27 April 2013 By Rachel’s

Tips for the Trail – Turning Tragedy Into Strength – XTERRA 4-26-2013

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in XTERRA April 26, 2013

As endurance athletes, an amazing added benefit to our development of overall healthy, strong, and happy bodies is the ability to handle other life circumstances well.  We learn to train, race, and thrive in a variety of extreme situations both out in nature and in our day-to-day lives.  It is fabulous when all works out according to plan, but very often we are left to think literally on our feet as the weather goes bad or we get lost, or injured.  With the ultimate goal in mind, we journey on until success is reached, while strength is etched into our souls. All of the extra energy we may have spent through the journey makes the reward ever more meaningful.  Yes, as XTERRA athletes, we truly know what it means to “Live More.”

Rachel CI write this with the recent Boston Marathon tragedy in my heart.   Our entire nation was touched or affected by the experiences of many lives forever changed or lost.   I have watched different reactions from friends who were there, as well as feelings of anger, sadness, violation, loss, and grief across the running communities and the United States nation as a whole.   On the other side it has been beautiful to see the masses come closer together to assist others to cope and heal, dedicate running to those who cannot, and channel their energy into becoming their own best expression of themselves.  This is an outstanding example demonstrating how we can all come together to create goodness and a stronger community than ever, when touched by tragedy.

We are all affected by serious life circumstances such as illness, injury, loss of loved ones, and the list goes on. It is amazing to see how the devastation can turn into positive fuel to grow and heal and become better and stronger than ever.   For myself, I am moved and inspired greatly by others choosing to rise above challenging situations.

The heartbreak at the Boston Marathon has since become an extreme example of an entire nation standing up and doing all possible to create a better tomorrow. My grief over this situation has helped me take a look at where I am today, I am recommitting to my goals and dreams. I know that my tomorrow will be the best ever. I want more than ever to lead a positive life regardless of my own personal challenges.

My tip to lead you to your greatest trail running happiness right now and in the future, is to decide what it means for you to run and why. It can be for any reason such as stress release, health, social activity, or your love of nature.  For whom, or for what purpose greater than yourself, do you get out there for? In the event there comes a time you find the inability to run for yourself, for what higher purpose do you choose to run?

What does it mean to enjoy the freedom of waking up to the day, knowing you get to experience the beauty of finding and enjoying the best of what nature has to offer? At the end of the day, what do you hope to achieve? Use your response to the Boston Marathon this year to guide you. Every bit of sadness you feel, find the opposite. Choose to find your strength knowing you are in effect helping our entire society to be strong despite this extreme circumstance.  What can you do to turn any tragedy into ultimate beauty?

For myself, the bombings at the Boston Marathon have reminded me how fragile life is. But at the same time, we lose our ability to enjoy life if we are afraid and stop doing the things we love.  It made me think about how far I have come in life.  There was a time I ran away from life. My running purpose was to force my body to hurt so much that other hurts were not quite so painful. In time I learned to run because I realized how much I love the simplicity of putting on a pair of shoes and enjoying my world on two feet.  I soon realized that there is more to life than often meets the eye. I now run because it makes me happy.  I run with my son who started running because he saw me love it.  I run to teach and inspire others.  My greatest goal is to someday exceed my greatest human and athletic potential. Along the way I want to inspire the world to do the same. Knowing my reasons for running gives me courage to “Live More.”  I choose to take all of the sadness generated from the Boston Marathon tragedy and channel it into positive energy to create a tenaciously happy running world.


Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her

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I will always remember waking up at the age of 12 to the pain I saw in so many while simultaneously realizing how lucky I was to feel fantastic.

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