She keeps her head up, chin down, eyes level while gliding through each stride with even distance as her hair whisks side to side. Rachel Weber, a fifth-year at Ohio State in strategic communications, is a runner’s runner.
“I just fell in love with it and I fell in love and competing and the adrenaline that you get,” Weber said.
Weber finished 13th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Tracktown USA last June in Eugene, Oregon. It was the last time she would run for the Buckeyes, but she doesn’t plan for it to be her last visit to that track.
Although she has ran out of eligibility at Ohio State, this was not her last meet competing against other collegiate programs.
Ohio State has continued to have ties to Weber’s post-collegiate running career almost a year after she took off her scarlet and gray jersey.
Professional track and field isn’t as straightforward as well-known leagues like the NBA or NFL. Runners sometimes compete for track clubs, which are often smaller in scale, or they receive sponsorships from brands like Nike, Asics and Adidas that allow them to support their career.
There also is separation between professional and post-collegiate. Weber runs for Columbus Running Company and it supports her. However she is not getting a salary to run for it, although it pays her for as an employee who works at its store.
“I am really, really fortunate that Columbus Running Company supports me and they help support gear, travel and teammates and it’s awesome,” Weber said. “When I graduate hopefully I will be looking to be up more on that professional level with a professional contract.”
She has a new coach, Rob Meyers, an Ohio State alumnus who has the fourth-fastest 1,500-meter time (3:41) in school history and the fifth-fastest mile time (4:03) in school history.
Meyers met Weber through the running camps that he and his family host in the summer. Weber was a volunteer who brought an infectious smile to running, Meyers said.
“I knew that she was really energetic and positive. She was passionate for the sport,” Meyers said. “As for as the running camp side of things go, we obviously invited her back.”
Their relationship changed last summer when Weber reached out to Meyers to become her personal coach.
“First I was a little caught off guard, but the more I thought about it, she needed to stay in Columbus to finish her education” Meyers said. “It seemed like something that I was able to work out and I was excited about.”
Beyond working with Weber, Meyers coaches cross country and track and field at Fairfield Union High School. Weber has assisted him, working as a volunteer coach and training there for outdoor season.
Competing for Columbus Running Company has sometimes led Weber to race against her old teammates. In the indoor season, Weber ran at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Indiana.
“Meyo is one of the nearest and dearest meets to my heart. For I have had several really, really poor races there.” Weber said, “Like some of the worst races in my entire college career.”
This past Meyo Invitational had some slight differences. Mainly, she was competing against Ohio State in the 800-meter run, the event in which she set the school record several months before — though none of Ohio State’s runners competed in the same heat.
Weber’s goals for the meet also slightly changed. This year it was to make the U.S. Track and Field standard at 2:03 and the International Association of Athletics Federations standard at 2:02. Weber won her heat, but she ran a 2:07.
Even while no longer with the Buckeyes, there was nothing new to the meet for Weber.
“Even in college like we would show up with the team but then it was like I had my own up and a lot of times I was the only one running a certain event,” Weber said. “I had to get really good at being independent and having my own warmup routine and own warmup schedule.”
During the winter, Weber also trained at the French Field House alongside the current Buckeyes and intermingled with them between exercises. She even saw a personal trainer from Ohio State before her practice.
Sara Vergote, Ohio State’s distance and cross country coach, took some time and helped Weber out during one of her most intense practices of the year, in which the goal was for Weber to push herself as far as she could possibly go. Vergote said she stopped Weber when she started to lose her running form and risk injury.
All along this road, Weber was driven by her love for running. Speed just followed her afterward.
She started running 5ks with her mom, Christine Weber-Wheeler, when she was just five years old. Growing up Weber wanted always wanted to be an athlete — just in soccer.
“I played club soccer and so I always envisioned myself like oh, ‘I’m going to be the next Mia Hamm,’” Weber said.
But her passion switched to track, specifically the 400-meter dash. At Dublin Coffman, she moved up to the 800-meter run and finished third at the high school state championship meet, then came to Ohio State.
During her time at Ohio State she broke the school record for the 800-meter run record (2:02) and posted the second-fastest 1,500-meter run.
Weber’s passion for running spreads out much further though than the events she ran or the times she has clocked.
“Like I still would choose to run again and again and again because of the friendships that it’s given me and the fulfillment that it gives you,” Weber said.
She has gone to the Columbus Marathon, not to run, but to cheer on the runners. In addition to her work at Fairfield Union, she also volunteers at Dublin Coffman.
“She is an amazing influence to have for these athletes.” Meyers said.
For Weber, the Olympics has been the dream, but she knows the odds can be tough to predict. Olympic qualifying at Tracktown USA — back in Eugene — happens one day every three years.
“I think it’s a wonderful gift to have to be able to compete and experience the joy and the freedom that running bring me.” Weber said, “So my goal is to enjoy the entire process leading up to the Olympics.”