Once upon a time, I ran cross country. For three years, I, Rachell, ran on the high school cross country team. I even lettered in cross country. I have a Lettermen’s Jacket. Oh yeah. Now, before you get too many visions of an incredibly toned and athletic Rachell bounding up mountains — let me paint you the actual picture…
I joined Cross Country (XC) the summer before my sophomore year of high school when my family moved from Denver, Colorado to Santa Barbara, California. Now, in my previous years, I had taken great pride in the fact that I could expertly “cut corners” and skip laps in P.E. without being caught. I masterfully — for YEARS — manipulated my way out of running. Then, I moved to SB and knew that I needed as many friends as possible, as quickly as possible, so I signed up for XC.
My first day of practice, I couldn’t even run the warm up.
Over the course of three years, my 3-mile race time when from 35 min to 24 min. I went from a 12min mile to a “sub eight” (so it was 7:58, but it totally counts). My senior year I was given my Letter and awarded “most inspirational” by my coaches.
To date I label three things as the “most important/transformative decisions of my life” 1) My faith 2) Joining Cross Country 3) Going to APU
Cross Country taught me about the power of endurance. Pushing past what you thought was your breaking point and living to tell the tale truly does something to your psyche. XC provided me with a team of sixty people who would say “hi” to me in the hallway at my new school (and XC started practice a month before classes started so I already had friends on the first day). It gave me coaches who looked out for me, a team that challenged me, and a new passion in life — running. For three years, I ran three to eight miles a day (not including the intensive hill and soft-sand workouts).
Fast forward ten years… I stopped running my freshman year of college because I “didn’t have time,” but the truth was I didn’t have a team. Without the structure and support (and an unlimited supply of free Moleskin for blisters) I lost my motivation. So, due to my lack of intensive exercise, I gained 10-20 pounds a year from 18 to 28. I was never a thin person, even when I ran XC. My dream back then was to be thin enough to run in just a sports bra, but all I could ever boast was a great pair of toned legs as I wore two bras and a tank top under my jersey to keep from “bouncing.” I have never been thin, but the lack of exercise without a shift in eating habits created a serious problem.
Now I am facing my first race in ten years, and I — one to never jump into things lightly — signed up for a half-marathon and not the sensible 5/10K. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of people I never expected and to whom I am so grateful, I am running the Disney Half-Marathon (which has been a dream of mine for years) in 5 days, 18 hours.
“Running” might be stretching it however.
After I signed up for the marathon in June, I started training, thinking seven months was plenty of time to train for a 13.5mi race. But my first week of training, I developed a severe case of Plantar Fasciitis, which rendered me injured and unable to train. I tried everything to heal it. I stayed off of it. I kept on it. I iced, heated, rubbed, changed shoes, got special booties, etc… but nothing worked. I have been battling it for months and now — the race is next week. I am unprepared. I am terrified. I am non-refundable.
Luckily, I had excellent coaches and teammates in high school, and from my years in XC I know just what to do… I’m going to do what I can and hold my head high whatever happens.
The best lesson I ever learned in XC was a very old one taught to me by my first XC friend, E. E started XC two weeks after me and was the only person on the team slower than I was, so she became my running buddy — cheering on our teammates as they lapped us. E kept me going. Every race E would chant to herself the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. She would talk about how she was okay being last because it would allow other people to feel better about themselves. She said as long as she finished, she felt accomplished. E was an extraordinary person and I think God’s personal gift to me. For three years, she ran on the team and improved her race time by more than twenty minutes. She made the varsity team her senior year, and never stopped inspiring me. She was the ultimate and most victorious Tortoise I’ve ever seen. She taught me that the Tortoise did not win because of his pace — yes “slow and steady wins the race,” but because you can’t win something that you quit. It’s not about the pace, it’s about the perseverance.
So, on January 15th, at 5:30 in the morning, I will be running my heart out whether I run 3 miles or 13.5. I sincerely believe that I will fail. It is highly likely that I will make it to five miles and have to be taken away by golf cart because Disney requires a 16min mile pace to stay in the race and my average pace is 18min. But whatever happens, I am going to show up. I am going to run the Disneyland Star Wars Half-Marathon and full-fill a life-long dream and rekindle an old passion.
But, seriously though, look at this course… [insert Darth Vader Theme here]