Positive running story – Amber Ebbrecht

Our positive running story this time features Amber Ebbrecht, an avid trail runner from Fayetteville, AR. I first connected with Amber through Experience Fayetteville, who are the host DMO for the 2020 US Trail Running Conference. Initial emails highlighted that there was so much more to Amber than being a trail runner, and quickly learned of her passion for the environment, climate action, sustainability, art and her two sons! I recently had the chance to meet Amber on a flying visit to Fayetteville, and she kindly agreed to be featured in our positive running story series. Here is the result of our interview:

Can you share your brief running history to date?
I began running in 2004, as a stress reliever to my freshman year of college. At the time, the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, track was open to the public. I would just run in circles and circles. I loved it. My first 5k was in 2008. During this time, I had no idea trail running or OCR existed! In October 2016, I completed a Tough Mudder and just had so much fun in that ridiculous mud! In November, I ran my first trail race, a 10k! I finished an unofficial trail half marathon around Lake Fayetteville that December (I even made myself a medal out of cool sticks and a rock..). January 2017 was my first 25k. In the spring of 2017, I ran my first road marathon. By July, I finished my first 50k in Trout Lake, Washington.
I ran The Kessler Trail Run for the third time in the Fall 2019. January 2020 was Athens Big Fork Trail Marathon, where I finished the 18-mile “Fun Run”. Also, I must note: one aid station made the most incredible peanut butter and jelly pancake sandwiches served by the coolest and kindest volunteers ever!

What are the top three things you enjoy most about running, and why?
I love the conversation topics that transpire during a 20-mile run. For some reason, it is around that mile marker that the good stuff comes out! There have been so many memorable stories, one-liners, and pure belly laughs behind all my miles. All of that to say, one of the things I enjoy most about running is being part of this phenomenal running community in Northwest Arkansas. The friendships I have made while running surpass the roads or trails, into being there for on another other during all the ups and downs. It is more than just friendships; it is being part of a family. And I do love this family!

I absolutely love volunteering at aid stations. It is equally the act of helping others while having fun with my friends that gives me the greatest joy! It is utterly amazing to watch the faces of the runners and gauge if they need an Oreo or an Oreo with a side of encouragement. It is also about connecting with others, to the race, and to the environment. It is about giving back.

There is also something that is extremely rewarding about running solo. I enjoy that time where I can focus on my breath, the sound of my footsteps, and the sweat transpiring under my backwards hat. The act of running makes me feel so strong, capable, and grateful. I constantly practice leaning into discomfort, when it arises, either physically or mentally. It is a time where I can be in and with nature, no matter the weather (besides lightning!), breathe in the fresh air, and take in the sounds and smells of my surroundings. It is a great practice in mindfulness.

What has been your favorite race that you have run so far, and what was it about this race that made it special for you?
It is so hard to choose! Fayetteville Natural Heritage Association’s Kessler Trail Run, held every fall, will always hold a special spot in my heart because it was my very first trail race. Mount Kessler is also one of my favorite areas to run. Kessler is just so beautiful! The pint class is great, as is the ever-flowing local beer (!), sponsors, location, volunteers, and music.

Athens Big Fork Trail Marathon was an experience in and of itself. I will always remember it. The community of people, course, and lavish spread of delicious food throughout aid stations to the Big Fork Community Center homemade buffet at the finish made it absolutely spectacular!

How have you managed to keep active and training during the COVID pandemic, and what opportunities has changing your habits opened for you?
In full transparency, there have been times when I have not managed my training well. I have had to really give myself flexibility and release some expectations during this time. At this point with running, the goal is to increase emotional well-being during this uncertain time, more than anything.

I have had time to really reflect on why I choose to run. I have found that it is truly one of my greatest anchors. It brings me joy, community, experiences, health, and connection with nature.

What are a few of your favorite, non-running related, books?
I love non-fiction, especially memoirs, as well as historical fiction. My favorites include:

Building a Life Worth Living by Dr. Marsha Linehan (a must read!)
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community Based Social Marketing by Doug McKenzie-Mohr
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life by Richard Louv

I recently shared with you a video called “What the hawk sees” (featured above) that was written by a friend, Kaytie Blackett. You said that you had never heard anything so incredibly beautiful. Can you share how the poem touched you, and why you think the message Kaytie shared is so important?
I feel the poem has an overarching message of collective awakening as it relates directly to the current times. Two lines in the poem really resonated with me:

“The natural world blooms in the absence of man; So use this time wisely to learn where you can.”
– “So walk amongst nature and see we’re here too; This planet was made for both me and for you.”

The poem is so very touching because it is a beautiful and gentle, yet powerful, reminder that our natural beauties are not infinite. We must work in collaboration, across the country and the globe, to maintain and preserve our resources. We must become stewards of our environment by giving back. Nature will always be there for us, but She needs us now, more than ever.

What wisdoms would you share with a younger version of yourself about being a woman runner?
Dig into your raw talent, trust, and wear it with confidence. Relax into it. Run for you and no one else.

My inspiring, wise, strong, brilliant, and fierce mentor, Dot, recently reminded me, “you fall on your butt, get up, assess. Steady on”. It would have been a good reminder then as it is now.

So,

Dear Younger Version of Myself,

Show up. You do you. Own it. Have fun!
Love,
Older Amber xoxo

If we could share a message on your behalf to the World, what would you wish to say?
Be kind. Be kind to others and yourself. Treat the janitor and the CEO with equal respect. Practice self-compassion by giving yourself grace, margin, and the practice of mindfulness.

Identify and define your values then align your behavior, actions, and words with them. It will guide you in the direction to live your most fulfilling and genuine life.

Strive to become your most authentic self. Trust the process to authenticity, wherever it may lead, and letting things, naturally and in time, unfold.

Be all of you. Rather than focusing on presenting yourself to others in bite size pieces, place focus on remaining whole. Be you, even if it too much for some people. You will find your people. Others can sit back and watch you work your magic.

Become an expert in self-validation because you are enough. You are worthy, beautiful, filled with light, talented, and capable of so very, very many things.

Do not forget to acknowledge when someone sneezes.

…and always say, “Thank You”!

You are very passionate about both running and nature, and the importance of preserving our environment. You will be speaking on this subject at the US Trail running Conference that takes place in Fayetteville, October 21-24, at the Town Center. How long has this been a passion of yours, and what excites you about being a part of this industry leading event?
If two timelines were created, one with the progression of my running, and the other of my career, you would very much see an overlap. I left the Fayetteville Public School classroom as an art educator in 2017 after eight years of teaching. I was fortunate to have been able to take time off to reflect and form a path forward. However, I knew I wanted to stay involved within education in some capacity.

During that season, I spent a lot of time on some of my favorite trails at Hobbs State Park – Conservation Area in Rogers, AR. As my time there increased so did my fascination and curiosity of nature. Hobbs SP-CA truly gave me the first step in my career shift to environmental education when I became their Volunteer Coordinator in 2018. During my time there, I became astounded with the wealth of knowledge and passion the Interpreters possessed. After working with our amazing volunteers and staff, observing them teach various ages of school groups that would visit the Park, I knew I wanted to dig deeper into the aspect of environmental education.

Later in 2018, I moved to the position of Director of Education and Outreach at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, AR. It was during this time that my blinders finally fell and the, “WHERE HAS SCIENCE BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”, stirred and grew my passion for the environment.

We are now in early 2020, when I made the leap to Water Science Education. I was brought on to the team at Beaver Water District (BWD) in Lowell, AR as Assistant Education Coordinator. I could not love a job more. My eyes are opened to something new everyday day which leads to my growing passion to share with the students and our community. So, do you know where your drinking water comes from? Do you know what you can do to protect your water source? What about the process in which your water is treated to become safe for consumption? I will tell you the process is absolutely mind blowing. And the people behind the process are even more amazing.

In addition, we educate the public through community events, outreach, in and out of classroom experiences, and virtual experiences. Just to skim the surface, the Education Department teaches about the chemical, physical, and biological (the “three-legged stool”) aspects of water quality through the observation and collection of Benthic Macroinvertebrates, for example. The Hellgrammite is my favorite Macro! In addition, we foster the development of technical investigative expertise and conceptual understanding in leaners focusing on drinking water treatment, properties of water, water resource careers, Source Water Protection (SWP), watershed and stream dynamics, Earth’s water and water cycle, human impacts and the global water crisis – problems and solutions, just to name a few!

Beaver Water District even has an outdoor hydration station program throughout the Razorback Trail System and in our NWA city parks and downtown areas. We have partnered with cities and the trail system, to help offset cost for these outdoor units, as well as partnering with schools for indoor units, to ensure everyone who needs hydration has access to water for their refillable sports bottles. When it comes to running on the Northwest Arkansas Trail System or in after school programs like Girls On The Run, these outdoor units, as well as the indoor units, provide a means for those engaging in physical activity to have water when and where they need it.

I am proud to be part of an incredible group of professionals at BWD. First and foremost, our mission is to serve our customers’ needs by providing high quality drinking water that meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements and is economically priced consistent with our quality standards. BWD supplies clean, safe drinking water, sourced by Beaver to Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville. These cities in Northwest Arkansas then pump, store, and distribute and resell the water to their customers – more than 358,000 people and industries in their cities and surrounding areas. Spend some time on our website, www.bwdh2o.org!

I beyond excited to be part of the 2020 US Trail Running Conference! I am most looking forward to the opportunity to speak about our environment and various ways we can make a measurable difference, and become be a catalyst for change, to preserve our beautiful gift. I am also looking forwarding to building an authentic community of race directors and trail runners who will ultimately be behind this movement.

Could you share one thing that is unique about Amber that no one would know by looking at you?
I am an internationally and nationally published cookie artist! Past clients include Logic, Drake, and Future. I began in 2013 after my youngest son was born as a way to create “small scale” artwork (and hey! It is edible!). I utilize my background in painting and ceramics to create many of the techniques seen on my cookie art. The namesake behind my cookie name is, Cebe’s (pronounced “See-Bees”) Cookies, is a combination of my two sons’ initials – Collin Ebbrecht and Benjamin Ebbrecht. You can see my artwork on Instagram @cebescookies and on Facebook at Cebe’s Cookies.
I had quite the exciting experience when I was interviewed three times by Food Network for a baking championship! However, I never got a call back. So, hey! Food Network…call me!

Oh, and I love plants – carnivorous plants, to be exact! (You know, meat-eating plants). I fed my flytraps many ‘a cricket and spider. Now, I am excited to see bugs in the house, because plant food! Awesome, right?! I also have a beautiful Norfolk Island Pine, Eugene, who stands about eight feet tall. I love him.

What are your running and life goals for 2020 and beyond?

So many goals!
My most important life goal is to be a positive role model for my two sons. A role model that displays grit, perseverance, sensitivity, confidence, creativity, inclusiveness, trustworthiness, empathy, gratitude, reflection, kindness, curiosity, respect, and passion, to name a few. I will show them to always maintain a child-like excitement for things in life, no matter their age. You must hold on to that spark for life.

One of my on-going running goals is to maintain consistency in my training. My coach… bless him! Justin Walker, of Breaking Limits Coaching, has really stuck with me through so many ups and downs and during that inconsistency of which I struggle. I am so thankful for his patience, motivation, direction, and overall badassery. I mean, he ran across the state of Oklahoma, just to name one!

A recent goal is to become faster on trails while not taking the beauty of my surroundings for granted. My absolute bucket-list race is Ouray 50. To experience running the San Juan Mountains would be the gift of a lifetime. Not to mention the vert, which I love! The town of Ouray and Ridgway, CO are also my favorite places on the planet.

An on-going, daily goal of mine is to just be a sponge for knowledge; to listen and follow my curiosity, while leading with pure passion and commitment.

Another goal, which is quite important, includes raising Silkie chickens and wearing a white ruffled, pocketed apron, while barefoot, to collect fresh eggs. Then I would make cookies! A goat would also be walking around somewhere.

Amber, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us, and thank you for the many visuals that your story created for us, and no doubt for others that read about you! Your passion for trail running and nature has already reaped rewards, and we look forward to you sharing your wisdom with participants at this year’s US Trail Running Conference. Looking forward to a trail run with you sometime soon!

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