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Shortly after placing sixth at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, Stephanie Bruce took it upon herself to fill the void left by race cancellations by offering up daily Instagram live pep talks, advice, and giveaways to healthcare workers. A mother of two young boys, she also cataloged the disruption of all that togetherness—the joy of it and the challenges, too.
“My kids are kicking my ass this week,” she wrote in mid-April. “I’m sure they are sad about not seeing their friends and they miss their grandparents. I’m sad for them. It’s hard to communicate the bigger picture and how really we have it easy in this house.”
Bruce, 37, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, has used her social media to help runners of all abilities get a glimpse of a professional athlete’s life. She covers body image by openly talking about the loose skin on her abdomen from pregnancies. She gives resources to postpartum women coping with diastasis recti. During the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, she opened up about her own learning process as a white woman, and how she didn’t recognize her privilege or use it for change.
“I didn’t see my U.S. teammates who I cheered on as they won Olympic medals for us,” Bruce wrote. “I saw their accomplishments and work ethic, but I didn’t see them raising a fist on the podium, and being told they were too Black and angry when asking for change.”
Fans continue to respond to Bruce because they can see themselves in her triumphs, her struggles, and her mistakes. She gives a space to talk about the hard stuff as it relates to running and beyond. And because she takes her followers along for the journey, she also brings a spotlight to the sport in a way that few others can.
In 2021 we’ll see Bruce at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, likely competing in the 10,000 meters. She never counts herself out, even when her chances may not look good on paper—and she asks her fans to do the same for themselves.
“You know what you’re capable of even if you haven’t achieved it yet,” she says, “Be bold enough to dream it and to pursue it, and don’t let anything take up space in your head and heart that doesn’t align with your belief in yourself.”
This profile was first published in the Winter 2021 print issue of Women’s Running as part of “Women Who Lead: Power Women of 2021” which celebrates 25 women who are reshaping the running industry for the better. You can see the full list of honorees here.