Runners: Rachel Henley

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Runners: Rachel Henley
Rachel Henley, after finishing Junction 311 Endurance Sports' CraftHalf Marathon in Winston-Salem in April, with daughters Reagan, left, and Anna.

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Rachel Henley is helping coach not one but two GO FAR after-school programs whose elementary-aged runners will participate in the organization's race Saturday in High Point. Rachel is a runner, too, and she is the subject of today's Runners profile.

The Warmup






Husband, David; stepson, Brent; daughters, Reagan and Anna


Academically/intellectually gifted teacher, New Market Elementary, Sophia, and Franklinville Elementary

Why I run

"I always tell this high school story: I started running so I wouldn't have to ride the school bus. I had never had to ride the bus growing up. And when I started high school, I did. One of my friends said, 'Hey, you should try out for cross country,' and I said, 'That's a great idea. I won't have to ride the school bus anymore.'

"My mom was school teacher, and I had always gone to school (K-8) with her. When I stayed for cross country practice, it was late enough that she could come by the school and pick me up after cross country.

Rachel Henley during the Cannonball Half Marathon in October in Greensboro. 

"And that's how I started running, but I grew to really love it. When I had my girls, I took some time off of running. As they got older, it was something that I wanted them to like, so that's how I got into coaching running club at school, to encourage our younger generation to like running just as much as I did, and maybe for a reason other than to not ride the school bus."

The Middle Miles

Believing in GO FAR

"I've taught in a couple of different districts, but when I was in Forsyth County, in Kernersville at Piney Grove, our guidance counselor (Mandy Cannon) had started a GO FAR club. I hadn't run in a long time. 'I'd like to get back into running. I'm going to help her with her little team.' And it got to not be such a little team, and she left the district. They needed someone to fill her shoes, so me and the art teacher (Carol Mason) at the school – the GO FAR team kind of fell into our lap. And so I coached there; my daughters both started school there. The last season I was there, we had 80 kids, so it was big.

"And then when we moved to country, I told my principal here at New Market (Kim Bowie) when she interviewed me, 'I really like your school, and I've looked at your website and I see that you don't have a GO FAR team. If you want to hire me, that's the stipulation, I really want to start a club here.' She was very supportive, and our PTO was very supportive, so we began the club here in 2018. And my girls were first and second grade then.

Rachel Henley at the GO FAR spring race in 2018, running with her oldest daughter. 'I can’t keep up with Anna anymore,' she says.

"The GO FAR club at New Market was really how we built a community in a place that we were new to. It's scary to be new, I was new, and my kids were new. So GO FAR was our little family when we started here. ...

"Coming to New Market and Franklinville this year, it's a very rural area, and I grew up in a very rural area. These kids don't have the same opportunities readily available to them, and they're very hungry for these after-school, community-building activities. Running is not something they think of as a sport. But it's a sport that they can do for a long time.

The New Market Elementary School team at the GO FAR spring race in May. 

"So we build that culture, and it teaches them so much more than just to run. Kids are not always successful at school, but running is something that is tangible. You are competing against yourself. You set goals each season. I had a little friend; school was hard for them. But GO FAR was something they excelled at. Their attendance wasn't very good before they started GO FAR, and now attendance is better because they have running club and they don't want to miss it. That culture it builds in a school and the children is a big deal for me as a teacher and as a coach."


"I feel like I'm a more of a running enthusiast than a runner sometimes. In high school (North Moore), I was an all-conference runner. That is when I started seeing myself more as a runner than just the kid who didn't want to ride the school bus. We were a small 1-A school. It wasn't super competitive, but I was like, 'Yes, I can do this.'

"As I focused more on my career and my family, I decided to return to running. It was almost a risk. Last spring, I decided that I was going to run a half marathon, and I did it all by myself and I crash-trained in my Run With Hal (Higdon) app. He said, 'You do not have enough time to train.' I was stubborn enough to do this. I trained real fast, probably too quickly. I said I wanted to run it in two hours and 30 minutes. I did it in exactly two hours and 30 minutes by myself. No one ran with me. That was a big accomplishment for me just because I set my mind to it. As an adult, sometimes we don't always have personal goals that are outside of our family or our jobs. It was important to me as a mom and a wife who had focused so much on that to have something that was just for me.

"And then thirdly, my thing I'm most proud of is my little running clubs. I love being the running lady, and that's what I am at my schools. The kids don't know what I teach sometimes, but they know that I coach the running club. I love to see how excited they are and how pumped up they are for something that a lot of times kids used to think of as punishment. They're like, 'Oh, my teacher's going make me do laps.' But now they they want to, and they want to be a part of it. That is something I'm very proud of."

My weekly mileage

"Around 20."

My biggest running inspirations

"There've been a lot of little things along the way. A lot of times these kids inspire me. Some days I don't want to run, but having them and them being so excited definitely pushes me to run. When I did that half marathon, there was a runner who was blind that had a guide with him. And I remember thinking, 'Man, if this gentleman comes out and puts his best effort in, then surely I'm able to do that, too.' So many times in the running community, we see different things like that that make an impact on us."

Rachel Henley running with JoAnn Brucker, left, and son Tyler at the Beat the Heat 5K in Winston-Salem as part of the Ainsley's Angels team.

A favorite race

"The fall GO FAR race, but I'm not even just saying that. It is my favorite. The fall race in downtown: I'm taking these kids from the country, and they get to see these big buildings. They had the drum line out here for everybody. It's one of the biggest races I've ever run. There's nothing quite like it."

My last race

Cannonball Half Marathon, Greensboro

My next race

After GO FAR, she will run the Oak Island Marathon in February.

"Last year I taught a 2-3 (grade) combo, and this little girl in my class was writing her new year's goals. Her goal was, 'I want to run a marathon with my teacher.' I said, 'Honey, you are 8 years old.' She's like, 'I think you can do it, Mrs. Henley.'

"And I think I can do it, too. Our class motto is 'you can do hard things.' How can look at her and say 'You can do this, I can do this?' I prayed on it, and I said, 'I'm going to do this.' I probably will not be able to run with her when she is grown. But who knows? I'd like to do it now while I'm still young and able.

Rachel Henley running with Anna at the PTI Run on the Runway in September 2021.

"I signed up it also because my oldest daughter, literally once a week, would ask me, 'Have you signed up for a marathon yet, Mom? Have you signed up for a marathon yet?' I feel like now is the time. I've got time in my schedule to focus on this. And I can go back and tell that little friend from my class, 'We didn't run it together, but her old teacher did complete her marathon.'"

The Cooldown

What I've learned about myself through running

"A lot of things when I was growing up as far as school were pretty easy for me. Math was easy. Reading was easy. Running is something I have to work hard at.

"It has made me grittier and stronger, and I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy doing it so much. It is me against me. And I can set goals, and I can watch things get better. Sometimes they don't always get better, but that's a whole 'nother life lesson there, too.

"I love having that little chunk of the day where it's just me and the pavement. It's a very personal thing. My girls are only a year apart, so when I was a young mom, I felt like I was kind of trapped in the house. Running has gotten me out of the house. I've made new friends: The mom (Danna Baity) I ran the (Cannonball) with, I met her because I coached her daughter in GO FAR. Running has helped me make friends and pushed me outside my comfort zone. And I'm grateful for that."

Words to the wise

"Not to look at other runners. I could get real discouraged if I constantly compared what I was doing to what someone else is doing. And I tell my kids that. 'I want you guys to do well, but you can't always be looking at the fastest runner on our team and saying you want to beat them because in the meantime, you're going to hurt yourself or you're not going to be happy with your progress.'

"For me as a runner, it's just setting those small, achievable goals along the way and focusing on what I can do today that will lead to some better results tomorrow."

Rachel Henley with daughter Anna at a Creekside parkrun 5K in Archdale.