Okay guys!! I am so excited to have Sydney Zester to kick off a new year of Q&As!! This was such a fun Q&A to do, and Sydney has the patience of an actual saint.
I’ll provide a bit of backstory:
I was a little overwhelmed with starting my blog right around the holidays (total rookie mistake). On top of that I was a last minute entry to the Houston Half and had to up my training game AND THEN I got the stomach flu. To say the least my communication was s p o t t y .
So let’s get back to the Q&A
I absolutely love how this Q&A came about. Back in late November I posted an Instagram Question Sticker about who people would like to hear Q&A’s from. I got a ton of amazing responses, but my favorite response was from Sydney. She responded that she was releasing a book out in 2019 and would love to do one.
My response was yes duh I absolutely wanted to hear more!! I started following her as well as her Run Wild And Be Instagram and I was absolutely obsessed with her message. Not going to lie, her effortlessly cool vibe made me a little nervous to ask questions. Like what if she thinks I’m lame?? Of course she didn’t, she was incredibly responsive to work with, and provided some of the most detailed answers to a Q&A I’ve ever seen!
Sydney has an amazing story to tell. She has run from San Francisco to Baltimore (yes, you read that correctly), she has a Master’s in Public Health, she just got married, and on top of that she can build a website. I mean could keep going, but you’ll just have to read more to find out 🙂
Her message is all about freedom and finding your inner peace. I hope you enjoy this Q&A as much I did!
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am originally from Maryland and currently live in Chapel Hill, NC with my husband Brian and our dog, Rue. I went to University of Maryland, College Park for my undergrad and University of North Carolina, Greensboro, where I got my Master of Public Health degree. I graduated from grad school last May (2018), got married in October, and am now working as a writer and Communications Coordinator in the outdoor industry.
Tell us a little about the run from San Fransisco to Baltimore.
I was on a team called 4K for Cancer and we raised funds, awareness, and support for our nation’s young adult cancer community. Often times this population (young adults battling a cancer diagnosis) face particular challenges because in general we as a society tend to view young adults as vibrant, invincible, healthy individuals.
Our run started at the Golden Gate Bridge and took us all over the country. We seriously ran through the Mojave Desert, over the Rocky Mountains in Idaho/Wyoming/Colorado, through Kansas flatlands, and into the east coast humidity. It was the hardest, most rewarding and life changing thing I’ve ever done.
I think one of the funniest moments for me personally was a day we were running from Barstow, CA to Las Vegas. The entire stretch of road is just wild desert. For our safety, we always were paired with a teammate to cover the daily miles. That way no one was ever totally alone in the middle of nowhere. That day was the first day I was running with my teammate, Jovia. We got started running and probably within the first mile I realized I really had to use the restroom–only we were in the desert and there was none.
It was a wildly humbling moment where I had to walk far off the road, squat down in the desert, covered by absolutely nothing and do my business. Jovia was incredible and just kept chatting away the entire time! We both laugh about it now because it certainly breaks the ice in a relationship!
4K, more than anything, cracked my world view open and showed me I had so much more to reach for than just my relationship with Brian. Before I left, that was an enormous part of how I defined myself. That’s really not healthy and it’s a recipe to just be unhappy. I learned that if I wanted to be truly fulfilled and full I needed to find that within myself; my relationship should never (and really could never) be what fulfills me entirely.
I absolutely love your website runwildandbe.com. What made you decide to go from blogging to writing a book?
Thank you!! That’s seriously the best compliment you could give me because I LOVE building websites. It’s for sure one of my dream jobs.
When I started the blog it was for two specific reasons. The first being I was in the middle of grad school and feeling a real creative void. I was actively missing having an outlet for creative writing and I’ve always loved reading running-specific blogs. I started just quietly asking myself why I couldn’t be someone who writes about something I’m passionate about and make it my living. When I began to challenge the “I can’t” narrative I had adopted for so long, things just really started to snowball. I found I loved designing the site and loved writing posts!
More than my desire to write, I also wanted to create a space for the stories of female runners to be told. I felt there was a HUGE void in traditional coverage of endurance running. The narrative tended to focus on the white male “conquering” this huge race or wild mountain. They were gritty and intense. Those stories are awesome but they simply don’t resonate with me. I wanted to know the stories of the female athletes I had begun to excitedly follow on social media. Even just simple things like what an average week of training looks like. I did a quick search on Amazon looking for books written by female runners and there were only a few results! I wanted my blog to help fill that void.
I felt like if I wanted more content covering this and it wasn’t out there, I should create it! After a few months of blogging things began to shift for me. Instead of only talking to the gals who were doing awesome things and writing a few posts a week, I wanted to use my voice and create something concrete to contribute to our community as well. I began to put together pieces I had been working on and focusing on writing more poetry and a manuscript sort of just came together!
I am absolutely obsessed with the photography on your personal Instagram (@syd_zeb) as well as your Run Wild And Be Instagram (runwildandbepoetry). Do you have any formal photography training?
You are seriously SO SWEET! This may actually be the most amazing compliment because my photography is something I’ve been actively trying to improve!
The simple answer is, no, I don’t have any formal training. Basically I just love, love, love beautiful images and was consuming that medium of art all the time. I began to ask myself the same question as with my writing- why did I think I couldn’t capture beautiful, artistic moments?
I started to view photographs through a more analytical lens. Instead of simply thinking “oh wow that’s amazing,” I would try to understand why I loved it. I began noticing how people used light and what themes I was consistently drawn to, and then just got to practicing!
You just got married! Tell us a little about your wedding and how you met your husband.
Yes I did!! Brian and I got married on October 19th, 2018. It was such a surreal day. We actually met when we were 11 years old and started dating as sophomores in high school. So, like, we are the real deal high school sweethearts (ha!). Our relationship has changed over and over and over again in the past 9 years and sometimes we look at each other and are like how the heck did this happen haha! We certainly know that a story like ours is rare.
I’m insanely proud of our relationship and of Brian as an individual. We spent 4 years doing long distance which really forced us to look at ourselves and our relationship and assess who we wanted to be individually and who we wanted to be as a unit. We learned that being in love with someone is a conscious decision and takes work. Nothing is effortless forever (but when it is, dang it’s the best!). We challenge each other to grow and change and set huge goals and he’s just my best pal and my favorite person to hang out with 🙂
We half joke that the book is also sort of a love letter to him. A lot of the uncomfortable change and growth that happened for me over the past few years was because I was unhappy in our relationship/ doing long distance/ growing back together after being apart for so long. I used long distance running and spending time in the outdoors as a HUGE source of healing during this time. So, to be able to write about how the love I have for my husband has changed but throughout the entire time having long distance running is really special to me.
The wedding was so much fun and so focused on our love of our family. I am not a planner and actually really hated every second of wedding planning so I’m happy that’s done. But I feel so lucky to have had every person we love in one place for a day. A ton of my 4K teammates were there which was also made my heart feel whole 🙂
I often have my best thoughts on my runs. Do you think that running/being outside in general boosts creativity? If so, why?
I totally agree! I write some of my favorite pieces in my head while I run, process something that challenges me, or come up with awesome business ideas. It’s just such a beautiful, creative time.
I believe at our cores, humans are meant to be moving outside. I always think about the pure joy a baby has on their face when they learn to walk, then run! Or how naturally children will just run around barefoot outside. But as we get older and are told “ugh exercise” we begin to attach negative feelings to movement. Breaking away from that conditioning and just practicing a bit of “rewilding” does amazing things for our spirits.
Your message is amazing. It’s all about freedom and finding your inner peace. In a world full of routine and schedules, how do you recommend someone can feel free and peaceful in their everyday lives?
That makes me so happy! I totally love this question because I spend a lot of time practicing this. For me personally it started when I felt anything but peaceful but so desperately wanted to be. So I sat down and wrote a list.
I closed my eyes and thought about anything and everything that has ever brought me true fullness–the kind that makes you shiver with happiness. I wrote these things down and then decided that it was my goal to try to live a life that adopted as many as these things as possible. That would define a successful life for me. If that wasn’t my focus, if i was more concerned with what other people thought or their definition of success, I wasn’t living honestly.
Then, on days that feel blah and routine, take a moment to pause and be grateful. Walk through something on your list and just be fully grateful that you are able to be there, doing that. It’s not always easy but it certainly adds so much depth to my days.
Or go for a run 🙂
And there you have it! Thank you again to Syd for reaching out to me and providing such amazing answers. I am SO excited to read this book! If you’re looking for an example of what Run Wild & Be will be all about, I highly recommend heading over to runwildandbepoetry
Run Wild & Be will be available March 25, 2019 and you can order it through Amazon. I will update my Instagram as well as this post with a direct link.
I’m tempted to do another Q&A after I read it 🙂