Because my “Why” is Greater Than my “Why Not”

“My coach once told me that running Cross Country is like peeing yourself in a dark suit. It gives you a warm feeling all over, but nobody notices.”

-The first line to my common app essay that got me into THE Ohio State University.

I should probably follow this statement up by clarifying that I did not spend the rest of my application discussing bodily excretions. Instead, I wrote about my Why. My ability to find reason and purpose behind working hard with high integrity, even when nobody notices. My ability to love what I’m passionate about, even if what I’m passionate about is outside of the realm of normalcy. My ability to slip my shoes on every morning and work my tail off without taking the easy route.

My ability to make my Why greater than my Why Not.

Fast-forward four years to last fall– the B1G Cross Country Course was at Roy Griak, in Minnesota. At Griak, the incredible beauty of the course is equally matched by it’s tenacious difficulty. Immediately before the 3000 meter mark, athletes come around a turn and are faced with a hill that runs alongside a bike path. The night before B1G’s, my College Coach told us that on this hill, in order to keep focus, we had to remember our Why. She didn’t care what our why was, it just needed to be greater than our why not. 

In a sport where people commonly ask if, “Cross Country involves snow skis,” and question, “How many laps are in an 800,” my Why has nothing to do with the attention I gain from excelling. With the exception of the small portion of the population that actually follows distance running (most of the time, these people are runners themselves), nobody notices. Much like that warm feeling all over that my high school coach talked about, My Why has everything to do with the way running makes me feel, and nothing to do with people noticing.

Recently, a former college teammate (S/O to Christine Fredrick) asked me to write a piece on my Why. She is putting together a website and asking people to use their platforms as distance runners to share their why. Her goal is to inspire, give hope, and encourage.

I run

because I am convinced that the joy that Jesus gives me through racing is the closest feeling to invincible that exists this side of heaven.  That feeling of crossing the line, looking up at the clock and thinking, %$#@- I just did that! That moment of powering down the final 80 meters and feeling completely and totally untouchable. That fleeting second when a chance that is taken results in a dream becoming a reality.

I run

because I am constantly inspired by the work ethic, positive energy, and grit of those surrounding me. Whether talking to high school teammates, college teammates, or competitors– their passion for the sport, competitive spirit, and resounding encouragement  is contagious.

I run

because I crave the feeling of the boards beneath my feet on the turns of a 200 meter banked track. To hear the snap of the shank plate of my spike as it pops off the mondo in Lane One is music to my ears. I love surging through the curves with power, gaining energy returned from that track as I let gravity do it’s work.

I run

because that feeling of triumph after winning my first 100 yard dash Jingle Bell Kids Fun Run when I was in Kindergarten is the same feeling I still get to this day after races. It’s that same feeling I’ll have when I’m 25, when I’m 35, and when I’m 50. That feeling is universal.

I run

because I like proving people right. I am thankful to have an incredible support team from my family, to coaches, to medical, to the community at large. I want to show them how thankful I am for their belief in me and my dreams by proving them right when I am out there racing.

I run

because the voices in my head whispering, “What if this doesn’t work out?” are silenced by the counter, “But what if it does?” I never want to look back and wonder what would have happened if I took one more chance, one more risk, one more wager.

I run

because I live for the days when my head tells me that there’s no way I can make it another 400 meter rep up the hill, but my heart convinces me otherwise. My body is capable of so much more than my mind gives it credit for, and I want to test and push my limits every single time I lace up my shoes.

I run

because even on the hard days, I remind myself of the moments of victory. The moments that have given me a chance to continue to chase a dream. The moments that make every single low point worth every single sacrifice that I choose to make for this sport.

I run

because I know that the dreams that God has put on my heart through running are impossible without my unwavering faith in Him. I have hope in the future and the gospel of Jesus. Jesus gives us the courage to get back up time and time again after we fall flat on our faces, and He delights in our resiliency. I believe that God opens doors, but sometimes it takes years and years of us continuing to kick and fight while trusting that the door will eventually fall before he finally lets it open.

I run

because my Why is greater than my Why Not. Because when I’m trudging up that hill right before 3000 meters at the Griak Course, I am able to look pain square in the eyes and say, “its all worth it because maybe, just maybe, this will be my breakthrough day.” Because when I’m standing on the starting line, nervous in anticipation, I remind myself that Jesus casts out all fear, and He has given me another chance to do what I love. Because it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice to go to bed at 10:00 and wake up at 6:00 when other 20-some year old’s are out living it up on High Street. Because it is an honor and privilege every single time I put one foot in front of the other and am able to push myself further than I ever thought possible.

I do not run so that people notice, I run for the warm feeling all over. And that is the Why  that keeps me going, that overpowers every Why Not that I could possibly ever think of.

I run because my Why is greater.

Rachel 

PS- If anyone is interested in sharing their Why, go to Christine’s website and reach out to her here!

hope.PNG

Hebrews 6:19

What Would You Attempt to do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

My Junior year of high school, inspired by Pinterest, I took an orange piece of chalk and scripted a short message in large letters onto the right wall of my closet.

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

– Robert H. Schuller

Seriously– what would you attempt?

Climb Mount Everest? Learn how to fly airplanes? How about space shuttles? Finally start training for that marathon, triathlon, iron-man? Tackle that home improvement project that’s needed completed for years?

Throughout my junior and senior year, I stared at that orange quote every single time I opened my closet door (which was actually a lot since most of the time my closet was so messy the door wouldn’t shut, so I just left it open). Convicted by the quote I found on Pinterest that was now etched into my closet wall, I decided that if I knew I couldn’t fail, I would attempt to run Track and Cross Country at The Ohio State University. I wanted to be a Buckeye. The only problem was that, at the time, I was a 2:15 800 meter athlete and 19:06 (at my best) Cross Country athlete… not exactly close to the 2:05 800 women and 16:50 5k women that were currently on OSU’s team. I had a pretty lofty goal for someone in my position. I emailed the coach anyways and basically begged him to take a chance on me… and by the grace of God– he did. I worked my tail off my senior year of high school and eventually ran 18:21 in the 5k and 2:11 in the 800. One official visit later and I had my spot on the team.

That experience my senior year of high school with taking chances, setting my sights high, and dreaming of really big extravagant goals was my first experience with chasing dreams at a different level than most are willing to chase. And through that process, I learned that being willing to set really big goals and take some pretty huge risks was a pre-requisite to actually chasing dreams.

Since my senior year of high school, my list of dreams– things that I would attempt to do if I knew I would not fail, has grown tremendously. Some are silly, some are more serious, but they all are dreams– dreams that I am willing to take the time and take the risks to make happen. If I knew I would not fail, I would build my own house from the ground up. Obviously I would want to complete the perfect cartwheel. I would start my own company. Much to my Mom’s delight, I would completely organize all of my personal spaces (car, room, closet, etc.) in a way that actually works for me. I would “Jill Kanney” it (Jill was one of my awesome college teammates– and yes, Jill, your name has been used in the context of a verb) and actually learn how to play the guitar and not just pluck the strings. I would put myself in a position where I would get to race against the best middle distance athletes– not just from the United States– but from all over the world. And in doing so, I would put myself in contention to make the 2020 Olympic Team and represent the USA in Tokyo. Through all of this, my desire would be to live every day as if it were an important part in a very very large adventure.

I’ve been working on those last three on my list this entire summer. Running. Racing. Adventuring. After finishing up my college career at the NCAA championships out in Eugene, I decided to stay in Oregon and race a couple races in Portland. My Portland Adventures, as I have been referring to them, were my first experience of traveling, racing, and competing as a post collegiate. It was different. Scary. Weird. I didn’t have a coach. Or teammates. I didn’t even have a place to sleep the first night that I decided to stay out there. I cried to my Uber driver, Teri (I still remember that kind woman’s name) because I felt completely, utterly, and totally alone– 2,438.9 miles away from the place I called home.

PTF

Racing Some 800 meter races in Portland back in June. PC: @tafphoto & @highperformancewest

I felt as if I had made a huge mistake. I heard the voices in my head whispering, “you’re not good enough. You won’t make it at this level. Everybody else knows what they are doing. If you can’t even pull yourself together in Portland, what happens when you travel outside of the United States?” 

But then I remembered something that I wrote on my goal sheet at team camp about a year ago. Its something that the entire year, I had been working on in the context of racing. But at that particular moment while crying in my Uber in Portland, it really needed to be applied in the context of life.  I wrote on a section of my 2016-2017 goal sheet,

"I have to mentally stay within myself and tell that voice in my head to shut up."
Capture

This was what was written on the bottom of my 2016-2017 goal sheet. Yes, I am a hoarder and still have copies of my goal sheets dating back to 2013.

Jesus gives us the ability to silence those voices and replace them with His truth. His truth that we are loved, cared for, valued, and important. His truth that the adventures that He takes us on are opportunities for us to chase and pursue our dreams if we only allow Him to take us to places out of our comfort zone. This risky place of being out of our comfort zone is the same place where our actions start to intersect what we would attempt to do if we knew we could not fail. I lived in that place that week I spent in Portland. In fact, I lived in that place for most of the summer. Taking risks. Taking chances. Chasing a dream.

For years I had always watched the US Championships from my couch in Columbus. I would secretly pull for Brenda Martinez, an athlete I have looked up to since I started my running career. This year during the US Championships, I was no longer on my couch– I was stepping up to the line with Brenda.

USATF

Racing at the USATF Championships in Sacramento, CA.

This year during my free time, I was no longer looking up results on Flotrack to see what the results of summer races were– I was actually racing them. This year during the summer, I was no longer comforted with the safety and security of being in Columbus, Ohio all of the time– I had the opportunity to travel around the country. So that’s how I spent my summer. Chasing dreams and living an adventure as if I didn’t know what the word failure (Or the word, “No,” S/O to all the awesome elite race and meet directors out there for giving me a spot on the line:) ) meant. And that is what I plan to continue to do. My favorite author, Bob Goff, writes it best.

“What’s your next step? I don’t know for sure, because for everyone it’s different, but I bet it involves choosing something that already lights you up. Something you already think is beautiful or lasting and meaningful. Pick something you aren’t just able to do; instead, pick something you feel like you were made to do and then do lots of that. You weren’t just an incredible idea that God never got around to making. The next step happened for the world when God dropped you on the planet. You’re here and I’m here. God decided to have us intersect history, not just at any time, but at this time. He made us to be good at a few things and bad at a couple others. He made us to love some things and not like others. Most of all, He made us to dream. We were meant to dream a lot. We’re not just a cosmic biology experiment that ended up working. We’re part of God’s much bigger plan for the whole world. Just like God’s Son arrived here, so did you. And after Jesus arrived, God whispered to all of humanity…”It’s your move.”” – Bob Goff, Love Does

My move this summer has been to dream it, chase it, and believe it. Just as Bob talks about. And I believe that in doing so, God has shown me that every day truly is an important part in a very very large adventure. He has reminded me that He is the author

LibertyMile

Racing my first road mile at the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile mile in Pittsburgh, PA

of my adventure. He has reminded me that He has already planned out the future. God knows who is going to Tokyo (and Paris and L.A. … and every Olympics here on out until forever). God knows the races set out ahead. And He has reminded me that I am loved and cared for regardless of whether or not I become a sub 2:00 800-er next season or I hang up my spikes tomorrow (although that hanging up the spikes part isn’t gonna happen for a while… but still– he will love me then as well). Regardless of outcomes, I am loved.

The really cool part about resting in that truth is that it gives us the freedom to really and truly live our adventures. To take risks. To throw caution to the wind, step up to the line, and say, “I’m all in. I’m gonna do this.” Because with Jesus, we are never viewed as a failure. We are viewed as strong and important people that bring value to whatever place we are in.

Through God’s eyes, we will never fail.  This gives us the ability to attempt to do things and dream things that require a lot of effort and a lot of laying our pride and insecurities down and taking chances. It’s telling that voice in our heads to “SHUT UP!” because we ARE worth it. We DO matter. And we were created CAPABLE. So here’s to dreaming big taking chances, and enjoying the entire adventure. Because I want to live my life attempting to do the things that I would do if I knew I could not fail, and I intend on chasing the dreams that God has put on my heart…

… My hope is that you will choose the same:)

End Note: I am dedicating this post to my college teammate Jill Kanney who has taught me how to dream it boldly, chase it fiercely, and believe that The Lord will take care of the rest. #dreamChaseBelieve

More than “Just Another.”

“Go get em, Rach. He who promised is faithful.”

This is the text message that I woke up to on Friday morning– the Day I raced the NCAA Regional final. It was sent to me by an old high school teammate (Shout-Out to Robbie Daulton). Two simple sentences. Nine words total. But it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

He who promised is faithful.

Jesus is faithful.

God comes through on His promises. He came through on His promise that Jesus would die on the cross and be raised to life again. He came through on His promise that we would then be set free from sin, able to live freely because of The One (Jesus) who set us free. He came through on His promise to love us one hundred percent, no matter where we are in our messy lives (and thank goodness for that because otherwise, my car would definitely need some cleaning up!!). Exhibit A:

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 5.36.55 PM.png

Litterally, this was my car last week. I’m imperfect. I’m messy. But Jesus still loves me. 

 

He came through. He has. He does. And He always will. Because He who promised is faithful. And my messy car and messy life will never be too much for Him.

I needed to be reminded of that on the morning of the Regional Final. I needed to know that no matter what happened that day during the 800 meters that I was out there racing, I could trust that Jesus was going to give me the strength to fight, because He promised, and He is faithful. And the words in that text reminded me of that truth exactly.

A lot of you guys know (since I reference it so often), but my current favorite book is Love Does by Bob Goff. I’ve read it twice now cover to cover, and I’m getting ready to read it for a third time because it is fantastically amazing. I think I actually laughed more at Bob’s little anecdotes and side stories about life the second time I read it, which I don’t even know how that’s possible– but it happened!

Anyways, there is a chapter in the book that I thought about this weekend when I received so much encouragement and truth from amazing and wonderful teammates (old, current, and new), friends, and family. In this chapter, Bob talks about how people are able to use their words to launch each other. And he talks about how we just have to be ordinary people to use our words to have an impact on someone else’s life.

“Words can launch us. We don’t need to be a dean to say words that change everything for someone. Instead, God made it so that ordinary people like you and me can launch each other.” -Bob Goff

That’s what the words in that text message did for me– they launched me! God used the text that read, “He who promised is faithful” to launch me in the direction my mind needed to be headed for that day. In fact, there were so many words that people used this weekend to launch and support me. And while you all are far from ordinary (as the way this quote is worded may suggest), you all have used your words to help launch me. And that is something that I am incredibly grateful for.

I think that words coupled with people launching others allows ordinary people to do extraordinary things. My coach likes to remind me that at one point in my athletic career, I was just another 5:02 1600-er and 2:11 800 meter runner coming out of high school (I was never a High School State Champion). At one point, I was just another name on the roster. At one point, I was just another time on the TFRRS descending order list. At one point in all of our careers– be it running or otherwise– don’t we all feel like we are “just another”?

I share this with you, because it all sounds quite ordinary. But like I said, I think that God wants us to launch each other so that ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary. We are more than  Just another. God intended for us to be more than just another. We were fearfully and wonderfully made. And we have the power of The One who faithfully promised walking right alongside us. But sometimes, we need to be reminded of that. Sometimes, we need to be launched.

I’m thankful for the “people launchers” in my life. I’m thankful for those who have used their words to encourage me and launch me– especially the past couple of weeks! Seriously, you all rock and are amazing. Your words have helped me to experience the fact that God is able to take an ordinary person like myself and use me for something that I didn’t really count myself to be used for when I was a senior in high school.

Before my 800-er teammates and I race, I always look at them and say, “This is the good stuff, this is the fun stuff.” Because that’s what racing is! It’s the good stuff and the fun stuff. It’s everything that practice is but just a WHOLE LOT more fun! This past weekend, I wound up racing my PR (2:02.67) which got me an Auto Q and qualified me to the NCAA Championships in Eugene Oregon. That was the good stuff. That was the fun stuff. And now there will be more good stuff and fun stuff to come in 10 days as a result of this past weekend.

I want to be a people launcher, too. I used to think I was just another. But now I know that God does not intend that just another life for any of us. He wants us to live boldly. He wants us to take risks. He wants us to launch people and be launched by people. My hope is that the 2:02.67 along with that automatic Q makes someone else who also thought that they were just another believe that God made them for more than just blending in with the background. Maybe it’s not with the 800. Maybe it’s not even with running at all. But it’s something. It’s definitely something. Because none of us are, just another.  All of us were made for something. And all of us are able to use that something to launch someone else.

Nobody is just another. We are all so much more than just another. Know it. Believe it. Live it.

#goBucksForever<3

Side note: I made my teammates take this picture because literally for my entire running career (so 10 years now), I’ve wanted this picture but everyone is always too embarrassed to take it. They agreed to take it (FINALLY YES), but it should be mentioned that they definitely were coerced into it. Anyways, here is a picture from the weekend with probably the best running pun ever created. Thanks Christine and Em for being part of the shennanigans:) 

Em and Christine, one day you both will thank me because you can use this photo to embarrass your kids:)