Stacy Chestnutt, Race Director for the Sole Sisters race series, has completed 60 marathons, 5 ultra-marathonsand 8 Ironman competitions.
She is a machine.
Stacy has always been a runner, but she didn’t always want to be a Race Director. In fact, her debut in race direction was simply meant to be a fundraising vehicle for her passion project, Girls Gone Gazelle, an organization that focuses on building self-confidence for girls through exercise and community during a very crucial point in their development.
That first Sole Sisters race, the one that was intended to be a one-time initiative to raise much needed funds, took on a life of its own. With its perfectly positioned focus, catchy name and inclusive approach, the event was not only a massively success, it was the birth of a community of women working toward a common goal; building confidence through communal movement and physical activity.
Since then, the Sole Sisters brand has developed into a household name in Halifax and surrounding maritime towns. Each year, the series of race events consistently draws more than 3000 women from across the country and beyond.
The brand is a natural evolution from its Gazelle-based roots. Both programs aim to create an inclusive environment that promotes the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the mental health benefits of physical activity and community for girls and women.
The main event is untimed, eliminating the pressure and intimidation that can sometimes deter less experienced runners or walkers. When you add in chocolate stops, fire fighters, hugs and the best damn swag in the industry, it is the perfect recipe for an event that has evolved into a strong and powerful brand.
For Stacy, however, the business aspect is not where she is most focused. “There are better businesses, but they’re not about the people. Sole Sisters is about the people.” She says as we have coffee in a crowded café. Her passion is palpable, you can feel it in the air as she sits across the table regaling stories from the past seven years of race events.
As the race grew in popularity, so did Stacy’s dedication to the experience she was providing, paying meticulous detail to race attributes to ensure the event was accessible to all women, regardless of physical fitness level or lifestyle. She began organizing socials across Nova Scotia to bring women together in the months leading up to the event. Creating an experience that women couldn’t wait to be a part of, joining in droves, as teams, as families.
At the heart of it all, however, is the one-of-a-kind Sole Sisters race kit. Each year, the kits feature a signature purple tutu, (of which a new design debuts each year), the most blinged-up metals in the country (maybe the world?) and running shirts and gear that actually fit AND you’ll want to wear again. Each vendor partner is researched extensively to ensure that they fit the race series brand and mandate, that is, improving the lives of women and girls.
This brand story is woven with tales of success and personal growth, however, one that sticks out in Stacy’s mind, and still brings her to tears when retelling, is the tale of two sisters that she coached as Gazelles who had graduated to become Sole Sisters Ambassadors. She remembers a day when they were attending one of the social events leading up to the event and they were brimming with excitement as they had finally convinced their mother to join them. Their mother, whom had previously felt that attending a race event was out of her realm of ability, was inspired by seeing others participating and seeing this and the excitement and confidence that her daughters had gained gave her the courage to participate herself. These type of full circle experiences happen every year at the Sole Sisters events and it is powerful.
The event continues to grow, year over year. This growth is largely attributed to word of mouth exposure, a true indicator of the level of establishment and strength the brand holds. Additionally, successful social campaigns like #betheinspiration, #runHER and #TutuPower have shown success by disarming the common fears associated with participating in a race of this nature and making it an experience that is available for every woman.
As the success of the Sole Sisters brand grows, so does the amount of time and effort to continuously offer an empowering and rewarding experience for its participants. Stacy doesn’t mind though. As we wrap up our chat, she casually throws out “If there is something that you can love, it’s ok to work all the time. You have to have authentic passion to be successful.”
Girl, is she right.