In addition to her running ambitions, Rebecca (Jewett) Trachsel ’97 is a high school cross country and track team coach in Lexington, Mass., and a mother of two.
It’s 4:45 a.m. I ease out of bed, throw on my running clothes, gather my gear (headphones, gels, water bottle, hat, gloves), and prepare to head out for my 20th marathon. “What the heck am I doing?”
Just three weeks earlier, while running the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, I injured my calf. I thought I would need months to rehabilitate, but here I was, getting ready to try again. And not only try again, but attempt to hit the goal I’ve been chasing relentlessly since the fall of 2015: to run a marathon in under three hours.
I’ve always been a runner. Running was something I did for fun, to work through problems, or simply to check out mentally. In high school, the track coach convinced me to join the team, and I quickly fell in love with the feeling of flying around the oval.
At Colgate I joined the cross country and track teams. The adjustment to the harder training, along with college in general, was a challenge, but I committed myself fully. After graduation, while I still ran occasionally, I was focused on my career and navigating life beyond college.
Ten years later, I was married with two kids, and I decided I wanted to run the Boston Marathon. You know, just for fun; a bucket list item. To qualify, I ran a local marathon: I needed a time of 3:40, I finished in 3 hours and 39 minutes. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I was thrilled that I’d pulled it off. At the same time, I couldn’t believe I was going to do it all over again. I told myself, after Boston, I would officially be done with marathons.
Fast forward to 2015: I was 40 years old, and I was lining up in Albany, N.Y., for my 12th marathon. My personal record was 3 hours and 11 minutes. I’d been working with a coach and increasing my training intensity, which was resulting in faster times. For this race, I was feeling nervous but cautiously optimistic. As I ran, every mile felt better than the last, and I knew something magical was happening. I found a new gear for the last 10K, and my smile grew bigger with every step. Elated, I crossed the finish in 3 hours and 4 minutes. I had no idea this was a possibility; suddenly, I had to readjust my thinking.
Since then, running a sub-three-hour marathon has been my only goal every time I start a marathon. I have attempted it on eight occasions. Twice I have run 3 hours flat. Last winter, in the Harrisburg Marathon, I crossed the line in 3 hours and 7 seconds. With each near miss, I had pushed beyond a place I’d never thought I could go, but rather than celebrate, I was frustrated every time I didn’t see a 2 on the clock.
In my last attempt, I crossed the line in 3 hours and 1 minute. For days, I was down on myself and running in general. Then my husband, Jeff ’96, said, “Maybe you need to let go of the time goal for a while. It doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. I just don’t think it always needs to be your main focus.” It was exactly what I needed to hear.
I’d started to lose the joy of running, and, as a result, forgotten why I do it in the first place. I love to train and race, not only to do well, but also because I enjoy the experience as a whole. I’ve lost sight of that lately. My story is not over — this is just a new chapter.
This fall I will line up for my 22nd marathon. I will train as hard, if not harder. I will try again. But my main goal will not be time. It will simply be to run well and be proud of the outcome, no matter what.
Update: On Oct. 21, Trachsel ran the Baystate Marathon and made her goal with a time of 2:59.
Listen to Trachsel’s playlist, “Trax Race Against Time” below.