 16 months to concentrate on making the Olympic team (June, 2016).”
My first reaction to the professional running offer above over was, naturally, to be pretty excited. When someone mentions you and the Olympics in the same sentence, it’s hard not to get excited. That anyone thought enough of my accomplishments to think me worthy of such an opportunity was absolutely flattering. Even though I was already set to complete my masters of mechanical engineering that fall at Cornell, there was still a part of me that gave the offer a fair amount of consideration.
But over the next few days, as the initial giddiness of feeling wanted and important and validated finally wore off, I was left with an oddly bitter taste in my mouth.
Although their offer came with a lot of cool and exciting things, it also came with a condition: no engineering. If I choose to join their group and chase my dream of being an elite distance runner, I would have to give up my dream of beginning to build my engineering career. The fact that they nonchalantly asked me to put something I had been working towards for four long years on hold, something that was, in many ways, just as time sensitive as a professional running career, just didn’t sit well with me.
I know it wasn’t intentional on their behalf, and perhaps I was just taking things a bit too personally, but I felt a little disrespected by their offer. I had been performing at a high level in both my athletic and academic pursuits for two years. The first season I became an All-American was the first semester I made Dean’s List, and those two things proceeded to coincide each of my remaining three semesters. I had shown that I could handle both, shown that doing both concurrently had, in many ways, helped me develop the organization and discipline and determination needed to excel in both.
Being told that I couldn’t pursue both, that they didn’t believe I could successfully pursue both, was frustrating, demoralizing, and ultimately pretty devastating.
And for that reason, I did not accept their offer. To do so would be to settle for something less than I believed myself capable of, and that’s something I just couldn’t do.
Flash forward two years.
There I am living my life – waking up at 6 to train and then working my 9 – 5 as an engineer – when a woman contacts me out of the blue. She tells me she saw that I came in 12th and ran 1:16:51 at my debut half marathon at the USATF Half Marathon Championships, and that she’s interested in talking with me about about a sponsorship with rabbit, a running apparel company she co-founded. Slightly apprehensive but still intrigued, I responded that I would love to learn more about the opportunity.
And that’s when everything changed.
The following are paraphrased snippets from the first phone conversation I had with Jill Deering, co-founder of rabbit along with Monica DeVreese:
*after sharing with her some of my PR’s and accomplishments*
Jill: “You ran that well while studying engineering at Cornell ? That’s awesome!”
*after telling her I work full-time as an engineer at a technical consulting firm*
Jill: “I love that you have a full-time job. I think it’s important to have that balance. A bunch of our current athletes work full-time too”
Jill: “You’re exactly the type of person we want on our team; someone who isn’t afraid to dream big”
My initial reaction to rabbit’s offer was the same as before, extreme excitement. But, unlike before where there was an underlying tone of control and restriction and a lack of respect or appreciation that caused things to go sour, my giddiness never wore off.
She got it. She understood. And that meant that rabbit got it, that rabbit understood.
They supported me and things I wanted to do in my life. They saw my ambitious pursuits as something that would benefit my life and my training, not something that would retract from it. They made me feel wanted and important and validated, just the way I was.
When I walked away from that professional running offer the summer after my senior year, I knew it my heart that it wasn’t the end.
I had faith that things would work out, that another opportunity would present itself if I could just be patient and stay the course.
I trusted that somewhere, some organization would see what I was trying to do in my life and would understand and respect and appreciate it.
That organization is rabbit.
I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me, or more excited for what is to come.
My official rabbit uniform and gear is currently in transit somewhere across the country.