‘The Queen of Pain’ endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch is reaching her ultimate peak

Despite passing lively volcanoes and treading close to arctic tundras, Rusch says the prospect of braving beneath freezing temperatures was what captivated her.

“I was really scared of the environment,” she tells CNN Sport. “The cold was really the last frontier for me.”

Before setting her sights on pristine landscapes, Rusch has reminiscences of working via the woods in Chicago’s sprawling suburbia. “There was always this explorer curiosity aspect to what I was doing, even as a child,” she says. “I was born with that.”

Her first entry into endurance sports activities was via her highschool cross-country workforce. “I felt like I really belonged somewhere for the first time.”

She constructed up her confidence and later moved out west, combining her enterprise advertising and marketing diploma with her love of indoor sports activities to open a series of mountain climbing gyms in California.

In the 1990s, she found journey racing, a fringe endeavor that grew in popularity with the start of Eco-Challenge. Produced by Mark Burnett of Apprentice and Survivor fame, the truth TV present adopted athletes who raced throughout 300 mile programs in harsh terrains from Fiji to Maine to Morocco, wherein Rusch was a participant.

“I never thought I would be a professional athlete, it wasn’t in my career plan,” she says. “I was just doing something that made me feel whole and inspired me.”

A twist of destiny

When the present went off-air in 2002, the game of journey racing misplaced sponsorship and funding.

Rusch’s profession as knowledgeable athlete was in flux. She finally made the choice to maneuver to Idaho and bought a part-time job as a volunteer firefighter, one thing she nonetheless does to today.

But her journey was removed from over.

Rusch attends the 36th Annual Salute to Women In Sports at Cipriani Wall Street in October 2015 in New York City.
A buddy beneficial she take up mountain biking, and Rusch went on to win multiple events together with three 24-hour solo mountain bike World Championships, Idaho’s Short Track state championship and a state Cyclocross title.

Nearly 15 years later, she’s simply as dedicated to her sense of journey. “Being an ultra-endurance athlete? It is my life.”

Blood Road

In 2015, Rusch took her pursuit of self-discovery to a brand new stage when she got down to journey 1,200 miles throughout the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Infamously dubbed “Blood Road,” the pathway was utilized by Vietnamese troops to shuttle provides during the Vietnam War — an occasion Rusch and her household are all too accustomed to.
On March 7, 1972, her father — Stephen Rusch — was flying a strike mission over Laos to bomb vehicles when his aircraft was shot down within the village of Ta Oy. He died when Rebecca was three years previous.

“Growing up, it was hard to mourn for somebody that I didn’t know,” she says. “It really wasn’t until I rode the Ho Chi Minh Trail and went to the place that he died that I felt him for the first time.”

Since then, she’s inherited reminiscences of her father from assembly individuals who knew of him, together with the son of the person who buried her father all these years in the past. “We were extremely bonded,” she says.

In 1972, Rusch's father died in the Vietnam War. She honors his legacy through the Be Good Foundation, using her bicycle as a catalyst for healing, empowerment and evolution.

Rusch additionally solid an in depth relationship with her Vietnamese using associate Huyen Nguyen, a adorned cross-country bike owner whose father was going through American resistance throughout the struggle.

“We didn’t need language to communicate,” she says. “The two of us came together to heal and to forgive, and using the bike as that tool was a really special journey.”

Now, Rusch commemorates her father via the Be Good Foundation, a humanitarian group named in reminiscence of his wartime letters, which he would signal with the phrase “be good.”

She makes use of the inspiration to create alternatives for outside exploration, private discovery and humanitarian service at native, nationwide and world ranges.

“I distinctly feel that he brought me to allow us on that journey … to show me that I could use my bicycle for more than podiums and awards,” she says. “I do feel like he’s teaching me, he’s fathering me, even though he’s not physically sitting here with me right now.”

‘No one will ever know what we skilled’

From using in Vietnam with Nguyen to ploughing via Iceland alongside nature photographer Chris Burkard and former skilled bike owner and filmmaker Angus Morton, Rusch is used to working with fellow athletes to maximise her potential.

“I find in teams, often your actions, instead of words […] are the most powerful tools.”

She solely had two weeks to get better between her win at Alaska’s 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational within the self-supported class and the Iceland expedition. With little contact with Burkard and Morton earlier than assembly them on the airport, Rusch was nervous.
Rusch preparing a meal with her Iceland expedition partners Angus Morton (center) and Chris Burkard (left).

“I knew where they were coming from as people, what I didn’t know is how they would respond in moments of stress.”

Ultimately, their shared reminiscences of triumph will outlive their moments of disaster. “No one will ever know what we experienced in crossing Iceland in winter, other than Chris and Angus and myself,” she says. “No picture could actually tell all of the story.”

A lifetime of preparation

Rusch is dwelling proof that midlife is usually a time when a girl can hit her stride.

She might have been carrying an amethyst as her fortunate allure in Iceland, however she acknowledges that efficiently finishing “the best performances” of her profession finally requires years of bodily resilience and emotional intelligence.

“You’re not deteriorating as you get older, you’re actually growing,” she says. “Alaska and Iceland couldn’t have happened without decades of experience in knowing myself, knowing my body.”

Rusch's Iceland trek involved a 90% snow and ice covered route.
Perhaps Rusch’s capacity to place her physique via excruciating bodily challenges and emerge a stronger athlete is why Adventure Sports journal dubbed her the “Queen of Pain” in 2004.

“It’s doing something hard with a goal that you don’t know what the reward is on the other side of it, but yet you still keep going.”

‘We share this earth collectively’

Taking half in grueling expeditions and spending time away from dwelling requires steadiness.

Having met on a motorcycle journey in Idaho and been an endurance athlete his total life, Rusch’s husband, Greg Martin, understands the duties that include her profession. “We do a lot of these adventures together, but it is a commitment to be away,” she says.

Over the previous yr, she’s had the chance to re-evaluate her relationship with nature. “I’ve really, really understood the importance of me having my feet on the dirt, on the ground.”

In May 2020, 36% of folks responding to the People and Nature Survey by Natural England mentioned they had been spending more time outside throughout the pandemic than earlier than. The same report discovered that just about a 3rd of Americans had been contemplating transferring to less populated areas, in response to a Harris Poll survey.

“Nature is therapy for people,” she says. “Part of my responsibility is showing people these beautiful places in hopes that they fall in love and understand the importance of protecting them.”

“The one thing we all share in the entire world is that we stand on the ground […] and we share this earth together.”

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