Truth in Statements, Part 1

Please forgive any formatting errors – I am not a professional blogger, I am new to this.
Bullying by a teammate. Unfortunately, we experienced a situation during the past 3-4 months where a Volée teammate repeatedly defamed and disrespected Kelly via team venues, such as Facebook, Twitter, and our online portal, which caused us to remove her from the Volée. We welcome questions, conversation, and critical feedback, but we have zero tolerance for bullying.” Sally Bergesen, CEO of Oiselle.
 
Merriam-Webster defines bullying as: 

bullying

  1. :  abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc. :  the actions and behavior of a bully
I’m having a flashback to 2015 when Nick Symmonds, 2x Olympian, US World Silver Medalist in the 800m, 6x USA 800m National champion, asked the USATF (the governing body of USA Track & Field) to define a “Team USA event” in the contract he was to sign in order to compete at IAAF Worlds. (Watch an interview here. I love the passion he has for what’s right and fair in the sport. At 3:45 he talks about how he was bullied & harassed by a governing body larger than him.)
In not receiving clarification on the matter, Symmonds was left off of the 2015 World team, because he would not sign a contract with ambiguous wording – regardless of his value and worth as an asset to Team USA, as he was the only athlete qualified for the Worlds men’s 800m team at that time whom had proven he could race through rounds on a world stage, and had a silver medal to defend. (Clayton Murphy, the athlete that took Nick’s place at Worlds, has since evolved into an amazing elite runner himself, taking home the bronze medal in the 800m at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.) Yes, there were many other elite athletes that signed the contract and went to Beijing that year, but Symmonds stood up for the values and beliefs he has had regarding athletes and their sponsors in sport that he has not shied away from since day one.
I came back to this sport because of voices like Nick Symmonds and Lauren Fleshman. I’ve long admired the stands they take on important issues within track and field, and enlightening others with their truths. In having conversations with them both, learning from my mistakes when Lauren has pointed them out, and meeting many, many other professional elite athletes and learning their stories, some of whom I am able to genuinely call friend, I have become a stronger version of the woman I was before coming back to the sport. Because of their genuine love and passion for the sport, I have been more inspired by the day.
Oiselle used to have an official team Facebook page that was administrated and watched over by the headquarters. When the decision to move to a private team portal on the platform Ning was made and the deletion of the official Facebook forum announced, women were upset that the page would be gone for a variety of reasons. Facebook was simply the preferred method of communication by many (not all) members of the team. Many felt that a daily positivity would be lost without the Oiselle page. Watching this unfold, and saddened by the thought of losing team members by the switch to Ning, I brought up the idea to HQ for an unofficial fan page instead, and it was approved by (then HQ Volee-leader Heather Stephens and Dr. Lesko). Lesko’s response when I asked to start a fan page: “You are your own woman! If that moves you, do it! Just specify it is a fan page not managed or affiliated with O Nest; there are a number of examples out there if you need! Thanks, lovely! No clipping wings from us, woman! Go for it!”) This group (that was until recently named We Love Oiselle!) was begun in April 2016, with the specific indication listed within that it was NOT an official team forum. Women truly loved the positivity and team camraderie it brought to their lives daily.
We based our interactions on the team manifesto Principles of Flight held as members of Oiselle, but by no means was it for team members only to discuss official team situations. That was for Ning. We invited non-Oiselle friends to the secret page to spread our love for sport and life and created a community as official team communications moved to Ning. I, with other team members functioning as admins & moderators throughout the year since it began, hosted a Facebook forum that was always listed and functioning as an unofficial fan page. The secret FB group, formerly known as We Love Oiselle, is a safe, private space for women in the group (we had one #BroBird, a male member of Oiselle Volee). There is a sanctity within the space where these women came to share dark secrets of infidelity, marriage struggles, mental illness, and eating disorders, alongside positive and happy moments in their lives.
I’ve poured my heart and soul into supporting my teammates on all social media platforms, especially the Facebook forum. I’ve placed an extensive amount of time and energy into maintaining this specific Facebook forum almost daily (I often spend a lot of time on set in “hurry up and wait” mode – I’ll write more about that in another blog. It’s a very common situation to be in for models and actors for TV/film/commercials). I’ve personally reached out to so many that have been dealing with difficult situations, no matter what team they are with. I’m never more than a text message or a phone call away to anyone in my life, regardless of the time of the day. As I watched over the forum and moderated conversations within it with the help of various other Volee teammates, I became well aware of each teammate’s struggles, their journeys, their joys, and their heartbreaks.
I’ve never held an official position within the Oiselle community. I am not a team leader for the Volee, I have not modeled for the brand, I am not an elite athlete in any form, I was simply a proud, paying, cheerleading member of the team. Running the Facebook page was voluntary, and had no official team overview. Therefore, I ask questions and cheer the community the same as any other member is welcome to. I had two public tweets addressing the issue prior to my membership being rescinded directly questioning Oiselle why Kelly, a blogger, was misleadingly listed in the company of elite professionals. I am not Megan Murray, listed as the press inquiries contact for Oiselle, who tweeted “If you’re uncomfortable w/banditing, I’d take a long look a the history of women’s running. Disobedience = our tradition. #BobbiWasABandit” on her personal Twitter page. She wrote this in response to the banditing uncovered by Derek Murphy about Oiselle athlete Kelly Roberts, which was then hastily retweeted (and un-retweeted) by the official Oiselle Twitter account. 24 hours later, Oiselle’s twitter account posted this. (The original Murray tweet has now been deleted after a highly contentious Twitter conversation, prompting Sally to state in a blog that Oiselle does not promote breaking the rules of a race. They still sponsor Roberts after she has been seen to break the rules of races more than once.) Runner’s World also immediately responded to the support of banditing races with this article.
It’s no secret that Oiselle has a private online forum for members only, a platform called NING. As this is the only official space to for team members to communicate with HQ and have their views directly heard, I have reposted my parts of the conversation as well as posted additional commentary in the thread from others as anonymous after seeking permission from the commenters. I had always had a good relationship and respect for the members of HQ regarding any issues prior to my rescindment, and never felt as though I could not ask questions. I always sought their opinion whenever a member had a question I thought was appropriate for them to answer. I’ve conversed with Sally at meet-ups since the first February 2014 NYC run we had together prior to my joining Oiselle Volee in fall 2014. In fact, after having a quick conversation to catch up with Sally at the team meetup post-Women’s March January 22nd, after personally struggling with the best way to let HQ know about questions regarding Kelly’s addition to Oiselle for about a week, I asked her directly on how to handle the questions in the Facebook forum. Should I send her the pertinent questions from the conversation? What should I do? She responded with, “I don’t care what happens on the Facebook page, I don’t care about it at all. If anyone has a question, they should contact me via email or on Ning. They know how to reach me directly.” Fair enough. So I stated that to the members of the forum, and I did not begin the thread on Ning. Here are my exact words on Ning asking for transparency about Kelly Roberts from January 2017, and the responses from the Nest leaders (the Nest is the name for the official Oiselle headquarters):
Oiselle terms & people to know as you go along:
Sally = Sally Bergesen, CEO of Oiselle. (@oiselle_sally)
Lesko = Dr. Sarah Lesko, Oiselle HQ, Corporate Development. (@drlesko)
#FlyStyle = wearing Oiselle clothing
Volee = dues-paying members of Oiselle team ($100)
Haute Volee = elite level athletes sponsored in some way by Oiselle looking to break into national/world level competition, currently there are at least two Olympians classified as Haute Volee
This thread was deleted, and ironically on the same evening the Oiselle “Speak Out” t-shirt was launched. I think it’s only fair that since my words are being called into question publicly, I state them here, especially since many team members were left behind wondering what was actually said. I stand by what I’ve stated.

Jan 25, 2017:

Original Post, NING (not by me, anonymous): Pictures of Kelly Roberts decked out in Oiselle with captions hashtagged with flystyle are suddenly flooding my social media feeds even without me actually following her directly. I am just curious…why is Kelly the only large-ish/er woman posted on Oiselle’s Twitter, Instagram,and blog? We have SO MANY beautiful and inspiring Volee who have a similar physical profile to her, not to mention who have wholeheartedly invested in Oiselle, that would love to be featured. People that came to Oiselle on their own, people that believe in the O and its mission, people that love to run and love the #runfamily, etc. The Volee alone represent hundreds of normal, everyday people without 30,000+ followers on IG. Is that the goal with Kelly? To be able to reach the masses?
Jan 26, 2017:
My response to the post (clarification – I never sent the copied parts of the thread, I never sent the draft of the email I quote here):

First off, THANK YOU to XXX for posting this here. I am so happy that we are beginning/continuing what I surely felt was a very involved & important discussion on the Facebook page over to Ning. I have also, since speaking to Sally at the run this past weekend, reminded everyone in the FB forum to bring up anything that should be known to the Nest on Ning or by email since the forum isn’t an official Volee site.
Since I already had an email ready to go for the Nest.. this is what I had written as a draft last week, in addition to transcribing the FB discussion (100+ comments on one aspect, 300+ total on the whole thread if you all missed it).
“We had a very intense discussion arise in the We Love Oiselle FB page. I normally text you ladies with items that should make you smile, since for the most part it is a very happy and loving forum! But this did bring up confusion and a lot of opinions, and many birds messaging me about it. It also brought up the context that expressing discontent with something O does is fear inducing & so some women won’t speak up. Only after realizing other women felt the same did they feel as though they could come forward and say “hey, I don’t like this either” or “I don’t agree with this” or “I thought I was the only one who felt this way!” regarding Kelly. Others were saddened that some were questioning the motives of the new muse. There are over 200 comments on this thread & 100+ comments to the #sportsbrasquad/Muse situation so I thought it was important to bring up to you. Condensing the conversation to bring up pertinent issues + reiterated points, I am listing the main questions below & copying over parts of the thread. I am also the messenger – not every question is mine (but I do have some!). I don’t believe anyone was being malicious or mean – I do fully feel that everyone was stating an opinion that they had every right to have.
Also, I made sure to personally reach out to any women that stated they felt slighted or that the commentary was mean-spirited. I watch these women post daily – I have come to know their posting personalities, so I understood that no one was being mean. Regardless, I reached out to everyone as best I could. Since this set of posts, women have started new blogs & IG pages about #RealRunning & their own stories. So, it’s been motivating our women to speak out in the voice that they want to hear.
Points that are not clear to our Volee:
What is a Muse & their specific relationship for Oiselle?
Is Kelly KR sponsored by Oiselle? Is she receiving free gear? Why isn’t it clear in her social media either way? (She used the words “Oiselle invested in me”)
Was/is Kelly KR a member of Volee?
Why not elevate the voices of our own Volee as opposed to someone from outside our team?
Why is this specific Muse being given more attention than the others? (as of today 3 blog posts within one month)
Points that were repeated:
The Haute Volee, professional runners, & fellow Volee are empowering. I would rather hear stories from the teammates that support me or professionals.
Is this the prelude to a larger set of clothing?
I’m serious about my running & this doesn’t feel like a passionate runner or a genuine message.
At the end of it all, there is a strong reaction to this woman and her presence with regards to our team and I thought it was worthy of your attention.”
There are many concerns that are brought up. Change is inevitable with life. And it looks like Oiselle is beginning to sponsor a variety of ladies (there’s a badass 70+ elite granny tweet out now!). At the end of the day, O is a business. They will extend this brand as only O knows how to. This whole thread started with wondering about Kate Grace & O (Long Race Kate The Great With Grace! We heart Kate so much) and became the type of discussion that you can only get with so many women with so many viewpoints and so many questions. Hell, I am not fast & I have small sponsorships starting & in the works.
Personally, I didn’t know a thing about Kelly until this FB thread, when I was reminded she was the “selfies running with hot guys” viral post. (A model friend of mine from RI sent it to me saying I should do that at my next race, I said I would never take a selfie while racing! but then that led to a discussion resulting in her meeting me in Boston to #SelfieStop my first Boston Marathon. And the rest is history lol). I saw her first blog post for O, and I thought it was great. Everyone should wear what they feel is comfortable. Especially to train. If it helps other women, AMAZING! But as I went through her social and her brand to learn about her, she simply isn’t an inspiration to me as a runner. I love that she can be herself & put herself out there. That is NOT EASY. But like others have said, it’s partially because the O partnership doesn’t feel genuine. It does feel like she came out of nowhere. I don’t run so I can eat all the food, I eat because I have to fuel my run (and because I’m hungry haha). I eat so that I can fuel the amazing things my body can DO & will be able to do. Actually, I disagree with parts of what she has to say because although I know that O has always worked to be inclusive (and I surely try so hard to be certain that everyone feels included on our FB page at least) there are posts that are prominent on her social media that actually make me feel like my strong body has no place in her world as she sees it. My strong body (vs my partially broken/injured out-of-shape body now) eats more, runs faster, trains harder, lifts more weight, does a dirty dozen a couple of times, and happens to be skinny/slim by the majority of societal views. I’m #SorryNotSorry but strong looks different on everyone. Being healthy and fit is what I want to hear about. Even her bio on the O site doesn’t have the same type of structure as that of the other Muses. And no, not everyone profiled or working with O has to resonate with every Volee member or every O runner. We have sponsored HV pros that I do not follow nor does what they have to say inspire or motivate me. I respect their presence & ability, of course. And then we have HV whom I WISH they would tell their story because I think it could make so many women say, yes, I have just as busy of a lifestyle or I’m in school now & it’s so good to see how a pro attacks her training in this situation! I am also well aware that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I am a normal person, not a pro, that loves this sport, misses what my body used to do, and have goals for what I want to get done. I’m not a big deal & I’ll always happily say hi to anyone regardless of social media presence. Everyone is human at the end of the day, after all. If what I say or do gets someone to get out the door and make themselves a healthier, happier, more fit human being, then I am grateful to have had the opportunity to bring some positivity to them. #AlwaysBeKind is a huge part of my life.
I get it. She is speaking out to a community of fuller-figured women that may not feel they belong as an athlete & telling them that they do. And that’s wonderful. I agree 110% that needs to be happening. But this is a sport I love. I want to hear about the love for the run no matter what your pace. I’m a huge fan. My friends run with various teams for a living, for fun, or for a different sport. I love learning about everything they do. I’m happily competitive and just want to be the best version of me that I can be even though I’ll never be an American Olympian (unless, yanno, Pakistan decides that they’ll dual-citizenship and somehow I get into the political game to be appointed HAH… well, I’d think twice, but story for another post). But I will always cheer for EVERYONE no matter what their pace. I’m the biggest cheerleader there is. And even if I’m a nasty person with a ton of #swagger during a race, I will always be all smiles after leaving my heart on that course. Every story I have read about a fellow Volee member, I have heard their love for the run in their post. I basically hunted Natalie Fixler down to add her on FB because her story inspired me. She’s not a pro. She’s not super speedy. But she had perserverance. I think we all know running is hard. It’s not easy. We all know there are good runs & bad runs. I want to know that the runs mean something to you. That you love this sport, the way I love this sport. I want to know what drives you.
It’s late. I have to be on set in the am. And I probably went off on a zillion tangents. But I’ve had a zillion conversations regarding this situation since it came up. And it feels petty compared to what is happening in the world, for the big picture in life, but I love this team. It saved my racing. It brought me back to a sport I love. It’s made me new friends and given me the greatest experiences (Olympic Trials, anyone?! Bird camp? I could go on and on!) and I think everyone on Volee is pretty awesome & has a story to tell. I want to hear them. All I ask is for genuine love from anyone. That’s all. Xo
HUWO,
Love love love to all,
Aysha

A member wrote that she doesn’t feel supported at races, running a slower marathon than most of the team, because no one was waiting at the Oiselle Cowbell Corner (cheer location). My response (5:30 refers to a full marathon pace, not a per mile pace):

You’re not the only person who has said this about missing a Cowbell Corner. I reached out to another woman on the team who mentioned that as well. I feel awful knowing that you or anyone misses the corners. I know that our NYC leaders had everyone on tracker at NYC 2 years ago and they made hella sure that we waited on everyone- a bird running 5:30 pace if I remember correctly was so happy we waited… and I remember tweeting out that this made me love this team to see that happen. I was on my feet for over 6 hours this past weekend and tweeted a newfound respect for anyone on their feet running a marathon that long (Kara liked the tweet if it makes you feel better). Anyways, I hope that the next time you run a marathon the O birds in charge of CC are sure to wait for you. And if you run NYC please let me know and I will stay for you with the birds!!!

Jan 26, 2017:

Me: I thought that our dues money for Volee went to the pros… I LOVED when I joined that my money would be helping Kate Grace & those like her get to the Olympics (she was the first person I knew on Oiselle) … Obviously my gamble paid off lol 😉 But honestly, if parts of my dues are going to sign influencers and support them… I would hope that we would be told of such a change. If indeed these Muses are being paid.

Lesko: Hi! More communication to follow tomorrow, but I want to clarify a few points of misunderstanding: The $25 of the Volée membership goes to the Emerging Elite Fund, which supports only the Haute Volée. Please see our list of 37 HV on the http://www.oiselle.com/athletes/elites  team page. These are athletes looking to break into the next higher level (Pros!), and the Emerging Elite Fund directly and concretely affects how many HV we can support. The Volée should feel very proud of and involved with the Haute Volée’s opportunities! Please see many blogs on this topic, including Megan Rolland’s most recent one (http://www.oiselle.com/blog/megan-rolland). Our Pros (Kara, Lauren, Devon, Steph, Brit, and previously Kate) are not supported by the Emerging Elite Fund. Neither are our Muses.

“Our team mission is also on the team page.
Since day one, our mission has been the same: to create a sisterhood of support at a variety of levels from beginners to professionals, from the roads to the trails to the track. We are committed to fostering a team that challenges, supports and empowers runners of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Each of our stories are interwoven into one collective voice and that voice is behind every mile and every individual flight.
Lesko”

My response to a comment about Kelly’s health due to her physical appearance:

Being in the fashion industry, I could expand on this about a zillion times… on both ends of the spectrum. Being a runner I hope that we can all continue to urge for health to be a priority. Trust me when I tell you a part of me is always debating to publicly publish my bloodwork just to prove that I’m healthy on the days or points in time I feel overly attacked.

In response to a comment about seeking transparency from our own team (anonymous): I would have to agree. We are constantly encouraged by Oiselle to engage in open and honest dialogue. It is difficult to navigate a topic that has so many different angles and emotions, and it’s unkind to criticize differing opinions.
Me: Thank you XXX. The need for transparency in our sport (running, USATF, elite levels) is something Oiselle has advocated for from the beginning. I don’t think it’s wrong to request that from the company we race in solidarity with regarding this choice.
After all that was said and done:
Sally: Oiselle has a long history of involving and highlighting many types of women in our business. Not just modeling and advocacy, but also in areas behind the scenes such as women lawyers, artists, and investors.

With these partners, it runs the gamut: Volée, non-Volée, people we’ve known a long time, some we’ve just met, serious runners, recreational, slow, fast, etc. By no means is it a perfect model of inclusion, but we’re committed, and we’ll be doing more – especially as it relates to diverse body sizes/shapes and ethnicity.
The first point in our manifesto is “Build the sisterhood.” And in doing that, treating each other with dignity and respect is our number one requirement. From where I sit, a thread on the team portal to question the value and role one of our teammates plays is incredibly harmful.
Kelly is a valued addition. As Lesko described, Kelly is not connected to the Emerging Athlete Fund. If you find your Volée experience is diminished by our working with Kelly, and you are unhappy, please feel free to contact Lesko or Feather for a refund of your membership, with no hard feelings on our end. Life is short, positivity is calling.

Lesko: Hello all! Thank you for your comments and input. Please know that we have read them and find many to be helpful. We are talking things through as a team, and we are always looking to improve. Please know that we are planning on deleting this thread to protect everyone involved. We are always available for direct feedback and your input. Team love. Lesko
Sadly, the questions, criticisms, and critical feedback we wanted to address with Oiselle were directly curtailed with Sally’s statement above. We shouldn’t have to feel as though we have only two choices with Oiselle: remain silent when something isn’t clear, or leave the team. We don’t have to agree 100% with everything a company does, but this specific company branded itself as the one that calls to light the injustices of the sport. This specific running company prided itself on demanding transparency and clarity from the governing bodies of this sport and other running retailers at all levels. But would not provide the same answers they’ve sought when the requests for clarity came from within.
I want to touch lightly on the topic of bullying, as it was addressed on the Ning forum and in Oiselle’s blog post:
Anonymous O member: “I’m going to add here what I wrote in the FB post because I think it’s very important:
There is a difference between being mean and expressing you have a different opinion than what oiselle has chosen to do. I haven’t felt comfortable saying anything about Kelly because I feel like everyone on the volée loves kelly and they were going to get angry at me (and I know other feel the same way). I find it highly ironic that when people do say something expressing their difference in opinion on oiselle signing Kelly, others said it was mean, criticizing or bullying. It is not personally offensive to others to have a different view/opinion. If this is not a space for open discussion and a difference in opinion, it is not the sisterhood I believed it was.”
Questioning a role that was not precisely defined in many aspects, never directly contacting the member in question, abiding by the requested routes of conversation within Oiselle (Megan Murray asked me to email her after I tweeted the incorrect label for the Strava panel, which I did) and following the leadership’s requests for subsequent questions/comments was met with a rescinded membership (for me). There is only one official team forum that has existed throughout this entire set of communication (Ning), and I have listed my statements above. I made no other statements regarding Roberts on Ning after this deleted conversation and I stand by what I relayed and have said. When it was publicly seen that Kate Grace was not racing in a Oiselle elite kit and a member tweeted about it, Dr. Lesko of Oiselle HQ responded to help clarify the situation on Twitter that Grace’s contract was up and she was a free agent. If something is listed incorrectly publicly in April about a role that elicited clarification requests in January with no definitive response and a muddled social media presence by the subject, why shouldn’t we ask the question about an incorrect title in a public forum? The first public statement that combined the words sponsor, Kelly Roberts, and, now “pro athlete” in any official Oiselle capacity (a now-named label in June other than the initial previously specified role of Muse) regarding the blogger was by CEO Sally, nearly 5 months after the question was first brought up in Ning. It was a sudden post on the heels of a public controversy, without the normal thoughtful rollout that Oiselle normally has in announcing their newest action with the company to change the way we look at sport. The status of “pro athlete” as applied to Roberts continued to be expanded upon the same day it was first stated via this lucky-in-timing request for commentary by none other than Mario Fraioli, a highly respected coach and writer in track and field, whose column I have come to genuinely greatly respect, even if I don’t agree with his stances at all times.
Having a different viewpoint from someone is not bullying. Respectfully stating facts is not bullying. Having a meaningful conversation and discussion contemplating many aspects of a situation is not bullying. Stating your opinions based on the facts, and respectfully agreeing to disagree is not bullying. My freedom to question what is placed before me is protected by the First Amendment in this country, it is a right granted to me by my birthplace here in the United States, and it is a freedom I do not take lightly. My freedom to express my beliefs and speak out for what I believe in is not punishable by death in the US, as it can be for speaking out in other countries around the world.
But calling someone slurs, wishing ill will or death upon them or their family members, making fun of their physical appearance, their race, culture, religion or lack thereof, encouraging someone to kill themselves, or demeaning someone for something beyond their control is unacceptable. It is one thing to state the truth and to have an opinion, and another to be ruthlessly mean. In the same respect, publishing a misguided person’s personal, non-public information in the hopes of shaming them and causing them harm is also unacceptable.
Recently, Nick Symmonds went on his vlog series and stated that whether or not he agreed with the rules of USATF, he always abided by them. (Follow along for his commentary here: starting at 1:00 in, he has every right to talk about trolling. He didn’t break any USATF rules, and has made every effort to know the rules of his sport.) He has put his money where his mouth is, literally, risking losing out on potential monetary bonuses in racing at Worlds from when he spoke out against USATF for their lack of transparency and clarification about a team event.
With the new information presented this past week, at this point I will wonder aloud, as was asked in the initial Facebook thread in We Love Oiselle, if the residual salary that Kate Grace left behind is the same budget/allocation pool that has granted Kelly Roberts monetary reimbursement in her contract to “pay her bills” as the now CEO-stated “pro athlete”. I do not expect or request an answer, of course, but I am allowed to curiously contemplate. I am perfectly content with the fact that my membership fee contributed to those Haute Volee elites (including one 2x Olympian Maria Michta and many others whom I have watched race with great enthusiasm) and their dreams. In the meantime, I simply hadn’t purchased from Oiselle for months (with the exception of Spandos, because Kara Goucher, elite marathoner & woman I admire for her courage in speaking out, wore them and I am only human with marketing, but I sold them to another teammate soon after). I wholeheartedly agree with Kara’s statement about banditing here.

And to think, all of what has been stated above started in January with this simple comment on Facebook by a Oiselle member, “I hope Oiselle is putting as much effort into re-signing Grace as they are their #sportsbrasquad. #SorryNotSorry.” For those of you who aren’t runners, Kate Grace is an Olympian, formerly sponsored by Oiselle, now signed to Nike, who made it to the Rio 2016 800m finals. Her performances in 2016 were nothing short of phenomenal, from her first-ever podium finish at the Olympic Trials to earning PR’s on her way to the finals at the 2016 Olympic Games. I don’t believe you will find anyone to validly counter the label that Kate Grace is a true elite professional athlete in track & field. Another Oiselle member stated on the same initial sets of January threads, “It seems that we traded our Olympian for a blogger. (I do not mean that harshly, it just is what it is.)”.

Sure seemed that way from when we first started asking questions, didn’t it? Judging by what the CEO of Oiselle said in this article by Mario Fraioli, placing Roberts alongside the same pro runners Grace used to be amongst, we weren’t wrong. As for the topic of bullying, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. More to come.

One Love. Run Love. Xo.

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When You #SpeakOut Against a Cheater

I stand by everything I have said on social media because it is the truth. Kelly Roberts is not an elite athlete. I can admit if I’ve made a mistake or had misinformation, but a 1:42 half marathon on the roads for a non-Paralympic woman under 30 years of age can universally be agreed not to be at elite levels of racing. Oiselle did not comment on the incorrect representation on the Strava panel at Boston Marathon (one of the most prestigious marathons in the US), nor did either party correct it or acknowledge the misinformation. But my membership with the Oiselle team was rescinded within the same day. This isn’t the first time Oiselle has inadvertently condoned listing Kelly as an elite.

At this point, it’s disheartening that the value Oiselle placed in honesty, integrity, truth and transparency from the running community is no longer enacted upon. All these years with the CEO publicly calling out Nike, IAAF, IOC, USOC, USATF, amongst others for ethical issues is not at the forefront of what they believe as a company any longer, as evidenced by their actions in supporting an admitted, unremorseful cheater in the same sport that they sponsor elite athletes. The reason I personally joined Oiselle was because of what they unapologetically stood for – inclusivity and justice for the love of the sport for everyone, no matter their race, pace, size, shape, or fitness level. I also joined because a part of my membership fee went to their elites – to help other women pursue their dreams of racing at national and world levels. This was a beautiful way for me to give back to the sport that I love.

With Oiselle supporting an admitted cheater without confirming her actual role as a paid representative (only confirmed via Kelly’s own words in a later interview, not by Oiselle: “Oiselle is a partner of mine, so they pay my bills”) while concurrently advocating to #SpeakOut has spoken volumes of irony to many. Multiple members requested answers, and were told by the CEO to not question the role of a teammate. Instead, we could be refunded our membership. This “shut up or ship out” mentality doesn’t strike me well. I prefer open, respectful dialogue. To agree to disagree. Yes, conversations can become intense, but it is surely better than staying silent. Especially when the actions and statements of a “teammate” don’t add up. All we asked was for clarification of her actual role when her social media and interviews stated that she was “invested in” by Oiselle, that she was “sponsored like Lauren Fleshman”, that Oiselle understood that her story was not free, without properly documenting the hashtags “#ad” & “#sponsored” FTC regulations required across the board.

Oiselle’s actions speak louder than words and they are no longer their elite racing community’s advocate, by adding a non-elite member whose selfies are celebrated in lieu of acknowledging the elite team members winning races and competing across the country. At the end of the day, you cannot advocate for honest racing when you openly support and elevate a woman with no respect for honest racing in multiple situations. All I ask is that you stand by what you say you believe in. Sadly, if you are but a small piece of the puzzle and speak out for the truth to be stated, Oiselle then becomes the bully they’ve been publicly denouncing.

Cheaters take away from the sport of running at all levels. Whether it is doping, a bib mule, using someone else’s bib without a sanctioned transfer, creating fake bibs/copying them, cutting the course, no matter the level of competition, it is a thief of honesty from those that have worked hard to race a time that is honest. It is a theft from the races themselves, that have to pay to have all the resources available to each runner. It is a theft from the time and effort that is placed into making sure all runners are safe by securing permits from the city. And in the cases of prize money, status, bonuses, podium places, it is a theft of someone’s honest and fierce running efforts that suddenly aren’t good enough. Elite or non-elite, the question of being “good enough” will run through one’s mind.

With the new information brought to light of additional disrespect to our racing community here in NYC and across the nation, I implore anyone who has bought a bib and could not run in with it at a race to call for the banning of Kelly. She clearly broke the rules and unapologetically stated she isn’t remorseful for using someone else’s bib in the race that brought her public attention in the first place. She has stated that she does not regret it, and has proven it as she illegally bandits other courses across the country. Her actions should not go without consequence, as NYRR rules clearly state that she should have been DQ’d & suspended from the 20+ races she has run in NYC since. We have all had races that we paid for that we could not race, that do not allow for transfers. The majority of the running community is an honest community, and would not sell or give away their bib as it is against the rules. We’ve all been injured, we’ve all had emergency situations come up, we have all wished we didn’t have to waste the money. But we followed the rules, and let the race go, no matter how hard it was.

Some of those races are certainly more meaningful, like the Boston Marathon. The BAA has no tolerance for cheating. Many have been caught, and banned for life. Yes, life. As Oiselle has called out cheaters for a lifetime ban, keeping a cheater in a prominent position on their team is hypocritical. Especially since Kelly’s public goals have been to prove to herself that she can achieve a BQ (Boston Qualifying time). Ask anyone that has qualified for Boston – that honor is a privilege, it is earned through your qualified effort for your age or fundraising for a charity. The title of being a Boston marathoner is sacred in the sport of running, and the goal of a BQ is elusive to many. I wouldn’t want an admitted cheater to be racing alongside me if I ever qualified for Boston. I would want to know that I worked hard and gave it everything I had to be there on the starting line by doing everything right, and that the others alongside of me had done the same.

The worst cheaters are the ones that are so narcissistic that they do not believe they were wrong in their actions. Email results@nyrr.org if you agree.

I stand for the love of the sport. #BanKellyK

One love. Run love. Xo.

 

Memories of 9/11 in 2015

Author’s Note: This was written by me on 9/11/2015. I was working on a TV set, & today in 2018 I am in Brooklyn on a TV show set at the studio. We just had a moment of silence on set in memory. Funny how even though things change, they stay the same.

————-

On this day in 2001, I was supposed to visit the World Trade Center with my uncle who was here from Pakistan. By the grace of Allah (swt), we were delayed. I will never forget the frantic phone call my Bhai made to my parents to tell me not to go to NYC because something awful just happened.

As we watched the events unfold, I prayed it wasn’t a Muslim terrorist attack. It was.

It’s been many years, and I still am truly saddened each 9/11 when the names are read. I can’t help but think of everyone that has lost someone because some misguided souls thought they were following Islam.

Today, I woke up and ran 5 miles at 7am towards downtown NYC with Nike. I am grateful for every day I have that I can run. Because there are others that cannot.

My work today has taken me to a TV set, where production has re-created a Syrian desert refugee camp. The scene that shows an ISIS beheading that was supposed to be filmed yesterday had to be moved to today. With a moment of silence, they respectfully do so. They’re showing children dirty but happily playing soccer, just like your children do. Medical tents are here, and an urgent surgery on a young boy is being portrayed. His lung collapses but there are no medical supplies delivered this week. There is sand, lots of desert bugs, and plenty of American military. My mind wanders to my older brother, who became a physician for the Air Force. My brother, who serves our great American nation every day, who served in the Middle East during the war. My Bhai, one of my heroes. They’ve recreated his dedication, amongst many others, here, on a film set, in NYC.

I was fairly blonde when 9/11 happened. I didn’t fit the prototypical Muslim stereotype. I suddenly found it my duty to enlighten others about the true Islam, since I was mistaken as simply American and so many would speak to me with negativity about all Muslims as if I wasn’t Muslim. Hatred of others that are different stems out of fear and lack of knowledge. Hate is taught. You must learn to hate someone. It isn’t something we’re born with.

I’m watching the children play on the refugee set. It may as well be the real thing. Some of them are Latino, Middle Eastern, South Asian. They don’t see creed, or race, or differences. They just want someone to kick them the ball.

Nick Symmonds Book Review – Life Outside the Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled

This article originally appeared on Epic Run, December 5th, 2014.

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See on Amazon!

Fame, fast times, and fortune? Sex, drugs, and Hollywood? Yes, you’ll find it all and more in Nick Symmonds’ autobiography Life Outside The Oval Office: The Track Less Traveled.

If you’re one of the many like me who have met Nick by attending one of his signings, then you’ll find a sincere handwritten note when you open the book, followed by the introduction written by the legendary Coach Frank Gagliano, or “Gags” (as he’s known to many in the running community). Gags’ fondness for Nick is evident, especially when speaking of Nick as a young competitor.

Nick shows respect and humility in speaking of his parents and family- a result of his small-town, Midwestern upbringing, I suppose. Religion also plays an interesting part in young Nick’s life; you can be sure to stumble upon that aspect of his growth within the first few pages.

But, as it does time and time again for a young boy growing up, his thoughts turned to the opposite sex, and as has been said, Nick found running not because he enjoyed it (face it, how many of us at first sight loved the fact that we run and run and run around a track and still end up where we’ve started?) but he ran simply due to the fact that a pretty girl (or two) asked him to. Track Nation, of course, owes a huge amount of gratitude to those young girls in Boise, as I’m sure they were highly unaware of the gears they unintentionally put in motion.

This leads us into the crazy world of track & field at the collegiate and professional levels, and of course, the cast of characters Nick meets along the way. Those of us that follow the sport closely will happily recognize names we know and love along the way- those of us who know next to nothing about Nick’s earlier years will surely learn about his competitors that have stoked his fiery spirit along the way. The bachelor pad antics, his ability to out-Jersey the Jersey Shore (he had a hot tub before they did), his ways with the ladies and propensity to drink beer, all coinciding with the enticing aspect of drugs, nightlife, and his methods of navigating it all- indeed, you will find all of this and more in his book.

Some of the best stories Nick tells are of all of the traveling he has done. For those of us that haven’t left the comfort of our own backyards nearly as often, if at all, it’s an eye-opening portal to the testament of the human body as a machine, placed through the constant stresses of jet lag and lack of sleep, and how we as an audience simply expect a stellar athletic performance, despite the rigors of training and travel. Sometimes we, the fans, don’t realize the extent external factors have on our national team members, yet we still want more out of them.

Drug testing, marital infidelity, and sponsorships are just a few parts of #NSOvalOffice (that IS the official hashtag) that Nick enlightens the general, non-competing public about in detail, and in doing so, reinforces the fact that no matter where he’s gone and what mistakes he’s made, his moral compass is still intact after it all.

What I find to be the most inspiring aspect in all 230 pages of reading is that Nick teaches us that it’s okay to cry. To express your emotion not only on the oval through your racing but in any other environment; that it’s okay to have personal response to any situation. In doing so he takes on the stereotype of the typical All-American male and allows for a humanization of his persona. He invites us to realize that he, too, has insecurities just like the rest of us, and he states them without hesitation. We want to believe that all of our athletes are unbreakable, but Nick chooses to bring us in and allows us to experience heartbreak and disappointment alongside him.

Nick lets us in on some of the most important decision-making processes of his life. From coaches and universities to entertainment at meets, he doesn’t hold back on any aspect of how he thinks Track Nation could be even more amazing. He addresses that he hopes he can serve the sport in any form, aspiring to make an impact in even a fraction of the magnitude that legendary Steve “Pre” Prefontaine had done in his short time with us. In many ways, from standing up for LGBT rights, to bringing attention to the lack of administrative transparency within sport, he can easily be seen leading a dialogue for the nation and beyond, perhaps in the same capacity that Pre once did.

My favorite parts of #NSOvalOffice were where I could live vicariously through Nick’s viewpoint on races that I so closely watched him compete in throughout the years. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get inside his head at those points. I thoroughly enjoyed the storytelling Nick wove until the last chapter of his book, where he seemed to rush off a very quick message to his female fans out of necessity. Ladies, I’ll let you read it and respond to him at your own leisure. But the final page is ever-so-fitting, typeface and spacing seeming to work out perfectly as a single meaningful quote lays in front of you. As for the rumors that he dated Paris Hilton, well, wouldn’t you want to read the emails and text messages between the two of them for yourself?

If you’re expecting the adult prose that Nick uses to address his overwhelming issues with politics and the sport while writing for Runner’s World, you won’t find it here. Rather, this book is a coming-of-age novel for Nick’s 17 year-old self. It balances boyish charm while tackling adult issues facing an upcoming professional runner. As a young teenager who isn’t sure of what path to follow, you can surely relate to the same anxieties Nick articulates about those years. For the track and field fan who wants to know what it feels like to toe the line versus the world’s best and take each breath with Nick as he races, it’s in there. If you ever wanted to have a reassuring voice in your head to follow your heart and stand up for what you believe in, Nick’s words will do that. At the end of the day, it’s a breath of fresh air that one of our own has down-to-earth morals and integrity. Indeed, most of the world could use more of Nick’s passion. Perhaps we should all want to exist to live, not live simply to exist.

Maude The Fraud

I am adamantly against cheating and misrepresentation in sport. You take away an honest runner’s hard-earned podium place. The running community is not and should not be complicit with anyone’s cheating, no matter the level. Viral pageant contestant Maude Gorman claimed to have podium finishes in multiple ultramarathon races. She has actually been a pathological liar since childhood – you may google her to find out the details. She has created a persona to fit the needs of whatever audience she has at the moment, just like #3peatCheat #bandit Kelly Roberts. I am not a fan of anyone that does this. We deal with it in modeling all the time – fake ad campaigns, claims of agency representation when there isn’t any, & so much more. Poor fact checking by the media allows for anyone to seek attention & get it in our social media viral society today. The litany of cheats Derek Murphy has proven to break racing rules have all had the same underlying connection of being frauds & profiting from their storylines – Kelly Roberts, Gia Alvarez, Jane Seo. Each wanted to attain elite status in some way, shape, or form – Kelly called herself a #ProAthlete after being caught breaking the rules by purchasing bibs & not paying to run on race courses, #GiaAlvarez thought it was okay to race the prestigious #BostonMarathon with a time she did not earn to qualify that year by giving her bib to someone, thereby taking the place of a genuinely qualified runner (you have to race a time considered fast for your age), and #JaneSeo wanted to qualify for an elite team for the Dashing Whippets in NYC – she went so far as to fake her podium time at a half-marathon by biking the course afterwards when in reality she didn’t race the whole distance. #MaudeGorman has been dropped from @skyrunningusa but still lists herself as #TeamUSA.

Gia Alvarez has been rightly banned from racing by the Boston Athletic Association. Jane Seo was rightfully stripped of her podium placement & dropped from her team immediately. Kelly Roberts did not lose her sponsors – in fact, last year Oiselle hypocritically continued to pay & support her as a cheat while their own real elite pro athlete Kara Goucher had waited a decade for her rightful silver medal at Worlds. (Irony much?) Instead, Kelly Roberts has continued to be disrespectful in sport, breaking rules that should have her banned from the NYRR racing community. She has proven herself a liar once again, deleting all the negative posts she made against Nike while with Oiselle. #BanKellyK

I watched Broken on #Netflix last night – it’s about how ultrarunner Karl Meltzer broke the Appalachian Trail record. Documented day by day. When you see the amount of HARD WORK a REAL & TRUE elite ultrarunner puts in, and then you have a cheat that cuts the course, you can only imagine how wrong it is for the rightful, honest athletes. Insulting to real elites. Disrespectful to the sport. Proof has been shown that they’re cheats & should be banned accordingly.  Not a fan of cheats – your previous traumas & tragedies do not excuse breaking the rules. ESPECIALLY when REAL hardworking, non-cheating elite athletes aren’t given their due respect. In fact, Oiselle’s CEO Sally Bergesen has been hypocritical in her treatment of American Record holding athlete Tori Franklin. When she doesn’t pay her own elites a living wage (there’s a long list of Haute Volee athletes that are not/were not paid), but supported paying a dishonest, cheating brand ambassador influencer in Kelly Roberts that ACTUALLY lacked integrity instead, Oiselle is an epitome of hypocrisy when they claim that they are against cheating in sport. (There is also the story of former Oiselle pro ultrarunner elite athlete Devon Yanko, who found herself on the floor of a casino in 2017 after an ER trip seeking a ride home as Oiselle’s Birdstrike team celebrated their victory at the Speed Project without her. No bird left behind? Not in this case.) Truth is hard to find in today’s media-driven society. Seek it out & you shall find. 

The beauty of this sport is that you get out of it what you put into it. Work hard for your times and own them. No excuses. One love. Run love. Signed, a Team USA NCCWMA silver medalist runway model #TeamUSATF #RunnersAgainstCheating

No, I Will Not “Let It Go”

When others try to tell me that “it was so long ago, you really need to let that go” (in good faith & in haughtiness) every time I write about Oiselle the hypocrisy supporting the misrepresentation & cheating ways of Kelly Roberts by paying her, I dare ask:
Should the Team USA gymnastics squad have “let it go”?
How about the #MeToo & #TimesUp movement? Should we “let it go” because it’s been so long?
Maybe you should tell Kara Goucher to let it go with speaking out for her truth. You know, it’s been “so long” since she trained under Salazar. (The incidents she mentions are from 2011, and she waited a decade until 2017 for a Worlds silver medal that was rightfully hers because of a cheat).
There is something very real in society that is lacking, and it’s called taking responsibility for your own actions & holding others accountable for theirs. For some reason many think it’s okay to let Kelly Roberts continually carry on to cheat & disrespect the sport day in & day out.
Trust me, I know far more than you think. And I’m well aware of all of the women the CEO Sally Bergesen has stepped on to make her platform of lies & hypocrisy seem viable. Her statements are misleading. She’s now accused an elite athlete of lacking integrity as she has, with passion, paid a proven cheat. The athlete, an American Record world-class triple jumper in Tori Franklin, was given a “scraped together” bonus but the company somehow found it in themselves to pay Kelly (a 1:42 half marathon on the roads for a non-Paralympic woman under 30 years of age which can universally be agreed to be non-elite) a salary worthy of the term “Pro Athlete”. You cannot claim to support the elites if you don’t pay them, but you paid a proven cheat.
Those women (and men) that have been wronged cannot say anything. They work in the sport. Some compete at the highest levels. They will lose their jobs & their income in what is a very small community. They HAVE to outwardly support the Oiselle HQ that lacks integrity. If you search enough, you’ll find the blogs, the evidence, the signs that someone does want to stand up for what’s right, from professionals & elites to former members like me. There was nothing wrong with myself & others bringing up the fact that Kelly misrepresents herself constantly. There was everything wrong with refusing to allow transparency regarding it & now Sally & Dr. Lesko claim they are being transparent about Tori Franklin (I absolutely was aware that an issue with Tori Franklin was coming, and Oiselle’s disrespect to Tori will be detailed in an upcoming post). Kelly Roberts is nothing but disrespectful & fraudulent in the sport of running & her actions have easily & consistently proven the same up until this very day. What I initially knew after learning about her at the beginning of last year was that she’s simply a victim, always. Somehow, a confirmed cheat deserved payment, whereas an American Record holder did not warrant a salary payment when renegotiations were initiated… Oiselle, your lack of integrity & respect for real elites in sport is showing.
If you do not use your platform to stand up for those who have been wronged, how can you be anything more than a complicit bystander? If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for everything.
I’ve been dropped from a team but retained my integrity. This isn’t the first time I’ve stood up for what is right. It won’t be the last.
They dropped the wrong bird.
One love. Run love. Xo.
-#RunnersAgainstCheating
#OiselleTheHypocrisy
#SpeakOut

Elites? Not Respected by Oiselle at USAs, Again

Last year, Oiselle refused to acknowledge the role of paid ambassador Kelly Roberts (KKR), a blogger that was incorrectly listed as an elite athlete after we on the Oiselle Volee had asked the CEO Sally Bergesen & HQ questions about her in official forums/platforms with no answer.

A 1:42 half marathon on the roads for a non-Paralympic woman under 30 years of age can universally be agreed not to be at elite levels of racing. I tweeted that listing KKR as an elite was insulting to real elite athletes. I was dropped from the Oiselle Volee for stating the truth publicly about a teammate whose role was never clarified, which lent itself to her being misrepresented as an elite. Instead of apologizing for the lack of transparency & clarifying that KKR is NOT an elite & acknowledging that KKR is being paid, Sally tweeted that Kelly is a #ProAthlete. Sally, Oiselle & Oiselle’s marketing director Megan Murray continued to disrespect rule-abiding runners & insult race directors by supporting KKR’s repeat cheating as a bandit, claiming it was civil disobedience (try again – women no longer have to bandit races to be equal & able to race alongside men. Megan Murray never issued a public apology for this statement, as Kelly Roberts lied about recently). Kelly had already avoided being banned by NYRR for paying to run a race with someone else’s bib in the past & lacked remorse in doing so. She avoided answering the race directors for her transgressions until it was made public. Kelly has continued to proliferate her following, the same following she was hired by Oiselle for, by perpetuating misrepresentation of herself as a professional athlete in podcast interviews.

All of this came from a company that claimed to be adamantly against cheating, that supports #CleanSport, that empowers women, and that supports elites.

All of the above company claims are lies. If you are adamantly against cheaters in sport (which Oiselle claims to be), you drop a cheat from your team, you don’t continue to pay them and elevate them further, thereby insulting all honest, respectful runners that race within the rules. Here’s what you don’t do if you want to support women: You don’t disempower women to speak their truth by deleting entire threads from team forums & telling them to leave the team if they disagree with you (the Oiselle #SpeakOut shirt is an irony). You don’t discourage respectful discussion by censoring the conversation. And you certainly don’t support your real elites if you elevate a royal selfie taken WHILE racing for time during a (failed) London Marathon Boston qualifier attempt above legitimate OTQ (Olympic Trial Qualifier) elites racing the same weekend at top championships. You don’t heavily promote #SportsBraSquadDay instead of the USATF National Championships last year when your athletes are trying to make a World Championship team (and again this year, see Sally’s tweet here). You don’t pay & reward those that break the rules instead of your honest, #CleanSport elite finalists & semi-finalists at national championships. (Did you know that elite Oiselle-sponsored racewalker Maria Michta-Coffey is a 2x Olympian, a multiple-repeat US National Champion, a Pan-Am medalist, but she is not paid as a professional athlete, nor is she on the professional team?) What about paying the athletes that actually work day in & day out towards their goals without complaining about how hard it is? Hard work is what it takes to achieve goals. What about the athletes that have lost medals and sponsorship potentials because of cheaters in the sport? Kara Goucher had to wait over a decade for her rightfully earned silver medal from Worlds. And she’s the only Oiselle elite professional athlete that openly made a public statement against banditing (she deleted it & re-worded it after, but we all know Kara has stood up for her truth).

Sally, the CEO, demands transparency from Nike, IAAF, USOC, IOC, but doesn’t practice it in her own company business practices regarding paying a confirmed, verifiable cheat. Instead of dropping an athlete that has been confirmed to cheat, as she has called for Nike to do, she continued to pay Kelly Roberts even after she was seen to be a bandit multiple times on courses, proven by her own social media. She even elevated KKR to the title of a #ProAthlete, which respected coach Mario Fraioli commented on. (He did not agree with that title).

Today, I was following the USATF National Championships. Oiselle had sponsored Tori Franklin, a triple jumper with phenomenal breakthroughs this year, including an American Record. She was elevated soon after from the regular #HauteVolee elite team (which KKR was incorrectly listed as being) to the professional listing on the Oiselle team page.

I love this sport. I followed Tori’s journey a bit, followed her Instagram postings, and have always been happy to support women at all levels of racing, in addition to cheering them on loud & clear at the elite level. The only reason I ever initially knew of Oiselle in the first place was because their elite athlete Kate Grace followed me on Twitter. When Kate was announced to no longer be sponsored by Oiselle, I was still on the Volee. I genuinely cried that night. I was so sad that the reason I found Oiselle (or as I liked to state, Oiselle found me) was no longer with the team. I love Nike to death, I was SO incredibly happy for her, her efforts deserved only the best company and the best training groups and the best contracts. She deserved to be paid accordingly. Oiselle’s apparent loss of Grace while racing in non-descript gear at the Dempsey in January 2017 prompted some Volee members (who were NOT dropped from the team) to state that they sure hoped Oiselle was putting as much effort and money into resigning Grace as they were in promoting the #SportsBraSquad.

A tweet popped up on my timeline, and I noticed that Tori was in a Nike kit. I knew that there must have been a change in contract, but only a couple of days ago she had posted to support Oiselle. I started to look on the main Oiselle page, and she was no longer there. Checked on the Oiselle blog, and there it was. Yet another hypocritical Oiselle blog, this time taking aim at the character of a real elite athlete, an American Record holder, Tori Franklin.

I already knew Sally & the Oiselle team weren’t being respectful of Tori’s representation (more on that in another blog), because there are many instances where Oiselle simply does not support women as they misleadingly claim to. Nor do they have any respect for their own elite athletes when tearing a woman down who obviously needed to be paid properly for her achievements. Shouldn’t elite athletes earn their keep by what their bodies can DO as an athlete? Isn’t that what it means to be an elite professional athlete? Making standards? Loving the sport? Competing with integrity?

Directly from the blog:

“Three weeks after accepting the bonus, and one week before the USA championships, Tori let us know that she had received a higher offer from another company, and that the other company wanted her to break her contract with Oiselle and compete for them in the US Championships.”

So an athlete, who is a business and a brand in her own right, made a business decision to accept a bonus offered by her sponsor.

“Tori, unfortunately, made the decision today with her agent to break her contract with Oiselle, go back on her word, and wear another company’s logo at the US Championships.”

But Sally, you never went back on what Oiselle stands for, honest sport, when you paid and supported a cheater, liar, and fraud in Kelly Roberts, right? Oiselle never went back on their word with Lindsey Hein, who, like me, promoted the brand at all times without being a sponsored athlete… right? I should post the emails & texts where you went back on your word, perhaps. What company does this to publicly malign their formerly sponsored athlete on the day of a major competition? As Oiselle claims to care about the person and their story more than just their times & results.

“On one hand we try our hardest to always put the athlete first, but we are also running a business and need the domestic exposure that the USA Championships brings to generate the marketing benefit that allows us to justify the program.”

If you put the athlete first, your elites would be given more than travel expenses, race entries, and a minimal clothing allotment. But you put a cheating blogger first & continued to pay her instead of your honest elites last year. For the social media following & exposure. There is no honor or integrity in keeping a three-peat bandit cheat on your team. But you did it. Who no longer has honor or integrity now?

“Could that move have been made with integrity, honoring Oiselle’s support in addition to the hopes of her new sponsor? Absolutely.”

Attacking someone’s character is nothing new for Sally. Implications were surely made of dropping a Volee member from the team for bullying, without ever reaching out with a phone call. Doing it to an elite athlete the day of a major competition? I believe putting an athlete through that is similar to when Sally denounced Nike for serving Boris Berian papers.

“Are we going to sue Tori for damages or try to bar her from competing? No….life is short, and so is a Track and Field athlete’s career…Still we can’t help cheering for Tori. She was a wonderful athlete to sponsor, and she has a great future. We wish her the best as an athlete.”

Why, Oiselle is the real bully. Trashing an elite athlete’s character the day of a major competition? That certainly is how to cheer for an athlete you claim to care about!

“Even though really there is not a great deal of measurable business benefit to Oiselle unless an athlete has a significant following, we want to sponsor athletes in more niche events: for the good of the sport that we love so much, and to try to help our audience grow to love Track and Field beyond just distance running. It will be more difficult to do that now.”

Does promoting the good of the sport involve KKR breaking the rules of competition & being non-remorseful about it? A sport she doesn’t know the rules for, consistently has ill-informed commentary about supporting women & racing, which leads to 200+ comment threads? Her statements about rejecting women that wear makeup to work out? Her beyond lack of information regarding actual elite racing at the Boston Marathon? Does it involve her consistently talking about how much she hates the sport while representing Oiselle? Her constant disrespect for the police presence and breaking the rules at the Boston Marathon? These were all actions that helped to promote the “good of the sport”? Please. What about the fact that she was disrespectful to her prior sponsors & was unethical to them in order to work with Oiselle? It’s acceptable when the immorality benefits Oiselle. But blaming an athlete like Tori that made a business decision – isn’t that what your blog is about? The business of track & field? Why the double-standard?

“But there will be one or two more blank jerseys competing in non-marquee events at USAs from now on, and you can draw that directly back to today.”

So every future non-paid elite level Haute Volee athlete should blame Tori for… not having the opportunity to be sponsored by Oiselle and Sally, who would pay a disrespectful cheating race participant in KKR who doesn’t have knowledge about proper training regimens over paying the legitimate value of a real elite athlete.

“We are shocked, upset, and frankly just sad.”

I think the saddest part of this whole blog is the fact that Sally & Oiselle would rather pay & support the “integrity” of a bandit cheat in the lying, fraudulent blogger Kelly Roberts and hypocritically comment on the integrity of an athlete that did what was best for their career. It’s interesting how they, like KKR, are now playing the underdog victim. Morality has standards. If I had to look up to a company for having ethical values & integrity, it surely wouldn’t be Sally Bergesen & her team with Oiselle. Tori couldn’t have done any better to bring Oiselle exposure than to break the American Record in their kit & bring a phenomenal year to the national forefront of track & field.

Oh, and you don’t need to wear just a sports bra to love yourself as a runner. You just need to run. Wear what you’re comfortable in, my friends. Covered or not, makeup or no makeup, strong looks different on everyone. And I will run with you, no judgements made. Just don’t cheat at the sport. #RunnersAgainstCheating

One love. Run love. xo

 

 

 

Telling The Truth… When Pigs Fly #BanKellyK

(I am not a professional blogger – do forgive formatting errors. Yes, I am aware of my run-on sentences.)

I knew something wasn’t right about blogger Kelly Roberts the first time I was introduced to her as my “teammate” on the Oiselle team (of which I was a paying member).

For someone who now constantly insists during podcast interviews on being labeled as a “pro athlete” because she admits she couldn’t handle the reality of being told she wasn’t good enough or skinny enough over and over again as an actress (she must never have realized that when you have talent, you can still be an actress), Kelly Roberts does a pretty good job of pretending to know what she’s talking about to her audience. An audience, who, mind you, learns about running from a non-elite blogger that’s a multiple-time cheat and bandit. Why would you trust someone that doesn’t even know or follow the rules of the sport to tell you when the sport is wrong?
I watched the commentary that came about the Boston Marathon as she posted “If you’re losing faith in humanity, don’t run the boston marathon if you’re a woman.” along with an inaccurate article from Buzzfeed that paints the Boston Marathon elite women’s payouts as sexist. (Yes, the same Boston Marathon she is desperately trying to qualify for. The irony doesn’t fail to be seen). Kelly went on to lie about deleting angry comments on her page from this article when her following that actually understood elite racing rules explained them with grace & patience. Nowhere was there a rude or disrespectful comment. Naturally, Kelly made up additional faux outrage when posting a followup to the Buzzfeed article: “It made me very, very uneasy to see the anger in the comments of people defending why these women justly shouldn’t get paid. Or coming after me for sharing the buzzfeed article. The anger on the internet towards women makes me sick. But I’m very hopeful to see that the BAA is doing the right thing.” She is always a victim. I have never had a problem calling out Kelly’s lies before, and I’ll not have a problem doing it again.
Apparently, you cannot talk about when Kelly Roberts is wrong or mislabeled by directly tagging her on Twitter after the Oiselle Volee have had 300+ comment threads in a Oiselle fan page discussing misrepresentation. You cannot talk about when Kelly Roberts is wrong as a Oiselle paid ambassador in the former team forum Ning because the thread will be deleted to protect those involved (meaning she was on the platform). You cannot talk about when Kelly Roberts shames women that wear makeup on Twitter in the Facebook page as a paying Oiselle Volee member because she is not in the forum to defend herself, so the 200+ thread will be deleted. You cannot talk about when Kelly Roberts is wrong on her Instagram page, because she will shame you on her blog and paint herself as a victim as well as claim that she can do as she wishes because of what she has “endured”. You cannot talk about when Kelly Roberts is wrong on her Facebook page because she will actually delete your comment & block you after you tell her that she hasn’t deleted a single comment. (Screenshots available).
That being said, Kelly Roberts, woman who claims to support all other women but actually does not: Stop. Lying. Of course, within hours of my post, suddenly she is starting a book club & the first book is “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed”. No, Kelly Roberts, it is not shaming when someone has posted the truth about you in response to what you’ve said publicly. The current President of the United States is a fraud that is constantly lying – should we in the running community idly stand back as you do the same, not just once, but over and over again? While you are proven as an unremorseful cheat and bandit? As an honest, rule-abiding runner, I prefer that those that exist within the running community hold the same respect for the sport that you lack, and understand what they speak of prior to making grand general commentary about such issues that affect those of us that race competitively. No, I am not ever expecting to be or race as a competitive elite. However, unlike you, I have easily clarified my role as a runner & corrected anyone attempting to call me an elite runner or pro athlete. And I will not hesitate to clean up my playground from those that constantly continue to sully it.
Kelly has lied & perpetuated misinformation multiple times on social media, and I have clearly posted when she has. I have no problem standing up & speaking out for what is right. I have predicted what she will do in response to my comment (spoiler alert: she went to indicate that she was shamed like I said she would, as well as posted a podcast about grief, her go-to topic for whenever she happens to be called out for being wrong. Feel free to go back & see how often she has broken the rules in running and the topics she utilizes directly afterwards). As for the commentary she cultivated about the Boston Marathon prize money being sexist, you may publicly read my comment I posted to her Facebook page on Saturday May 5th, 2018 below as well as here:

I’ve followed the threads in this forum & on your Twitter about this specific topic that you’ve mistakenly attributed as a “sexist issue”, going so-far as to say “…don’t run the boston [sic] marathon if you’re a woman”, and then claiming that you deleted “outright disrespectful” comments (which, in fact, members of your forum that were watching closely have reported as an inaccurate claim). Ironic that you state not to run the Boston Marathon if you’re a woman, but qualifying is your current goal as per your #BQorBust attempts, extensive vlogs, & podcast posts. When others have kindly responded to you to indicate that “the rules aren’t sexist at face value” & “the article is wrong” you have ignored the truth and facts, continuing to exploit misinformation. Nobody was “coming after” you for sharing the Buzzfeed article, they were letting you know that it was inaccurate & you were incorrect in claiming for the sexism against women for prize money. “The anger on the internet towards women makes me sick”. No one in your forums was angry against women for racing, or you for that matter simply because you were a woman. You were wrong in what you stated, plain and simple. Blanket statements like that undermine legitimate equality issues in running & racing as a sport. Understanding the rules of racing as a runner is immensely important, especially when someone is an actual elite/pro athlete or within the range of an elite or sub-elite athlete. (It doesn’t mean that the rules don’t apply to everyone, they in fact do, all the way to the last runner of a race.) Racing competitively for place is entirely different than racing for a time (sometimes the two can converge). The fact that the elite start was implemented IN ORDER TO give women a fairer chance to race competitively for a place was entirely lost on your audience – meaning, the rules were NOT sexist to begin with, they were actually a move in the right direction towards racing equality & quality of televised women’s race presence. For you, who have been caught multiple times over many years to admitting to breaking the rules of racing in addition to continuously perpetuating misinformation & misrepresentation of yourself on social media forums, to not acknowledge your mistakes in not knowing the facts about running is misleading to your following, many of whom learn about running from you. For those of you that prefer learning the truth & facts about running and racing, especially as an elite/sub-elite/pro athlete no matter the level you run at, I am posting the comprehensive Runner’s World article here. The same legitimate publication that allowed us to learn that you bought your bib illegally to run for your #SelfieRunRepeat half-marathon and should have been banned by the rules of the NYRR for doing so, the same legitimate publication for runners that responded to your Twitter question about banditing with an article about why it is never okay, and the same legitimate publication that is written by the real experts in the field of running.

https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a20164215/boston-marathon-prize-money/

Before you state “Woof. Sounds like somebody needs a hug” or “I’m going to respond in love because we need more love in the world” or “Just another hater that needs love” or “[insert excuse here] Hope that’s okay :)” in response instead of acknowledging that there are only truth & facts in this comment, or write a passive/aggressive blog post that contradicts your previous blogs & statements which would further indicate your already proven hypocrisy, or record a podcast about the importance of forgiveness after speaking about your sponsors incessantly instead of understanding what you did wrong, or insinuating that you have a right to do what you do at races “after what I endured”, or creating a commentary about being an internet victim to bullying when others respond to you in truth or facts, or doxxing me on social media but not including my full factual statements, or attempting to deflect the content of what I have written with a grammar or spelling context revision, or stating that hurt people hurt people (I am not hurting, but I appreciate your concern in advance), or claiming that others will shame you for who you are as a human being in your next social media piece, or accusing that you’re being used for clicks, or claiming that you only lift women up because “elitist competitive runners” advocating for honest running make others feel unwelcome for running in the first place (but if a woman does wrong or breaks the rules, we are supposed to blindly support them, just because they’re a woman? No), or deleting/blocking me for bringing the reality of this racing situation to your attention directly to you as I have many other false situations you created, realize that there is no harm in openly stating that you “sometimes I do post bullshit”. Wait, you’ve already admitted to that in a podcast interview released in January. 14:16 & 33:17, Wisconsin Notes podcast. And before you claim to your audience that I’ve never once tried to talk to you, I responded to you with a post considering the opportunity to “begin or request a conversation on neutral grounds” on January 14th after you lied about blocking me on Twitter January 10th. You have chosen not to respond. You, of course, have that choice. Realize that your lack of a response to me or others will not stop those that see your hypocrisy from pointing it out. #SpeakOut
My hypothetical based on your previous actions: I’m certain you’ll post something about how rules aren’t always meant to be followed, or how if the rules don’t receive attention they’ll never be changed, or the rules are meant to be broken so you can justify your posts & your own illegitimate race actions. Of course we cannot enact change without realizing the need for change. There is absolutely a conversation now occurring with the BAA in resonse to this unique racing situation; however, your lack of knowledge about the subject is evident, as indicated by your lack of understanding about what it means to be labeled & racing as an elite with regards to time requirements & entry fields. There has been nothing but respectful education on your socials regarding this matter. I’ll leave the lack of knowledge you have had when you have posted about the Victoria’s Secret show with no understanding of representation in the world of modeling, or shaming women that wear makeup to workout while you still wear makeup in your posts immediately after stating not to do so (there is nothing wrong with or without wearing makeup in general or to race/workout – but to openly reject others as you had stated lacks supporting all women), or any of the other hypocritical, incorrect posts/statements/comments you have made for another time.
Signed,
#RunnersAgainstCheating

To Selfie or Not to Selfie – That is the Question

I’m a selfie coach. No, really, I gave advice to a very well known marathoner named Kara on how to take selfies via Twitter. That story is yet to be told on my blog. But it’s a fun one & I am well-aware of how obnoxious it sounds.
Selfies have certainly become ubiquitous as many have obtained smartphones & learned how to angle themselves to the camera just right to get a candid photo. Even my baby niece has learned how to click the button on the phone to take the cutest first selfie EVER! (I may be biased. Just a little.)
But what about the rules of racing & selfies?
It’s quite simple- You’re not racing to your full potential if you’re taking a selfie during a race that you have entered with the purposes of a qualification time trial, a PR, or to measure up for the best place in a race that you’re capable of. In fact, you’re not racing.
I define racing as a competition of your best attempts for that race at speed over the course, whether it be in competition with others or yourself. I will never discount the courage it takes to get to a starting line as a runner (no matter your level, run/walk/jog/beginner/elite, just getting there is always a blessing, I give the Lord a prayer every starting line I am blessed to be on). But as much as I love selfies, you’ll never see me racing a road mile, any race on the track (could you imagine someone stopping to take a selfie on the track, no matter the pace or “fun run”?!) or any distance competitively, for time &/or place or a qualifying time, and wasting the time/effort/energy on a selfie that could cost me my goal pace/time/qualifier, or cause me to trip & fall or someone else to trip and fall from my slowing/stopping to take a selfie.
Aside from the safety implications, let’s be real: If you are on the track or road trying to race a PR (personal record) at a distance (I am commenting up to and including 26.2 miles, excluding trail racing & ultras because these rules wouldn’t completely apply, although an ultra pro I know said “I don’t take pics while racing. I race!”) why would you waste your time to take your phone out and take a selfie, costing you valuable seconds (or minutes if you’re insisting on posting to your socials) which could (in the case of a BQ attempt) cost you your entry into a race? Those same seconds could cost you a place if you’re racing to place the best rank that you can do on race day, as someone behind you that’s stronger than you (and possibly didn’t take a selfie) can outkick you.
You’re simply not giving the race your 110% undivided attention and effort. And that’s the definition of racing.
Yes, racing for time or racing for place can be two different things (attempting to get a Worlds/Olympic Trials qualifying standard vs racing for an Olympic medal). At USA nationals, or at the Olympics, you’re racing for place to medal in the top 3. That doesn’t always translate to racing for time. (It’s so much fun though, testing your strength against others’ in a trial of cat and mouse, matching surges, or patiently waiting to strategically outkick a competitor.)
Sometimes, there are runners that can BQ/AG place/etc while taking selfies along the way. That’s wonderful. That’s badass. But they’re still NOT RACING to their fullest potential.
You can get TO a race. Where all paces & types of running are welcome. You can take a selfie DURING a race. Absolutely. But you’re obviously not actually RACING.
See, racing means you’re giving it you’re absolute BEST attempt when you toe the line. You’re there to give it everything you’ve got, and, when it comes to a goal race, to let yourself cross the line to the point where you couldn’t give any more of yourself if you wanted to. That pain you put yourself through? Temporary. The pride in gunning after a goal no matter what obstacle got in your way? Forever. Leaving your heart out on the course, knowing there was nothing more you could do, is one of the most fulfilling feelings ever, no matter whether or not you made your goal. You simply couldn’t ask any more of yourself.
You may be saying, but wait! I’m only here to have fun. I’m the last person to tell you not to have fun. When I got back to this sport, some of my first cheer squad situations were hosting a Selfie Stop at marathons and half-marathons. (First lesson to self: A #SelfieStop at mile 26.1 of Boston Marathon is pretty much useless). I find racing for place to be immensely fun, matching surges, going step for step next to a competitor. I love it. But if your fun involves you taking selfies, you’re not racing. You’re at a race, running. (Or run/walking, or walking, doing SOMETHING, moving FORWARD, doing something great for yourself). It may absolutely be fun, but it’s not genuinely racing.
But wait! My race plan went to poop. So I decided to enjoy the rest of my race, and I took selfies, and I still had a great race & time! Yes, you had a great run, but you were no longer racing for the best time or place you could have had you not wasted your time with selfies. But did you have fun? Yes? Awesome! I’m all about the love of the run and the love of the sport.
We tend to ask runners of all levels, paces, competitive, non-competitive, professional, elite, collegiate- “How was your race?”. When non-runners ask, often times they don’t know how to differentiate between the definition of racing & putting your best attempt forward versus running at a race and not being competitive, doing it for the fitness aspect and taking a selfie because you’re simply not as serious about your run that day. Or it really genuinely doesn’t matter if you stop because you just need to get the miles in, no matter the pace. When I ask “how was your race?” I have competitive friends that will immediately differentiate between racing and running – they would comment and say, “Oh, well I wasn’t really racing, it was just a tempo workout for me” or “I didn’t race, just wanted to shakeout”. And my non-competitive runner friends will say “My race was great!” It’s an interesting difference of semantics.
Now, I love selfies. It’s what I’m “known for” in my small social media presence (Obnoxious and not for everyone, I’m well aware. But my old team gave me a “Selfie of the Year” award, and hey, it stuck. So why not? Smile and make someone else smile! I fully believe in complimenting a stranger daily – you never know if it will make their day). It’s a major part of model life. It’s what I do in my runner life as well – when I’m not racing. I’m currently coming off of injury. I’m trying to heal a broken body in more ways than one. I was hoping to train enough to sustain the strength for a 10k tomorrow (I’ll be running/run/walking/jogging (?) the Atlanta Peachtree 10k!) but I’ve done 3 miles in the past week. It’s 3x more miles per week than I’ve ran in all of 2017. And it’s July. For all intensive purposes just starting on the line will be purely for fun. I have strength training and physical therapy that I’m going through. It’s painful just to type this right now. Since January 2016, I have not put on a pair of spikes, or a pair of lightweight trainers in an effort for a speed workout. I’ve simply not been cleared to. I’ve run at races, but I wasn’t racing – there was no speed in it, there was no all-out effort to race. I simply ran. But these injury situations? They hurt. They are disheartening. But fall down 7 times, get up 8, right?
Tomorrow I’ll have one of my best friends of all time at my side. He is a champion, American record-holding swimmer (sprint swimmer), former D1 athlete, and a complete fish-out-of-water when it comes to running. I don’t even think he has real running shoes! I initially signed up to race Peachtree because of him – he lives in Atlanta, he wanted to have fun & drink the whole way (typical swimmer mentality haha) & I was going to finish the race at race paces in what was hopefully a comeback to racing, turn around, and go get him. Sadly life had other plans for me, and instead of my hopeful A wave-qualified start, I am dropping back to T wave, and planning on having a blast talking to others, trying to get him to run when he doesn’t want to, and taking all the selfies along the way! I can’t even define this as a “run” for myself – it’s just going to be a good time. I’m planning to high five all the kids, dance at all the dance stops, and just smile! (Just like I did the NYC marathon!) He’s challenged me to sprint it in at the end as of last night… not sure how I’m taking that at the moment! All I know is that my body is probably not ready to go all out for a kick, I am most likely risking re-injury lol… Lord help me tomorrow in the heat of the moment, literally and figuratively haha 😉
Let’s take a look at why the conversation has started and become a curious one (for me, at least). I cannot have respect for you in your running if you are a public figure for running companies stating that your serious running goal is to BQ for months over at least 2 different marathons & you take selfies & upload to social media during your race when you should be focusing on a time you are barely slated by all PR calculations to make even if you had the most perfect race day. You claim you wanted to run faster than you ever have before, but stopped & uploaded selfies mid-race. You were not racing with everything you had, nor did you give it all of your energy & focus at the time of the selfies. It makes me question whether or not you were as serious as you had claimed to be in doing the best that you could on race day, even though we all know the only person we need to race for and be truest to is ourselves. A blogger did this during the London Marathon, after months of “shopping around” the project of attempting to BQ to potential sponsors (she stated this on a podcast interview). When she secured sponsors and payment throughout the training, she went on to call her sports psychologist during the race in the hopes he would tell her to quit the marathon after she already wasted time on selfies and uploading. What’s confusing to me is taking the selfies at the cost of precious seconds from a BQ. Take the photo and move on! A few seconds isn’t the worst if it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, but taking more than that for something you’re already cutting it close for? And if you know anything about a BQ, it isn’t an easy goal for most runners. It requires many runners multiple attempts, and a dedication to training that isn’t easily maintained. It takes a lot of strength to BQ, and it takes many a very long time to get there. Running is hard, no doubt. But overcoming what is difficult is what makes you stronger. Keep trying. What was hard before can become easier.
I have every ounce of respect for anyone who makes it to a starting line, no matter what pace they are. I am the one that will cheer you on, whether you’re an Olympic champion or you are walking through a marathon. All paces. I can share with you the pain of trying to run for the first time ever, no matter what level of athlete you are or aren’t. I’ve been there – the first mile I tried to run in training for a marathon after a long while away from the sport was the hardest ever. I will push for you and encourage you to do the best that you can, no matter where you’re at in being the strongest version of you. At the end of the day, all you can ask from yourself is the best you can give. And so many times, you don’t realize that the human body is capable of so much more when you dig deep. Strong looks different on everyone.
At the end of the day, you’re not racing if you’re taking selfies. Just my humble opinion. You may define racing differently than I do, and I’m happy to hear your thoughts and in the end may agree to disagree. You define your own goals for a race, and if it’s for time/rank or qualification, then wasting time on a selfie will not contribute to that goal. I don’t look down upon you in any way, shape, or form if you take selfies while running at a race, but I definitely believe you aren’t giving every last bit of energy & dedication to your race and therefore aren’t seriously racing. Which, of course, is okay! The beauty of being a runner in the community is that we are so immensely inclusive. There is nothing wrong with that, to each their own, but do not claim that you are racing for time/place/qualification, take selfies, and then be upset when you don’t make your goals. The only person you can blame at that point is yourself. The truest definition of racing is a competition of speed &/or strategy, and no matter whom you define your competition as, yourself or others, you’re surely not giving it 100% if you have claimed to go after time &/or place and taken the time & energy away from your race in taking selfies. If you’re running for fun, and not for time/place/qualification or just starting and enjoying yourself, then by all means, take all the selfies and document your journey towards fitness! Share your true love for the sport! Because at the end of the day, the journey is yours to take. Strong looks different on everyone. Get at your strong.
One Love. Run Love. Xo.