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How Sydney Zester Puts Poetry In Motion

Sydney Zester started running almost a decade ago, scribbling down small notes as she ran.

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she wasn’t looking

for a place or a face

home was always in her

whenever her legs

were turning over

Sydney Zester started running almost a decade ago, scribbling down small notes as she ran. Those scribblings metamorphosed into poems, which Zester started publishing on Instagram under the handle @runwildandbepoetry.

She says she gets most of her poetic inspiration from her runs.

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“Most of the time, something catches my attention—whether it’s a smell, the temperature, how my body feels, an experience I had that day,” says Zester. “A lot of time it’s simply one word.”

the run imitates life

commit to it and know

discomfort is telling the

body it’s time to grow

Zester’s backyard is the Blue Ridge Mountains near Boone, North Carolina. Her poetry often references her love of the mountains, as well as deeply personal reflections on training, relationships and body image. It’s Rupi Kaur for endurance runners.

She keeps a notebook by her front door for cardio-inspired Eureka moments. If her muse strikes mid-run, she’ll send
a couple of lines via text to
her husband.

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“Without realizing it, I spend my run piecing together a thought centered on this one small word or theme,” says Zester.

In late 2018, Zester, 25, was running and writing more frequently. She says it wasn’t a conscious decision, but her work started to take the shape of a poetry collection that she would later self publish as a book, Run Wild and Be, in 2019.

Her book undermines the dominant narrative of trail running by portraying the sport not as a masculine pursuit of domination, but a sensitive, collaborative experience with women at its center.

screen door slams

& the porch creeks

under her feet

her watch beeps

so she starts to go

gravel crunch crunches

locust rip roar

& soar quads rumple

from her workout

the day before

“My work rarely focuses on the intense, go-hard-until-you-hallucinate, constant-pursuit-of-PR’s side of the sport,” says Zester. “I just think how lucky we are that running up big hills brings us to a sacred space inside ourselves.”

When she’s not writing, you can find Zester exploring the Pisgah National Forest, reading Mary Oliver’s poetry and baking.

Zoë Rom is Assistant Editor at  Trail Runner. When she’s not writing she’s running, and when she’s not running she’s reading.