Behind Mixed Medal

I didn’t play “sports” as a kid. I had a few girlfriends who played soccer and i thought they were really cool. I thought, if i played a sport, soccer would probably be the one. But instead, i danced. I also took ice skating lessons (a failed attempt), rode horses (but it was way too expensive for my parents to even consider having me explore as a hobby) and golfed (by default i grew up as a country club brat because my dad worked in the industry so i worked summers at the club but also had the benefit of golf and tennis lessons). I golfed on my high school team but admittedly it was more for social purposes and to get out of 8th period than it was for talent. 

Simply put: i nowhere near grew up as an athlete. but with a younger brother in tow and loads of guy friends i was always surrounded and engaged by the world of sport. Easter tradition included a family wiffle ball game. Summer nights always ended with a neighborhood baseball game. I always played, so did my mom. It wasn’t that it was no girls allowed. It was just that conventional norms existed, and my parents and I were a byproduct of them. (Except i was just a very untalented byproduct )

I started “working out” in college. admittedly as a result of an eating disorder that had me on the treadmill and elliptical for hours in between binge diets of Costco-sized bags of peanut m&ms and Diet Coke (can only, please). then one day i started jogging outside in a nearby park, and so my love affair with running began. I had no watch. No phone tracker. No concept of pace or miles. What did i have? Pure joy and elation.

Fast forward years later at NARS where i  started my PR career. Inspired by a colleague’s triumph over cancer and her quest to prove that if she could beat metasticizng cells she could certainly cross a triathlon finish line, our ceo started a team win Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training arm: an initiative that trades fundraising for endurance race training. 

Full stop, i signed up the day that TNT came into our office. elle woods in Legally Blonde comes to mind: “what? Like it’s hard?” was my reaction to everyone that expressed shock at what i had agreed to do. 

But you’ve never even run a 5K race. So?  |||  but you don’t swim. How will you swim a mile  in the ocean? i’ll learn ||| but you don’t own a bike.  I’ll get one!  (i did! here's me the day i got my bike, a Raleigh road bike which i still race on to this day)



all the questions that had already gone through my head were now being asked again, of me, by other people. but i didn't need to prove it to anyone. i only needed to train, to put in the work, and to prove it to myself.  and in time, i did.


i showed up to my first TNT practice (in the month of December) in bebe shorts over leggings and a velour zip-up. the shorts-over-leggings trend would stick for weeks to come (see left side for proof). i didn't have proper gear. i had never run in the winter - why would i have needed to? i was laughed at. i bought myself some nike - the gateway entry to aspirational fitness. (marketing works, ya'll!) i subsequently showed up to practice with a bold lipstick - not because i put effort into how i looked to go running  quite the contrary - but because i didn't feel like putting the effort into taking it off (nars quality - it's that good). 

people talked - they made fun of us - "the narsissists" - because (they thought) we "cared" for nothing more than fashion and that training was a joke to us. but it wasn't. something funny happened on race day, actually. 

16 girls, most of whom had never run a road race in our lives, became triathletes. some of us never raced again. some of us got the bug. the common bond? we had medal - no one could take that from us. 


during my training, i'll never forget overhearing two people in the fashion world  having a conversation, trying to describe a real-girl they were casting as a model. "she's....athletic"  was how one woman described her body shape because she was trying to say she wasn't rail-thin. the other person in the conversation cackled, like being athletic was something horrid. 

many people know of my passion and love for endurance racing and an active lifestyle in general. what many people don't know is that triathlon was also a way for me to cope with the eating disorder. you can't run on empty - a metaphor taken quite literally. rather than punish my body, i began to honor it. worship it. respect it. 

now, over 5 years later, i continue to race with and without my former beauty girls, but certainly with some new ones. either way, it doesn't matter, because running and endurance training knows no labels. what i learned, is that you don't have to be an either/or. you can be an "also, too!".  

i am a marketer. i love lipstick. give me a metal-heeled celine boot or a chloe drew cross-body any day. but also give me miles and miles of open road and trail. give me the best sneaker engineering there is to run as long and far as i need to. give me sweat. give me fuel. give me muscle.

that is mixed medal. it's a place for the creatives. the stylish. the non-stylish. the new-to-running. the podium-placing track stars. it is not a place for the words "skinny" "fat" or weight loss. it's not a place for proper technique and intimidation. because while i will never forget the intimidation i felt at my first practice. but i'll always remember my coaches. i'll remember the swim instructor who taught me in less than 4 weeks how to properly swim, without ever laughing at the fact that i came to him without a clue! i'll always remember the relief and safety of getting out of the water after that mile swim in hawaii, the cheering from people on the sidelines because i wore lipstick while cycling; the pride of crossing a finish line. most of this due to my own efforts, my training, and the support of a community who has, at some point, been the newbie. 

none of this due to my career, my background or my aesthetic. here, we'll be a community. want to know something? ask! want to tell your story? write me a note! 

my calf definition? maybe it's from stilettos. maybe it's from squats and lunges. who knows. who cares? it's our journey - fill it with everything you love and never ever feel like you need to choose between one or the other or that you can't start something just because you never did it in the first place. i didn't - and i couldn't imagine my life now without it.  

samantha giordano