Becky Wade has taken the term “distance running” to a new extreme.
Not only does the Preston Hollow native compete in marathons for a living, but she’s traveled around the world while using her two feet in a yearlong experience that enriched both body and mind.
Currently, Wade has been training in preparation for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, where she hopes to qualify for the Summer Olympics in Brazil.
And that comes on the heels of finishing her first book, which chronicled her 2012 adventures through the Watson Fellowship, offered to her after graduating from Rice University. It allowed her to travel 3,500 miles and visit more than 20 countries during the course of a year to study running cultures. She found her two months in Ethiopia especially transformative.
Wade’s three siblings each studied abroad while in college, but she never had the chance because of her hectic athletic schedule. The fellowship offered that chance in a unique way.
“I’m a very adventuresome person, but it’s easy to lose sight of that in a sport like distance running when so much of it is about consistency and discipline,” Wade said. “I knew I still wanted to run. I had a long, up-and-down five years as a collegiate runner. I wanted a break from competing every other weekend. This fellowship just fell in place at the right time.”
Wade blogged extensively during her journey. One of her friends and track teammates from Ursuline is a literary agent who suggested the book idea. After rejecting it at first, Wade reconsidered when she relocated to California last summer for training.
“I like to stay mentally sharp and I needed something to do besides running,” she said. “Then I started writing and reconnecting with people from my trip, and it just took off from there.”
The book, titled Run the World, was subsequently picked up by HarperCollins and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. It should be published later this year.
But Wade, 26, didn’t want writing to eclipse running, especially with the Olympic Trials looming. In fact, her final week of editing coincided with her running more than 120 miles in training, for her highest total ever.
“I pretty much wrote every single waking hour that I wasn’t out running. That tested me in new ways,” Wade said. “I found that running and writing really complemented each other for me. It has been challenging at times. They’re pretty seamless and consuming. I’m not going to an office, but I can easily fill all day doing both of them.”
The diminutive Wade comes from an athletic family, as her father is a former college football player who has since run five marathons. So Wade has been a runner since before she became a standout at Ursuline, which is where she transitioned to distances after starting as a sprinter and hurdler.
“That was where I kind of took off as a runner,” Wade said. “I had some really incredible coaches who pushed me and believed in me.”
She specialized in the 10,000 meters and the steeplechase at Rice, where she set numerous school records, but didn’t know she wanted to make a career out of it until she won her marathon debut in Sacramento, Calif., in 2013, five months after she finished her fellowship. That led to a sponsorship deal with Aspics.
Wade hopes the strides she has taken since then will lead to a long and prosperous career, with an Olympic opportunity as a bonus.
“That’s the ultimate dream,” she said. “There’s a ton of really talented women who will be lining up next to me … Whether I qualify or not, that doesn’t define me as a runner and as a person.”