Episode 65: A conversation with Rebecca Rusch

Rebecca Rusch lives in a beautiful mountain town in Idaho. The outdoor world is her church.

A multiple world champion and master of many sports, from mountain biking to white-water rafting, adventure racing and climbing, Rebecca was crowned the Queen of Pain by Adventure Sports magazine and was also in Outside Magazine's top 20 female athletes. Put simply, she’s a pro at suffering. Yet Rebecca is also a human being who, like all of us, struggles to get out the door for a ride or run some days. She puts herself out there in brutally tough races, and faces up to challenges and dilemmas shared by endurance athletes, whether its navigation or fighting through adverse weather. Her “why” is not to win at all costs, but a much deeper exploration of self and connection.

Rebecca believes wholeheartedly that everyone is a work in progress. We’re an evolution of everything we’ve done before, here to learn as well as to push ourselves, if we so wish. She is consistently curious about the connection between physical empowerment and emotional empowerment through training. For her, races are truth; to explore the power of being humbled, not just to perform.

I first heard about Rebecca through my lovely friend and previous podcast guest Jeri Howland, who told me about Rebecca’s beautiful and moving film, Blood Road. A documentary produced by Red Bull that followed Rebecca’s expedition along the Ho Chi Minh trail, a network weaving through the mountains and jungles of Vietnam, littered with unexploded bombs and dubbed one of the most dangerous journeys in the world. Rebecca was riding to find the place where her father’s plane was shot down in the Vietnam War, and meet the villagers on the opposing side of the war who respectfully buried him.

Then I heard her interview on the Rich Roll Podcast, during a smoking hot run on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands, and many of her words stayed with me. So much so that running in a similar landscape brings back Rebecca’s precise words. The strange power of our senses!

I loved this conversation and hope you will too. We were going to focus on Rebecca’s film and her journey with childhood grief but also got into a powerful conversation about goal-setting during lockdown and changing the outdated norms around ageing and adventures in the outdoors. Rebecca gave her unique insight on:

  • Being held back by a lack of confidence in training and racing and finally learning to be kinder to herself and manage her mind monsters.

  • Her recent, pre-lockdown experience on the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a race deep in the frozen wilds of Alaska which took over seven days.

  • The rollercoaster of emotions and experiences through the Covid crisis, the importance of structure and current stressors around her businesses.

  • Her relationship with suffering and her teachings from the trail.

  • The experiences behind Blood Road and her life-changing days on the Ho Chi Minh trail, before finding her father’s burial site and meeting the villagers who buried him.

  • Finding a new purpose through her Foundation and exploring her father’s life.

  • The power of human connection and respectful humanity that can be found, even after the destructive legacy of war.

Want a fresh lockdown challenge? Rebecca is running a global Everesting event in just a few weeks – the Giddy Up Challenge. Check it out in the show notes.

Again, this was recorded at home during lockdown so please forgive the less than perfect audio quality. You can listen from Friday 8am UK through the links below. Friends, please share with your loved ones!

Listen online through Soundcloud


Apple Podcasts



Show notes

Blood Road on Amazon Prime


Rebecca's Giddy Up Challenge

Recent interview with Forbes Magazine

Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled

Rebecca’s YouTube channel

Rebecca’s TEDx talk

Rebecca’s Protect Our Playgrounds series with Outside TV

Iditarod Trail Invitational

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