I have a giant plastic bin in storage. Inside of it lives old torn out magazine sheets and comp cards, as well as a few thick, weathered, agency portfolios. There, pressed between glossy pages, are various depictions of my likeness throughout the past decade. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize myself, decked in designer threads and sparkling diamonds on remote islands and distant shores.
Along with the tub of pictures, I have a dresser drawer stuffed with contracts, job vouchers, pay stubs, and tax forms. All of this paperwork is proof that the girl in all those pictures is me, but also that my role as an international model has always been, to put it simply, just a job.
This job has been tumultuous, but it has provided opportunities that I would have never known existed otherwise. If it weren’t for my career, I would never have even realized I was an athlete, let alone one that who could possibly compete in the Olympics some day…
My job has never been who I am— it just allows me to explore all the other things I love, exposing me to all kinds of different people. I get a thrill just by living in my favorite city, even after all these years, as I’ve been figuring out what really fires me up.
I’m a writer at heart, it’s what I love to do. As I began to write more, I realized how much of what I care about is health. My own research lead me to start eating better, and this evolved into a mission to be the ultimate version of myself. I started exercising, mostly going to yoga. Then, a few years ago I took up running. I learned what my body can do, stumbling upon a hidden talent.
Just 4 months ago, I ran my first sanctioned NYRR race. After placing in the top 10 out of several thousand, I joined a competitive team, and got a coach. He pointed out to me that the qualifying time for the Olympic Marathon is a half-marathon time of 1:15, and I had just run a 1:23— not far off. I told him that I was even a bit mad at myself just after that race for not pushing harder, since I barely felt fatigued as I crossed the finish line. But, it showed me that something was there. I started to really imagine what a few years of actual training with a coach could do.
As I amped up my training, I went along with the typical hustle of my day job. Standing very still as cameras capture someone else’s vision of perfection is ironically my version of “normal.” Competitive running on the other hand, is a whole new wild frontier for me. Up until that point, my training plan was just run.
When my coach first started laying out a training schedule, I could see right away that I had a lot of work to do. I quickly learned what “negative splits” were, and he explained the markings on the track. Basic workout routines such as “5×400, 4×400, 3×400” at a “5k pace” felt a bit like deciphering Greek, but I began to soak up all this new information, and put it to use.
Despite some pesky signs of injury, I ran a few more races and I managed to place second in the nation at the USATF Club Nats in the 10K distance. Then I was featured for Nike’s International Collection, depicting what it means to “Lead from the Front.” The intense feeling I have to test my body’s physical limit has only grown stronger, but I know that rest and recovery is important right now. After all, there’s no rush, and I have a lot to work on in the meantime.
In my bedroom you won’t find my Elle cover hanging on display. What you will find, draped where I can see them first thing in the morning, are the tokens of my strength. The medals I’ve started to collect represent the person that’s been inside me all along, dying to get out.
This summer has been eye-opening, to say the least. And, if I keep up this pace, I might be able to weave together aspects of my incredibly demanding career with my present and future in running. Underneath all the clothes and makeup is an athlete, and that means more to me than anything else.
So, I’ve been fine-tuning my goals. Having specific objectives motivates me to train hard, or alternatively allow myself to rest and recover. While the year 2020 seems a ways away, putting together the right set of short-term goals leads me (and my tough-as-nails coach) to believe going to Tokyo could be more than a just a far-fetched fantasy. Until then, I’m going to keep the girl in the designer clothes and the girl in the race bibs working together, chasing the best version me that I can.