A Heart As Big As Texas | Sophie Schott

A Heart As Big As Texas | Sophie Schott

A Heart As Big As Texas | Sophie Schott by Dan Fitzgerald

Sophie Schott is a Heartbreaker, graduate student, poet, and illustrator living in Houston, TX. She grew up in the Lone Star state and yet, she was drawn to the Heartbreaker team from afar and loves the community she feels. After connecting on one of our weekly Coach LIVE Q&A sessions, I asked here if she'd like to share some of her story. Here it is:

DF: How did you get into running the marathon?

SS: While I’d been a runner much of my life and competed as a cross country and track athlete in high school, I didn’t run my first marathon until 2019. I decided to race the distance in memory of my friend Austin, who passed away the summer before my freshman year of college. He was a runner too, and many of our conversations in high school were about our hopes to run longer distances later in life. No matter where or what distance I’m running now, it’s always as a part of #TeamSilva in memory of him and in support of his sweet family!

DF: How many have you run?

SS: 3.9—After running my first marathon in Austin, TX in memory of my friend, I was hooked. I ran the Austin Marathon again in 2020 with a group of friends and then decided to get more serious about the sport.

I ran the Houston Marathon this last training cycle with the goal of qualifying for Boston, but then passed out cold at mile 25 due to a bout of hyponatremia (hence the 3.9 marathons). A race medic pulled me from the course and drove me to the finish line, where I got an IV in my arm instead of a medal around my neck. It was a massive disappointment, especially because of the meaning I’d assigned to the race.

I decided to train for the Houston Marathon while applying to medical school. Months had passed without me getting a single interview, and it was starting to look like I would need to reapply. Running not only brought me solace, but also reassured my ego. Maybe I wouldn’t get into medical school this year, but I was capable of another impressive feat: qualifying for Boston. As I waited for an acceptance letter that never arrived, I trained like I had something to prove.

So, when I failed to run the qualifying standard and couldn’t even finish the marathon at Houston, I felt pretty devastated. I decided to race the Woodlands Marathon a month later in hopes of redeeming myself, then ended up partially tearing my Achilles tendon at around mile 20 and hobbling through the last six miles. It was pretty rough.

DF: What have you learned about yourself over the course of racing the marathon? I know you've had some bumps yet here you are.

SS: As funny as this may sound, I’ve been learning a lot about love. After racing at Houston and the Woodlands this year, I told my boyfriend Race (yes, that really is his name, and, yes, his parents are runners) about how inadequate I felt after failing to run the Boston qualifying standard and getting rejected from medical school. When I expressed these insecurities, I expected to only feel further shame. But instead of dismissing my emotions or discounting my anxieties, Race simply asked: “When’s the next marathon? Can I run it with you?”

As I lace up my shoes with Race to train for our next marathon, I think of how powerful questions such as these can be–offering to partner with someone else as they chase an ambition, sharing in their private triumphs and pain–and how such questions have shaped our relationship.

Running and relationships make you vulnerable––to the elements, to losses, to heartbreak––but this vulnerability is what allows us experience love and openness to life, to share our hopes and uncertainties, then take them on as a team.

At the end of the day, I think that’s what keeps drawing me back in to marathoning: how it makes us vulnerable. After all, success is not a prerequisite for meaningful relationships, but vulnerability is. Failure doesn't make the journey any less meaningful. I’ve learned that in running and in romance, pain of this sort is not necessarily a threat. It can be the threshold of intimacy, an invitation to admit our shared humanity and recognize that most races are best run together. To me, there’s something really powerful about chasing dreams as a team, and being there with each other for all the love and heartbreak that comes along the way.

DF: As Texas resident born and raised there, what drew you to the Heartbreakers?

SS: Some of the same themes in the story I just told…the idea that running happens in the space between love and heartbreak, and that to know one you must risk the other. I found out about the Heartbreakers while applying to some grad schools in Boston, and thought I’d join if I ended up moving for school because the team philosophy really resonated with me. But as I learned more about it, I couldn’t resist joining the long-distance (pun intended) team even though I decided to go to grad school in Houston!

DF: What's on your race schedule next?

SS: I’m running the Lake Erie Marathon in September and New York in November…if you’re racing either one, come say hi!

DF: What's your favorite thing about Texas?

SS: Austin! It’s the perfect mix of funky and old school, not to mention some top notch running trails and eateries!

DF: BBQ - yes or no?
SS: Yes—especially if it’s from Loro. If you’re ever in Texas, you absolutely must stop by this dank BBQ/Asian Fusion restaurant!

DF: Have you ever been to Ego’s?

SS: Yep, and I’m pretty sure everyone else who was there that night is still trying to forget my ratchet rendition of “Singing in the Shower” by Becky G.