Logging Miles: An Around the World Study Experience
Many books have been written on running, the original Olympic sport, but a new memoir, Run the World, offers a unique arts and science spin courtesy of Becky Wade, a 2012 Phi Beta Kappa inductee from Rice University. An elite collegiate runner herself, the four-time All-American was looking for a way to connect her passion and strength--running--with her intellectual curiosity.
Applying her expertise from her triple major of history, psychology, and sociology, Wade secured a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship which allowed her a full year of study to examine the culture and history of distance running from a global perspective.
From England to Ethopia, Finland to New Zealand, running served as Wade’s lens as she combined her undergraduate disciplines to learn about the culture and history of runners and their sport from nation to nation. She experimented with what she learned, trying different training, racing and recovery methods. She encountered tracks, trails, and dirt roads; challenged herself running with Usain Bolt; and learned the importance of rest and recovery from the Japanese.
She carefully documented her interviews and research in a detailed travel journal which formed the basis for her book. With the help of a friend, she navigated the publishing industry to bring Run the World to the public with its release in June of this year.
Looking back, the spark for Wade’s journey may have come on the sidelines of the 2012 London Olympic marathon where she witnessed firsthand the pure and global nature of running as a sport. In London she fully appreciated how running doesn’t require a certain body type or social class, and how you don’t have to come from a specific part of the world. Everyone is a potential runner. “Shoes or no shoes, you get out the door,” Wade commented.
Her travels, and her identity as a distance runner, helped to open doors not only to cultural opportunities but also to new relationships. Wade experienced the sense of trust and respect often shared by runners and swiftly learned that this type of comradery has no geographical boundaries. Wade's initial plan for her fellowship originally included visiting five countries, but that number quickly quadrupled to over 20.
Wade reflected that as a runner, it is easy to stay in a methodological, rigid routine full of self-sacrifice to get the job done. Traveling during the fellowship, however, helped her realize that achievement in running is not necessarily determined by your time. She learned that success can be built by forging ties with others and maintaining a flexible, adaptable attitude. In Wade's eyes, there was “something to be learned from every person and every place.” With connections all over the world, Wade believes she has grown as an athlete and as an individual, benefitting from what she learned along the way.
Wade’s incorporation of the techniques learned traveling the world into her own running discipline paid off. In her marathon debut in 2013, Wade not only won the race, but she did so with a time of 2:30, becoming the third-fastest woman marathoner under the age of 25 in U.S. history, earning a spot in the Olympic trials, and landing a professional sponsorship from Asics.
Wade was first introduced to Phi Beta Kappa through siblings who were all Phi Beta Kappa inductees from the University of Texas. Especially for students and recent graduates, Wade advises that although an opportunity may seem uncomfortable at first because it follows a less than traditional path, she believes in taking full advantage of each and every possibility as it comes.
Wade continues to run and to train in Colorado, enjoying the beautiful, mountainous, terrain and the competitive running community. While pondering the road ahead, she will continue to run and to write as she considers more intensive academic research, graduate school, or non-profit work. “Staying mentally stimulated is good and healthy for me,” Wade concluded, and it certainly seems to be fueling her running and her writing success.