During a recent half marathon in Chicago, the streets were filled with the usual sweat and exertion. But if you looked closely at the crowd, you could also see a bright array of flowers—gerbera daisies—in the hair of some of the runners. They belonged to a group called Fellow Flowers, a running movement that celebrates women and the reasons they run. With brightly colored floral accents, they looked particularly stylish while sweating.
Fellow Flowers started in 2011, when Tori Sager sent an email to her friends, sharing her birthday wish: Join me in a half-marathon through Green Bay, Wisconsin. Thirteen agreed, and as they began training, they found that they weren’t just becoming stronger physically. As they got to know one another, banding together to accomplish this feat, they developed a deep friendship, revealing stories, reflections, motivations and more. Before the race, a friend presented the 14 women with orange gerbera daisies to clip into their hair, so they’d be able to identify one another more easily when running. Those flowers became a symbol, and when the race ended, the women kept running, always with those flowers. “It’s part of me, and part of why I run, and there’s something so much bigger to why I put it in my hair,” says Maryellen Charbonneau, who joined Sager in the event.
The bonding experience was so powerful and inspiring that Sager and Charbonneau watched it take on a life of its own. Family members, fellow runners, and friends of friends began asking about the flowers, and joining in. The daisies had become a statement, and, together, the two women discovered that they were onto something. What started as a bright afterthought became a symbol of friendship, motivation and purpose.
As more women joined in their group, Sager and Charbonneau decided to turn the movement into a business, selling flowers and running apparel while growing their network of runners. Today, they’ve shipped more than 6,000 flowers and have a following of more than 4,000 on Facebook.
While both women say that they wear the flower for reasons that go beyond aesthetics, they also admit they like the sense of style and the compliments that the petal power brings. With that in mind, we asked them for their top tips on how to look good while breaking a sweat.
D.C. I know there are divided camps when it comes to the notion of looking good and taking yourself seriously as an athlete. But clearly there’s room for both. What are some tips?
Fellow Flowers: The first thing that I would say is who doesn’t look cute with a flower in their hair? It’s a representation of beauty on the outside but really looking to the inner beauty as well. I know it sounds cliché to say, but nothing looks cuter than a woman running with confidence. It’s less about the designer duds, and the tanks and the shorts, it doesn’t matter what a woman’s going to put on if she’s out there, she’s enjoying that run, she’s got her head held high and she’s running with purpose. That’s not cute, that’s beautiful. Crossing the finish line, hands in the air, smile on your face—you just did it. For us, that’s how you look cute. Own it, be proud of yourself. The accessory a woman has that’s cute isn’t her iPod or her wristband, it’s her smile. It’s her swagger.
D.C. Where should women begin when it comes to running gear?
F.F. We tell women that this is an investment in you. And if you want to go out and you want to purchase something that is going to make you get that confidence in going out for a run, if you’re going to make a splurge that’s a good way to do it. You’re investing in yourselves and yes, you should have a great pair of shoes. For running shoes you’ve got to go somewhere where they can look at your feet, look at your old pair of shoes, how you’re wearing them, looks at the tread on your old shoes and have somebody do that assessment on what type of shoes you need. Shoes are No. 1. It’s not a true running store unless they’re willing to let you hit a couple of street blocks in those shoes. I think a lot of women, when they’re starting out, might go to an outlet or department store that doesn’t specialize in that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you can’t take those shoes and go running, if you can’t hop on a treadmill and go running, you’re buying blind. A real store is going to have a place for you to run.
D.C. Are there any clothing colors that are pet peeves for you?
F.F. The only color we don’t like to wear is white. Maybe some people wear white because they don’t think it’s as hot, but we don’t ever wear white. White and dry wicking is just not flattering, really, at all. We have curves, we’ve had kids. To have something that’s going to show all that while you’re running, you don’t want to be self-conscious while you’re running. With those lines and those fits, sometimes darker colors can help.
D.C. Looking good means taking care of yourself as you prepare for a race. Any tips?
F.F. If you’re going to look good while you’re running you’ve got to be strong and feel good. You have to just take care of yourself. “Should I drink a glass of water before bed or should I have a second glass of wine?” It’s preparation. It’s making sure you’re hydrated, it’s making sure you get up in time to get something into your body to fuel yourself. Our bodies are like cars. If you don’t have the proper fuel you are going to bonk. You are going to not feel great. Feeling good definitely helps you look good while you’re out there. You can definitely tell when people are struggling.
The more miles you’re adding on the smarter you have to be and the more you have to forego cuteness. Get a hydration belt for a long run and figure out how you’re going to fuel with Shot Bloks or Clif Shots or planting your water somewhere along the route. All of that comes into play when you increase your mileage. At the end of the day, the simplest answer to this question of “how to look cute” is you can always put a flower in your hair. And that flower will stay with you when you look cute, you don’t feel cute, at the start of the race, at the finish of a race. That flower will stay with you.