An Interview with National Race Director Sarah Shearer

So many of my friendships are a result of local running group, East Nasty. I met today's bitch back in 2010 when we were both training for the Country Music Half Marathon. I immediately got hurt and had to take time off from running, but Sarah and I have remained friends all these years.

Sarah is a blast! As a glass half full person, she finds the positive (and funny) in almost every situation. In fact, she's the one who encouraged me to try twerk class, which as you know, is the great joy of my life. What I love about Sarah is her openness - openness about her struggles, and openness to let joy into her life. She's the friend who will listen when you're hurting and introduce you to twerking when you declare a cease-fire on all exercise. Meet today's bitch, Sarah Shearer!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I am the National Race Director for the Heroes in Recovery 6K race series. The Heroes 6K was started and is owned by behavioral healthcare provider, Foundations Recovery Network. 

When did you first learn about this field of work?

As I grew to love racing (thanks to East Nasty’s free half marathon training), I began volunteering at races. Through volunteering I realized how much planning and work goes into putting on a race. I began working as contract, part-time race staff for a couple of awesome local event management companies, What Do You Run For and Team Magic, and realized I LOVED IT. 

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

The energy, the fast pace, the environment - I’d found a good fit for my work style and experience. I got to facilitate the type of things that I already loved doing for fun. I already had programming and event planning experience from work with arts organizations (my background is in fine arts); those skills shifted very naturally into the race management arena.

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

After working as a contractor for race management companies and loving it, I began searching for full time opportunities in the field. It’s definitely a niche job market. One of my close friends had gotten on the year before with the company (Foundations Recovery Network) that owns the Heroes in Recovery 6K race series. She was directing it and had grown it to the point that a second person was needed. I went for it and am happy to say, landed the position.

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

Always be kind.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

This would probably be when I’ve avoided dealing with an aspect of work that especially intimidated me and then when I finally got around to dealing with it, it was too late to do a good job. So, I work on not letting intimidation hold me back. I once read an Athena Singh quote, “Never trust your fears, they don’t know your strength.” Like a mantra, I remind myself of that when I recognize I am avoiding a situation.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I would very much like those two hours to be full of daylight. And during those extra hours of daylight I would frolic outdoors in the surrounding rivers, parks and trails. I also am an artist, and this year have focused most of my creative time on a travel-sized sketch book I am filling with ink drawings and watercolor paintings of my favorite outdoor spots. It’s not meant to show anyone, nothing I put in it is for sale. It’s about the process of creating and appreciating my surroundings. There is never enough time for that.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

This year, I’ve been especially proud of two events I’ve directed: the Memphis Heroes in Recovery 6K and the Leiper’s Fork Heroes in Recovery 6K. I poured my energy into them, enjoyed strengthening relationships in the respective communities, and was blown away by above average increases in participant numbers at both. And both went smoothly, logistically - with feedback indicating that participants had a positive experience.

Each event benefits a local recovery non-profit. Being able to experience the positive impact for them is one of the most rewarding parts of my work. Recently after our hometown 6K in Leiper’s Fork, staff from the local charity beneficiary shared this about the event’s impact on their clients:

We can’t put into words how much FUN this race is! Many of our clients had NEVER taken part in anything like this before and to have a t-shirt…makes them feel really special and like they matter! In fact, as the van pulled up to the race, one client remarked, “Oh my gosh…are all these people here for US?” We told her ABSOLUTELY!” She was so moved, that she had big tears in her eyes! I’m sure this weekend’s race will leave a lasting impression on her and many of the other clients. You guys go out of your way to make this race so special and we are incredibly blessed to partner with you again this year.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Instagram and email.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Time outdoors. This could be my husband and I taking our pup to the dog park, or meeting friends for a trail run at Percy Warner, or during the summer, a sunset paddle on whatever river/lake I can get to quickly. Or dancing. Or happy hour. Any combo of people/dogs I love + outdoors is ideal, basically.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious? 

DETAILS. So many. Our race series has ten events (this year) across the country. Each involves at least one local healthcare facility, a charity beneficiary, and sponsors. And of course each location has a slightly different audience that takes research and time to learn how best to connect with. It’s lots of conversations, developing multiple events at the same time (with all being at various stages of their timeline) and the challenge is often not just in keeping up with all those details as they happen, but staying ahead enough to be thinking of and implementing improvements in the meantime.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

The majority of my days are spent at a desk, planning and keeping up with paperwork and emails. Time out “in the field” is my favorite. People often think the bulk of my job is traveling or working outside, but that really only happens for a small slice of my time.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I don’t mean to sound like one of THOSE PEOPLE, but I don’t really watch enough TV to claim a favorite show. I have other favorite ways to spend my free time though, such as taking pictures of my dog, playing with my dog, snuggling with my dog, etc…. So if we could change that question to, “What is your favorite thing to do with your dog?” I would have a quick answer. The answer would be “Everything.”

My favorite snack is sugar. Preferably in the form of a Peep-classic, not any of these weird new flavors like candy corn or pumpkin spice.

All photos courtesy of Sarah Shearer

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  SCORE Project Coordinator, Sarah Brown!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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