Professional runner, Rachel Schneider runs tens of thousands of miles to pursue her dreams on the track. Her journey has taken her from Maine to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to Flagstaff, Arizona, her current home. She knows what’s it’s like to push past barriers of time and distance. She taps into her passion and gratitude for running to get her past quitting so she can win. We sat down with the middle-distance runner to learn more about what drives her.
Q: How did you make the jump from All-American collegiate runner to professional?
Schneider: After college, life was kind of crazy. I was going to grad school and working three part-time jobs to support myself. A lot of people thought I should just focus on a traditional career, but running is something I felt called to do, and I was really excited to see how good I could be. So, I put everything into it. My coach, Mike, really believed in me, and that was all I needed.
Q: What’s it like living and training in Flagstaff?
Schneider: Flagstaff is a really special place. It’s one of the best running hubs in the world. You have people from all over the United States and so many other countries coming to train in Flagstaff, so I feel incredibly grateful to call it home. There are endless miles of running trails and dirt roads, and the running community is so supportive, encouraging and inspiring.
The running community is a truly beautiful and unique aspect of Flagstaff, but this place is so much more than that. It’s a hard thing for me to express in words, but Flagstaff is the first place in my life that’s really felt like home. It’s a place where I feel alive with my running and with who I am personally. It’s a place that encourages self-exploration, growth, and connection. Overall, it’s an incredible place to train and live.
Q: A lot of people don’t think of running as a team sport, but you’re very involved with the Flagstaff community and other partners like Under Armour. How do you view it?
Schneider: Running definitely has that independent element to it, where you’re out there training and racing, but it’s not as individual as people make it out to be. I think it’s an incredibly team-oriented sport and to really be your best takes a lot of outside support. Every time I’m out there, I always feel so much gratitude for my coach, my family, my friends, my sponsor and anyone else who’s helped me go for runs or just given me words of encouragement. I feel that every day during training. Plus, the support I’ve gotten from Under Armour is immensely impactful and a big reason I am where I am today.
Q: When you’re racing, how does it feel to be in the front of the pack?
Schneider: Being at the front of the pack when you feel good is a phenomenal feeling. You feel super strong and composed and excited, and you can taste it. It’s always fun to be in the hunt for that win coming down the homestretch.
Q: What about the opposite, when you’re in the back or maybe not having your best race?
Schneider: You know sometimes you’re going to have a rough race, and you’ll be in the back. I think the biggest thing when you’re in the back is really trying to stay as strong as you can. Just focus on yourself and not what other people up front are doing, and just try to pull the very best effort you can out of yourself that day. That can be really tough mentally. You just have to focus on being the best that you can be in that moment.
Q: How do you get hyped up to run, especially on days where you just don’t feel like doing it?
Schneider: The biggest thing I try to remember is gratitude. Even when I’m not feeling well, this is such a privilege to be able to pursue what I love. When it hurts or when I’m not in the best mental space, I still get to live the joy and love and passion that comes from pursuing a passion, even if I don’t experience it on that day. When I put things in perspective, and think about what a gift it is to do what I love, with people that I love, and in a place that I love, it’s really easy to be filled with gratitude and give my best effort that day.
Q: You recently accomplished a PR in the mile. What’s that feeling like?
Schneider: Yeah, that was at a Boston indoor meet last year. Breaking a PR is such an awesome feeling because in a way it validates all the work you’ve been doing. It’s always exciting to improve and get a little bit faster and, almost immediately, you start thinking about the next thing you can do.
Q: So, what is next for you?
Schneider: I’m really excited about the upcoming years. I want to keep getting faster and competing at the highest level possible. I’ve laid out some big goals for the next year and the year after that, and I’m stoked to go all-in with those. I have some time goals, some PRs I want to hit, and I would love to make some world teams and the Olympic team.
Q: Beyond the PRs and the recognition it brings, what has running meant to you on a personal level?
Schneider: There are so many reasons I love running. But, fundamentally, it comes down to the feeling it gives me. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything else in life that really makes me feel so deeply. Running can both clear my mind and be the tool that stimulates some of my deepest reflections and thoughts. It has been the biggest means of self-exploration and has also connected me to so many incredible people and taken me to so many incredible places. I feel endless gratitude for the role running has played in my life, and hopefully I can eventually pay that forward and help other people live more authentically, fully, and grow their passions – whether for running or something else.
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