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Running Outside of the Pack

Quiet Revolutionary Antje Fiebig’s Story

During the last six months of my PhD, I was very stressed, worried, anxious, and anti-social. It was mainly because, even though I believed in my ability to get the PhD, it was very hard for me to deal with all the pressure. Sometimes, I just could not see the finish line.

To distract myself from all of it, I started running. With running, I suddenly found a finish line. One that kept increasing. I started with running 4 km, then slowly increased to 5, 7, 10, 12 km. After four months, I managed to run a half-marathon distance, though at a very slow speed. I’ve never minded that because the main goal was to get away from my computer and having to write that thesis. Running cleared my mind, and even though I wanted to have a break from the PhD, I usually had my best ideas for my thesis during my long runs.

I successfully submitted my PhD thesis, received my PhD, worked for another six months as a post-doc, and then traveled around the world for eight months. After getting back from my trip, I started running again. And suddenly I was thinking: Could I actually run an official half marathon competition? The main reason why I hadn’t thought of it before was because I love running alone. I’m a lab manager and students’ coordinator, so people come into my office all day long. I love running because it gets me out into the nature and because this is the time I can focus on myself—being an introvert, this is an essential part of my daily life.

I signed up for the Cologne Half Marathon, just to see whether I could do it and because once in my life, I wanted to experience a competitive atmosphere (even though it scared me more than the actual mileage). I continued with my training, and even though I had a few minor health issues, I always managed to get back into shape, mainly because I didn’t follow a strict training plan but rather listened to my body. I tapered, ate well, and was hoping to not get ill.

And then the race day came. I just loved it. When I lined up in my starting block, waving at my friends alongside the street, I was ready to run. The atmosphere was thrilling. I had chosen one of the biggest events in Germany (mainly because it’s close to where I live), and I didn’t regret it. Yes, I love running on my own, but it’s wonderful to have somebody cheer for you. It gave me such a kick, I cannot even describe it. My goal was 2:05:00—from my training, I knew I could do it. I finished in 1:57:38 and could not believe that there was a “1” at the front. I will never forget this day.

A few more things I would like to add: I don’t look like an athlete or a model. Most people would not think I am fit. But it’s not about appearance. I am also a vegetarian and have a gluten sensitivity. In addition, I never joined a running club—as I’ve mentioned, I just love running on my own. To me, the most important thing about training for the half marathon was my strong willpower. Running the half marathon was my dream, and so I did it, all because I listened to my body and my mind and because I never forgot how much I love running.

Don’t let other people tell you what you can and cannot do. Be proud of yourself and what your body and mind can achieve. Hopefully, my story can help motivate others to fulfill their dreams too.

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