The Making of a Runner

by Rachel Schneider
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The Making of a Runner

As the curtain closed on 2016, I returned to the East Coast from my new home in Flagstaff, Arizona, and found myself running a familiar 14-mile loop in a place I had called “home” for the past seven years. Born and raised in Maine, I moved to Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2009 to attend Georgetown University, where I ultimately received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees while also focusing on becoming the best runner I could be.

After graduation, as most of my friends left D.C. and began putting their college education to use by pursuing careers, I knew I wasn’t ready to be done with running. So as they took office jobs, I continued to dedicate the majority of my energy to running. I wanted to see where I could take it — or more accurately, where it could take me.

At that point, I made what many considered a very risky, nonsensical decision to postpone the “real world.” My college coach believed in me and told me he’d be there with me through thick and thin. It turns out, that was all the support I needed to go all-in with running. I started working three part-time jobs that were conducive to high-intensity training — combined they were almost enough to pay the bills even if they didn’t employ my diploma or advance me on a real world path. I took out a small loan to cover the rest, and my coach and I worked day-in and day-out to take running to the next level.

ON RACING PRO

That first year running post-collegiately, I had some major accomplishments:

  • Finished third in the mile at the USA Indoor National Championships
  • Took fifth place in the 1500m at the USA Outdoor National Championships (missing making the world championship team by 0.01 seconds),
  • Lowered my personal best times in multiple events
  • Competed around the world
  • Got sponsored by the best team — Under Armour

We were moving in the right direction and every day was exhilarating.

That fall, I decided to head out to Flagstaff for an altitude-training camp. Little did I know this beautiful mountain town would become so much more than just a place to train.

After spending the fall of 2015 in Flagstaff, and returning to D.C. the following spring, I felt lost for the first time in my life. My body was in D.C., but my heart stayed in Flagstaff. I was split. I began to feel a lack of inspiration in my direct surroundings. I yearned for the mountain town with endless miles of dirt roads and running trails, a community that fostered and thrived on outdoor activities and a place that attracted elite runners from all over the world, where I had countless amazing people to train with and learn from.

FINDING A NEW HOME

As fate would have it, a few months later my coach called me and told me he had accepted the director and head coach position at Northern Arizona University and would be moving to Flagstaff. This meant I would be able to live in Flagstaff full time. I made the move last October and immediately felt a sense of rejuvenation and peace.

After a few months in the mountains, I returned to the East Coast for the holidays and ran that familiar 14-mile loop in D.C., reflecting on the 14,000 miles I had run in the city over the last seven years. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the journey that running has launched me on — and gratitude that as this year was coming to a close and a chapter of living in D.C. ended, I now have a new home.

Now you know my journey (so far). My best advice: Keep listening to your gut. Where has running taken you in your life? I look forward to reading your comments below.


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