by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
From playing Chip Potts of Beauty and the Beast in a high school musical, to heading off to a national cross country championship, Rebecca Johnson is proof against the adage that, " It's Not All It's Cracked Up To Be."
A member of the St. Mary's University Lightning cross-country team, Johnson was into "musical theatre" during her high school years at Calgary's Bishop O'Byrne.
"I wasn't into sports when I was in high school...I was more into musical theatre," admits Johnson, 22. "I decided at the end of Grade 12 to start running to help relieve stress."
During her next four years at Mount Royal University, where she earned a Bachelor of Child Studies, Johnson would become a recreational runner.
"I just started training. My dad is into staying active, so he was very supportive," said the 5-foot-5 Johnson, who is currently enrolled in Elementary Education. "I started training outside at Fish Creek Provincial Park, which is great for running.
"Mount Royal didn't have (a cross-country running) team, so I was learning on my own. During those years, I would watch videos and I also watched other runners at tracks and picked up drills from them."
She entered her first 10-kilometre run with the 2013 Calgary Alzheimer Walk & Run , clocking "just over 48 minutes."
Her best time to date in a 10 K ,is now "down less than 42 minutes."
Over six minutes improvement!
For 2017, she took on a new distance with the 6-K in Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) cross country.
"I had heard so much about St. Mary's University and how much of a community feel it had," said Johnson, who added that her older sister Jessica had played for the Lightning women's soccer/futsal teams.
"It was always a dream…in the back of my mind…to be on a team, so I contacted the head coach (Donna Dixon) and we met and from there I got to do time trials and then I was a member of the team."
Not only was she a member of the team, but a star runner within the ACAC ranks, placing fourth at the 2017 ACAC Cross Country Running Provincials held October 28, 2017 in Red Deer.
Her time was 25:02.69.
"Running this year has been really amazing. It is the highlight of my day when we have practice. Training with other people motivates you more. It is more positive and the energy is totally different.
"My running had definitely improved thanks to Donna (Dixon) and (assistant coach) Chris Coy, who have been giving me amazing tips which I come away with from each practice. Leaning five new things each time and writing them down and continuously building on them. They also help with the mental factor...to believe in myself which helps me push myself more."
She also mentioned the difficulty in transitioning from her 10-k training and running to the ACAC 6-k distance.
"It was way harder than 10 k. The terrain is so different throughout the course. You have hills, gravel, dirt and an uneven surface."
Johnson had placements of second, fifth, seventh and eighth in the four Running Room ACAC Grand Prix events she entered.
Johnson also "gives credit to my parents and boyfriend for getting me to where I am right now as they have been cheering me on and supporting me through my training and all of my races."
Those cheers will be important as one race remains.
Johnson, part of the ACAC team, is off to the 2017 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Cross-Country Running Nationals in Lionel-Groulx Blainville, Quebec, November 10 – 11, 2017.
"Nationals? It was always a dream. A long shot dream. Now that it has come real, it is pretty surreal and I feel so lucky for the opportunity and experience.
"My goal is to stick tight to ((ACAC top runners) Jordanna Cota (Red Deer College Queens) and Sophia Nowicki (Lethbridge College Kodiaks)."
Looking back on her musical theatre background, where she was also part of Storybook Theatre, she finds a correlation with her new love of running.
"In musical theatre you are supposed to sing really loud and I was trained how to breathe with my diaphragm and that has no doubt helped with my endurance and ability to run consistently."
And hopefully the role of Chip Potts, the boy turned into a tea cup with a crack on the edge, will turn into a storybook ending with a medal at CCAA nationals.