The Angola Project-AZ Distance Classic Half Marathon


(Pic at the halfway point)You are thinking “what? Rechel?  A runner.  Noooooo” I KNOW! Crazy!! But one thing you may not have known is that I have some dear, dear friends-Jim, Lora, Emily and Kelsey…the Pirzynski’s who have been a part of my life for the past 20+ years. They run, bike, hike, swim, Ironman it, El tour it…you name it and that was one of so many things I admired about them.  Somehow…it just took a long time to rub off on me 🙂

Fast forward 20 years and they came to visit me in NM and so “Rechel the Runner” began.  Slowly.  Seriously.  I could barely run a mile.  But every run became a pretty emotional experience-one way or another.  I saw this picture and thought “ahhhh, exactly!” You can get a lot out on a run and I had no idea!


However-this is the thought that I think of the most: There were so many things I aspired to be but never really thought I would be: A “doing life with God” kind of Christian, a wife, a mother (thank you God!), a college graduate, a runnnnnner….and as I put one foot in front of the other on a run I realize I am those things and I hope I will do so much more.  Everyday sometimes all I can do is literally put one foot in front of the other but when I look back and realize all the things I have “become” and accomplished, the feeling is overwhelming and brings me to tears.

When the Angola Project ( came around this year and they decided to team up with the Arizona Distance Classic Half-Marathon I knew I wanted my first half-marathon to be this one!  The Project and Rise International ( is another admirable part of the Pirzynski’s life and because of them-it is a piece of mine too.

Buuuuuut-I really didn’t have a lot of time to properly train.  As I sped through a training program I inflamed my achilles tendon and was unable to run for the two weeks prior to the race.  The doctor said I shouldn’t run.

During the race, I felt alright.  Although 3 miles felt like 5, 5 felt like 7 and the halfway mark felt like 10.  By the time I got to 7 I saw a team of cheerleaders along the roadside and I prayed it was someone who would give me mouth to mouth or at least call 911 if I really did die.  When I saw the familiar Angola Project T-shirts I was relieved.  Their cheering thrilled me but I never did receive that adrenaline rush everyone assured would carry me through.  I told myself I was a failure if I walked-that it wasn’t really an accomplishment if I didn’t run the whole thing.  That was a humbling experience because who am I to have any expectations about something I have never done before. 

Then, somewhere between the 7th and 8th mile I felt the painful strain that the doctor warned me about. In fact-he made me promise I would stop as soon as I felt it.  Luckily, I had Kelsey with me (who was only going to run a mile with me). She understood my determination.  She understood my disappointment.  I stopped for a second to try to stretch it out and cried.  I was humbled again.  Crying on the side of the road to a 16-year old who could do this in her sleep.  Yet-she was not going to let me quit on myself.  I have never felt pain, anxiety, disappointment and weakness like I did at that moment and truly, if it weren’t for her-I would have quit. She continued to run with me.  I rapidly deteriorated from that point on but I followed her orders 🙂 (Because I liked what she was saying better than the doctor’s orders) and “pushed through the pain”.  I ran with a limp. 

I got so hot and anxious that I had to take my shirt off and (without running for 2 weeks) that was not a pretty picture.  But it was the 2nd time (aside from child birth) that I just didn’t care…another humbling experience. How many is that now???

Kels told me to keep my sights on some girls in front of us.  We used them as competition…motivation.  I realized at that moment though-it was me against myself and I didn’t care who I beat.  I just didn’t want to pass out or fall flat on my face.  I had nothing left.  She promised “as soon as you turn the corner you’ll see the finish line” I thought “only a ¼ of a mile left.  Anyone can do that, right?”  I thought of the Angolan child I wore on the back of my shirt and that didn’t give me the motivating boost I needed either. Okay so nooooooooow I’ll get the adrenaline boost everyone promised…


The world went fuzzy.  My face burned, my legs became stiff and blubbery at the same time.  Everything began to tingle.  I saw Lora. I grabbed her hand because I knew I could do it with her.  She dropped something and had to stop.  I had to keep going because if I slowed even for a second I would have fallen.  I almost fell forward but asked Kels “what line do I need to cross” and she said “that one” (meaning the one right in front of me) so I put one foot over it, dragged the other behind and fell down. I would like to think that even if it was another foot ahead that I would have made it but the truth is I probably would not have.  I was done.  Mentally, physically, emotionally…done.

I was expecting and hoping for feelings like triumph, victory and strength.  It was a dramatic ending but there were no feelings like that at all.

Even though I crossed that finish line-I never really felt like I “did it”. I just feel like I survived it.  I am looking forward to putting the time and work into properly training and crossing that finish line with all the feelings I hoped for.  I am so grateful to my friends who allowed this to be about me for a little while by flashing their beautiful, meaningful banner, blowing their horns and cheering me on.  I never thought it was possible to need support that much.  They were all there in a million ways I never thought I would need.  The finisher medal I received does not mean quite that to me.  It means over $10,000.00 raised and I got to be a part of that!!!  It means friendship because I would have never pushed myself into this or through this without these people. Wait! Maybe I should not be friends with them…they are trying to kill me! 🙂 It means that sometimes determination can never replace patience and hard work and I needed to learn that.  It also has meant some physical therapy 🙂 It was so much more than the run I thought it would be but without a doubt I will look back and be glad I did it…for so many reasons! I can’t wait to do it again and hopefully get those other feelings I was hoping for too!

 So that is the update I promised and -without further ado here are some very humiliating pictures. 


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