One of the coolest things about being an athlete is the camaraderie and relationships you develop with others that share your same motivation and goals. I first met Ryan and Emily earlier this year at a mountain bike race and have enjoyed getting to know them. Ryan had the look of a very fit endurance athlete and a cool confidence that suggested that he was going to be a fierce competitor out on the trail. I was right. Ryan won his first ever mountain bike race and has continued to be a force in the local Cat 3 XC scene. Emily was with him at many races to cheer him and everyone else on. We got to know each other by talking after races in the back of their SUV, usually while I told them stories of my crash(es) during the race. In April of this year, Emily and Ryan ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, and stayed together every step of the way. After that, I knew I had to let everyone know how cool this husband and wife team really are.
Ryan and Emily have been married for six years, both work for OU, and are both Oklahoma natives. Ryan was never an athlete growing up, but was a dedicated skateboarder. Emily would sometimes exercise with her Dad when she was younger, but never considered herself an athlete. When the Hulsebergs were first married, they lived near one of the river trails in Tulsa. Ryan remembers seeing people constantly running and cycling on the trail and thought that it was cool that there were so many people dedicated to fitness so close to their home. Still not a runner, Ryan then decided to volunteer at an aid station at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon because he was fascinated by the people that ran marathons and by the purpose of the race itself. The finishers at that race inspired Ryan to start training, and he began to set out on the Tulsa river trails in the evenings after work. When he first started running, Ryan was overweight and could hardly run at all. But, he kept at it and soon began to check different distances off of his list of goals. He soon completed his first ever half marathon in Oklahoma City. Ryan’s dedication to training for the half marathon inspired Emily, and she began training for a half marathon herself. Shortly after, they decided to train and race together.
Since they first laced up their shoes, Ryan and Emily have completed 3 half marathons, and 1 full marathon together. And by together, I mean that they stay with each other from start to finish and always cross the finish line hand in hand. They have a blast running with each other and love hearing their names announced as they cross the line together. In fact, Ryan and Emily do most of their training together, too. Emily loves how Ryan’s laid-back personality balances out her tendency to be a little too overzealous at times. Ryan recalled one instance during a race that perfectly demonstrates he and Emily’s dynamic while out on the course together. Deep in the pain cave in the middle of a half marathon, after running side by side for awhile and not talking to each other, Ryan noticed a billboard with a topless woman advertising a tattoo parlor. He got Emily’s attention and jokingly pointed it out to her. “Are you serious right now!?,” Emily shouted. A little further down the road, Emily started laughing at how silly Ryan was and at the humor of the situation. Emily loves how Ryan’s character can easily pull her out of a bad mental state during a race. They both push each other in training and racing, Emily always makes sure they stick to their training schedules, and they never let each other give up.
Emily and Ryan love the feeling of accomplishment they get after a hard training session or a race. But what they love even more is the people they meet while competing. It is difficult for me to adequately capture the passion that both Emily and Ryan spoke with during our interview. They love seeing regular people becoming athletes and becoming better individuals. They both love to encourage others and they both get inspired by seeing people accomplish their goals. Ryan is one of the best mountain bike racers in the state and is starting to rise up the road racing ranks as well. Even though he enjoys being competitive and winning races, he really does not care how he places. He simply wants to have fun and be around people that are just as passionate about training and racing as him. Emily feels the same way. Both of the Hulsebergs believe that being positive and doing what you can to help and inspire people is one of the most important things in life, and this is why they do what they do.
For those just starting the journey of being an endurance athlete, Ryan suggests that they volunteer at whatever event they are interested in competing in to be inspired by the example of those that are already where they one day want to be. “Anyone can be an athlete. We are just people like everyone else.”, he says. Ryan believes in the power of community and encourages everyone to find training and racing partners that can help push them along through the process. Emily’s advice to others is to set realistic goals and have patience in trying to achieve them. Emily also believes that it is important to listen to your body as you progress to know when you may be pushing too hard.
Emily and Ryan are a shining example of true love and kindness. They endure the grind for each other and for those around them. The endurance community is fortunate to have such wonderful people like them revering the benefits of being an athlete. I look forward to training and racing with them in the future!
Also, you be sure to check out Emily’s great blog post she wrote about her OKC Memorial Marathon experience at the link below!
Until next time…
Endure the Grind!