The Story of Stephanie Bruce’s Not-So-Final Season
by Ben Rosario and Stephanie Bruce
When Steph announced that 2022 would be her final year as a professional runner I immediately thought we should document that journey as best we possibly could. As a group, we owed that to Steph–one of our original members and someone who has been such a major part of our success over the years (on and off the track/roads/grass). Personally, I just thought it would be super fun to take a deep dive into what it’s like for a professional athlete to run the final few races of her career. I came to Steph in the spring with the idea of writing a book about what was meant to be her very last training segment–the lead-up to the TCS NYC Marathon. She was on board, and that’s where this book was really born. And I expected it to be pretty simple: a week-by-week, behind-the-scenes look into Steph’s physical, mental, and emotional trials and tribulations as she prepared for New York. I would chronicle the journey and along the way I would interview Steph and transcribe her thoughts about the previous week, about the races she did in the build-up, but also about her life and how she got here in the first place.
Well…it turned out to be emotional alright. First of all, the segment was amazing. Steph did some of the best training of her life. She won each of the three races she ran, one of which was a national title. But at some point, she began to feel conflicted about retiring. Now, you might think that would ruin the book, but I think it did just the opposite. It made it that much more real. Because the truth is, as I found out, it is incredibly difficult for a pro athlete to retire. You’ve seen it in other sports. Athletes retire, and then they un-retire. But what you haven’t seen is the internal battles they have to wage along the way. In Follow Your Heart, you’ll get a front-row seat to the emotional struggle of deciding when it’s time to hang ’em up. And Steph, as you could imagine if you’ve followed her over the years, lets you in like few would. It certainly made my job easy, as all I had to do was write it down.
And don’t worry, if you’re a fan of the sport and/or of our team, you’ll get plenty of insight into the high level workouts Steph, and Aliphine Tuliamuk, and Matt Baxter were all doing to get ready for NYC. You’ll also read about how our team operates, what it’s been like bringing Alan Culpepper on as our new head coach. We also discuss the super shoe revolution, how it affected Steph, and our team, and the running world as a whole. The point is, there’s something for everyone!
Quotes from the book:
“Stephanie Bruce is a force.” – Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Tianna Madison, from the Foreword
“If Stephanie Bruce has been the heart of the team over these last eight-plus years, then Kellyn [Taylor] has been its soul—crushing workouts, showing up and performing to the best of her ability on all of the biggest days, and proving to her teammates that there was more to life than running.” – Ben Rosario, from Chapter 0.0, The Cast
“I think the bond that Aliphine and I have, it started as teammates, but then it grew as friends, and then women who share common life goals, like wanting to have families…I don’t know, it’s a different kind of relationship than you have with a co-worker. It feels so much more special when you’ve invested in one another’s successes and failures. It’s on and off the race course, and it just runs really deep.” – Stephanie Bruce from Chapter 3.0, Sisters
“Our athletes were losing to athletes they knew they could beat, and I knew they could beat, who had the shoes. That was frustrating…Athletes were running personal bests by several minutes in the marathon. Athletes were taking off with reckless abandon at the beginning of shorter road races, and not having to pay the price. Essentially the shoes were doing a large percentage of the work that the feet, and the lower legs, used to have to take on. As much as I tried not to let the whole thing bother me, it was bothering me…a lot.” – Ben Rosario from Chapter 4.5, The Ingebrigtsen Factor
“I can talk about her [my mom] and be like, ‘I’m not going to cry today.’ But then something will happen and I’ll just have a moment where I break down. So I’m sure I think about her every day but it’s whether it’s intentional or not. For the longest period, I actually had to avoid looking at pictures of her. On my phone, if I was looking for something, I would have to scroll through because I didn’t want to bring out an emotional reaction. But it’s getting better, I think, over time. But it’s hit or miss. Like, the boys had a picture day, and I would like to call her and tell her about it. So it’s more whatever is happening in my life, a moment that I would like to tell her about, that’s when it gets hard. I’m sure that’s what will happen the rest of my life. I’ll have times when everything is fine and then I’ll have moments when I really wish I could call her.” – Stephanie Bruce from Chapter 5.0, We Finally Did It Mom
“I remember sitting at home, and maybe it’s losing my mom and dad to cancer, but it makes you think about your own mortality. Is this my diagnosis?…Is thing my thing now? Am I going to die young? – Stephanie Bruce from Chapter 6.5 Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease
“Boom. Mission accomplished and then some. Despite the early start, and the wind, and Aliphine’s stubborn refusal to wear the super shoes, she had averaged three seconds faster per mile than she had in February of 2020, two weeks before the greatest race of her life.” – Ben Rosario from Chapter 10.0, Last Big Day
“This is your moment. Your time. I know you are nervous but what a privilege to be nervous. Something matters. It’s on the line. Your story isn’t written. Your dream is still there for the taking. You will doubt a few times in the race but be confident. Be the bad bitch you are. Channel all the love, all the support, all the stubbornness it took to keep going. Mom and Dad are with you. Like Mom said, ‘You can run one step further.’ Get on that podium. Why not me. Let’s go Steph, I’m proud of you.” – Stephanie Bruce (in a note she wrote to herself) from Chapter 13.0, The Race