Why We Run Wednesday: Rachel

I didn’t come to running the way you would expect.  I grew up in a very rural part of Vermont, and to burn off my excess energy my mom put me on Nordic skis pretty much as soon as I could walk.  I never ran track or cross country.  In high school I watched my only friend on the cross country team throw up after every practice, and I could not imagine why anyone would want to run three miles all at once.  I liked team sports, but became too outsized to continue playing on the varsity field hockey team when my collarbone was badly broken during a game.  Without high school sports, I dumped my energy into snowboarding and spent every free minute at ski areas and reading snowboard magazines.   

Years later, in 2008, the economy had just crashed.  I was halfway through law school in Portland, Oregon.  All anyone had to say about our future prospects was that the jobs had dried up, and our law degrees would not be worth the paper they were printed on—never mind the massive student loan bills that were coming our way.  I was suffering from severe anxiety and a bad case of buyer’s remorse.  Desperate for something to hold on to, I walked into a Nike outlet and bought a $30 pair of pink running shoes.  

On a break between classes, I laced up and went out to the state park behind my school.  I just started running.  I was clueless about how to train or pace myself, didn’t know there was a difference between road running and trail running, I just knew in that moment I needed to run.  Running gave me something definite.  Everything else felt futile, but running made me feel sure, sure that I had accomplished something each day, sure that I was strong and capable.  In those first few months, I figured out I could run three miles, and then four, that I could keep going further.  So I tried out a few 5k races around Portland and discovered that I was “ok fast.”  As the years went on I continued to explore as many facets of running as I could, trail running, half marathons, marathons, 200-mile relays, I wanted to experience all of it.

People ask me about my growth as a runner, how I built up my speed and mileage.  And the truth is it came pretty naturally to me.  The fire in my belly was always there—I just needed something to burn.  But I also tell people that it came at a cost.  I had to make every possible mistake along the way: overtraining, injury, wrong shoes, wrong socks, bad running routes, failing to cross train or strength train, eating the wrong things, running at the wrong times, not taking rest days, aligning myself with training plans that didn’t suit me.  I eventually found myself in a seemingly endless cycle of plateau and injury.  As much as I loved running, it had also become a huge source of frustration until I found Cascade Run Club. 

At the first info session the coaches described training methods that were a revelation.  It was definitely a leap of faith to drop my old habits and start over.   At this point though, I couldn’t be any more of a true believer in this club.  Since I started training with CRC in the beginning of 2016, I have PR’d at every distance from the mile to the marathon. 

The best training plans follow the runner.  The best training methods are self-empowering.  The result of my training with CRC is that I truly learned to listen to my body.  But becoming a better runner was just part of what CRC brought to my life.

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I made every mistake in the early years of my training largely because I spent far too long training alone.  I viewed running as something solitary.  Bringing runners together, however, isn’t just about having people to talk to on a long run (but that part is nice too!).  Running is a sport of infinite knowledge and development.  There is so much to learn when keeping company with more experienced runners.  And being around less experienced runners is a chance to share your mistakes and help lift up those around you.  That’s what I love about this club.  Everyone is truly on your team, ready to cheer you to your next PR (and share a beer afterwards).

Running has fundamentally changed the way I look at the world.  I handle adversity differently—a seemingly impossible task is now just a series of smaller, possible tasks.  Success is a question of planning and tenacity, not luck.  But we don’t have to face all of these challenges alone.  No matter how tough things get, there are people around you who love you, who believe in you, and who want to help.  We are runners.  We are strong, but we are stronger together.