Sadi Henderson is a middle distance track athlete that currently lives and trains in scenic Bend, Oregon with professional running team Littlewing. Sadi is sponsored by Oiselle. She has been running since middle school and has been involved in sports her whole life. Growing up with three older siblings and a single mother for the early part of her life, sports was a form of child-care and imbedded in her family structure. After watching her oldest sister go to college on a track scholarship, Sadi realized she would like the same opportunity. In college, she found a deep appreciation for the sport that would set her up to continue running at the elite level post collegiately.
How does it feel for running and racing to finally be heading in the direction of normalcy?
I feel really hopeful and excited for the upcoming season! I am just taking it as it comes at this point in time.
What was one of the things you missed during this time of Covid restrictions?
The biggest thing I’ve missed was the freedom for physical touch. I miss the only thing preventing me from hugging people excessively is personal boundaries and not the concern for their life.
What was one of the biggest training hurdles during this period and how did you deal with it?
I’m in a big growth and development phase of my journey so the training hurdles are constant! I think one of my biggest challenges has been developing as an autonomous athlete, a normal challenge for anyone right out of college. It brought about several decision points where I had to dig deep and decide what’s going to be best for me as an athlete and person. I was used to my college coach making those decisions for me and usually being right. I’m currently amidst this challenge but an example of this came early on in the pandemic when everything was up in the air and I had to decide how I wanted to use this year. I chose to lean heavily on the health aspects of running, like doing my runs in scenic places, to provide a buffer against the daily stressors of the pandemic.
What are your goals for the the rest of 2021?
Stay healthy and be engaged as the process of this year unfolds. This could be a great year for me to get a sense of what summer racing as a pro is all about. Add the intensity of it being an Olympic season and the unpredictability of what a season on this end of the pandemic looks like and I’m left with plenty of opportunity to grow and position myself closer to realizing my athletic potential.
As someone who's battled mental health in the past, how important is it to you?
Mental health is a top priority for me. Our sport is ripe with opportunity for positive mental health outcomes and I see that aspect constantly overlooked.
What do you do as an advocate for mental health?
My advocacy for mental health is developing as I go. I have positioned myself to use my platform with running to encourage the progress of mental health. I am also in the process of building a youth mental health program focused on helping young athletes extract the mental health benefits of running. Right out of college I worked at a start-up-like mental health clinic and was able to peak inside the industry. I saw the levels of barriers that prevent people from accessing the care they need. The issue is complicated but in short, I believe that mental health care has been neglected by our society and that the mental health care system at large is ill-equipped to handle the demand for the mental health needs of our communities. With so many things preventing people from accessing the care they need, I want to be one thing pushing people towards realizing the importance of mental health and moving towards a solution. I think that sport and specifically running has powerful mental health benefits and is one way to improve the issue.
Do you think sports benefit those struggling with mental health in any way?
This is a big question that I can answer in so many ways. The bottom line is that I believe sport has incredible mental health benefits when you focus on that end. Sport captures an array of our innate human needs and provides opportunities to have those needs met.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
I am going to tweak this question a bit because the first thing that came to my mind was a time I ran into a herd of moose and again a herd of elk. So the coolest thing that has ever happened to me while running happened in the summer while I was driving from Boise to Montana and stopped in the wilderness near Stanley, Idaho to run. The first time I did this run I started on a nice dirt road and then ended up taking a more secluded four-wheeler track that cut directly towards the mountains and ran straight into the woods. I didn’t go too far that I would get myself into trouble but went far enough to see what was up. The first time I did this run I came up on a herd of thirteen or so moose. They had no idea I was there so they were acting normal. I saw two babies on their hind legs pushing against one another, playing I assume. After this experience I went back a few weeks later and in the exact same spot, which is on top of a hill that overlooks a gully on one side and the mountains on the other side, I saw a herd of hundreds of elk at the bottom of the gully. Something had spooked them and they were charging into the trees, the opposite direction of me. I had my phone with me this time so I got a video! You can hear the thunder of hooves stomping, some bugling (a high-pitched sound they make), and their horns cracking against the trees as they ran. To top it off this was during wildflower season and the display of wildflowers was remarkable.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
What's your biggest fear?
Spiders. My fear of them is extreme.
What's it like to be a part of the amazing Oiselle team?
I am so proud to be a part of the Oiselle team. Oiselle was early to recognize the gender inequity in sport and has positioned themselves to improve the conditions of sport for women. In this pursuit they’ve aligned themselves to push for equality and inclusivity in sport across all lines, gender, race, ability, ect. The company understands the power of running and what it can do for people and the world. They may be small players in the world of Track and Field against a powerhouse company like Nike, but that’s what makes Oiselle so great. They’re here because they believe in the power of running to close the gap between the world as it and the world we believe in. They’re fighting the good fight.
Who would you say is the funniest teammate?
Hmm. I heard a rumor that Carrie Mack might be performing a stand up comedy skit for Littlewing in the coming weeks. She might rise as the Littlewing funny bone. I don’t currently have an answer.
Do you like ice baths?
I do! I’ve had several discussions over the efficacy of them and still don’t know where I fall with that but I decided I’d become a fly fisher while ice bathing in a river and I have built some fun memories with teammates in the ice bath so for those reasons I appreciate them.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I am a beginner fly fisher! I love the outdoors and I like building things.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
I would urge any new runner to pay particular attention to how they feel after their run. The rewards are apparent here and will likely have you coming back for more. I also like to tell people to take it easy. Something about being out on a run triggers serious internal pressure to be a hero. All the power is in showing up and is not well spent on showing off.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
I am still figuring out who I am as a runner. I think my biggest strength is my joy for the sport and my biggest weakness is my lack of maturity in the sport. I have a lot to learn still and hurdles to overcome to achieve my potential but I have a strong appreciation for running and believe that will sustain me beyond elite track and field.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
My coach Lauren Fleshman. She has brought soul to the sport and continues to carve a path for others to do the same.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
Amy Pfaff!! She was my college teammate at Boise State and the most ideal training partner. We built a strong training bond. She brought sharp attention to detail and structure and I brought spontaneity and joy, those two things together made things really fun and really effective.
What's next for Sadi Henderson?
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Published May 7, 2021