Rachel Berger was a successful lawyer who, like many moms, decided that one day her career needed to be put on hold due to her commitment to her family. What she does next is fascinating (and absolutely stunning and delicious).
TAMAR: Hey, everybody. This is Common Scents with Tamar Weinberg. I am the founder of TAMAR. And I have with me, Rachel Berger. She is really inspiring. And I really want to just talk to her and learn her story. She just finished a marathon. And she has had this really interesting life trajectory that I felt that I thought was really important to kind of discuss and share, and learn a little bit about her rise above the ashes and her experiences that have brought her to this point. So, Rachel, thank you for coming.
RACHEL BERGER: My pleasure.
TAMAR: And I would love for you to share a little bit about your self-basic stuff.
RACHEL BERGER: Where should I start? Which point in my life,
TAMAR: What are you doing now?
RACHEL BERGER: So right now, I am the owner of The Kosher Dinner Lady, which is a company that does custom baking. I am the baker and I do all the baking. Really good. Yeah. And I take orders and I bake. And I have a cooking school that I run during the summer. I teach kids cooking. Kids are between the ages of nine and 12. And I really love it because a lot of kids are picky eaters. And I feel like giving them the tools to see healthy foods in a different way and actually be able to put them together and eat food that they’ve created with their own hands. It’s very exciting to them. And the segment of the week of cooking camp, I’ve run a few segments, and then chop competition where the kids get ingredients, and they have to create and then you really see how important it is to them and how creative they are and how proud they are of themselves for creating meals. And they’re very excited to go home and tell their parents about it. And, I love all year long parents come up to me and tell me what their kids have been making. So, it feels very good.
RACHEL BERGER: So that’s what I’m doing.
TAMAR: Yeah, you are inspiring a new generation of bakers.
RACHEL BERGER: Well, not so much baking with the kids. It’s really the food. I love baking with the kids because I’m trying to not focus on desserts even though that’s what I love. And that’s what I sell. But as far as the kids are concerned, I try and focus on real food and healthy eating. So, with real ingredients. So that’s what I’m up to.
TAMAR: Awesome. So, I want to go into that. I want to ask you a little bit about what brought you into that competition component and all that. But tell me, I know you come from a very traditional career in the fact that you were a trained lawyer.
RACHEL BERGER: Yes.
TAMAR: And now you’re this baker entrepreneur-cook.
RACHEL BERGER: Yes.
TAMAR: Cookbook person.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah.
TAMAR: And tell me a little bit about that and how you went from one strength to a bigger strength.
RACHEL BERGER: Okay, so honestly, I remember being in elementary school and wanting to be a lawyer. I was very well read. I read a lot and I was very inspired by Perry Mason and pictured myself being a lawyer. And that’s all. I went into high school knowing I was going to go to law school, went to college knowing I was going to go to law school. And then I went to law school, practice law for about 10 years. And then I had one kid, had two kids, and three. By the time it was number four, with each kid I cut down my hours because I wanted to be home with them. But I didn’t want to give up my career. By the time number four came I remember the moment when I quit. I was at the dentist with all four of my kids at the same time. There was a pediatric dentist that had four chairs and one kid in each chair and I had a closing the next morning and the client called me with an emergency which wasn’t a real emergency but in the clients eyes it was a have to talk to you and this was after normal business hours. Of course, I stupidly answered the phone to take care of things and to answer my phone when somebody is calling me and the dentist comes over to me, my kids are crying. One of them in particular, came over to me and said, Mommy, your child needs you with this look in his eye, like, he cut me down. And I just wrapped it up with my client on the phone, said I will call you back, hung up on him, basically took care of my kids, got them out of there. I went home and I told my husband, I can’t do this, I was at the dentist with my kids, but I wasn’t with my kids. I was handling my client on the phone. But my mind wasn’t there, I couldn’t do it. It was heartbreaking to me to think that after all the years, it’s the only thing I ever wanted, to be a lawyer and to stand there. And know that when I left it, I knew I was not going to be able to go back. I don’t know why I just knew it was not going to happen. And the first day, I wrapped up things I was working on at the time, I wrapped up those cases. And I just told my boss that I wasn’t coming back. And he said, well, when you’re ready, you tell me I’m ready to have you back, which made me feel good. So, in my head I said, okay, when I’m ready, I’m going to go back. And a year went, two years, three years went, by then I became the perfect volunteer for running this drive, running that drive, volunteer running the bookfair. And this became active in the synagogue and did the whole setting up speakers and running events and just became so active with that. And 10 years goes by pretty quickly, and then all of a sudden, my kids don’t really need me as much and I don’t need to be there all the time. And I found my days were very empty. And I knew I had to do something. But I wasn’t prepared to go back to work where I would be at somebody else’s beck and call and I had to find something I wanted to do that I would enjoy but still be able to be home and available. And my kids are the ones who encouraged me that I mean, I was always a bake, I always love to bake. And it’s ironic because my best friend gave me as graduation present from law school, a cookbook. So, what does that tell you?
TAMAR: It was meant to have, to put your nose around.
RACHEL BERGER: I mean; we always took cooking classes together. And I was known as the Baker. People would ask me to make their birthday cakes and their kids this and that. Anyway, so with my kids’ encouragement, they made the flyer for me, and I had a pop up bake sale a few years, but I don’t know how far, probably two, three years ago. And it was before the Jewish holidays. And it was very successful. And I was like, that’s it, I’m opening a store. I’m going all in on real estate. I know a lot of empty stores right around here. And I was like, I don’t want to go out of business so fast, and it’d be an empty store on North Avenue. So, I reeled it in a little bit and decided to start small and see where it went. And in the meantime, I ended up where I am now because I never really took it to the next level. Because of circumstances and still need to be home and still not willing to lose every penny I’ve saved to this point in my life. And so, still trying to figure things out, even though I’m at this stage of my life where I don’t think you ever have things quite figured out. So ever. So, I’m kind of just going along with the flow doing what’s good now, but still trying to see where I want to take the next step.
TAMAR: But you have a lot more flexibility now. Because you’re no longer really beholden to these demanding clients. I mean, I assume you still have demanding clients, but in a different type of combat.
RACHEL BERGER: I kind of run the show now. Like if somebody calls me and asks me for something, and I’m not available, or I have too many orders that week, I turned them down. It’s hard because I used to say yes, yes, yes. Because I just wanted the business.
TAMAR: Right. It’s good to be able to say no.
RACHEL BERGER: It’s nice to be able to say no, it’s hard to say no, but I’ve learned to do it. And I’m much happier for it because I pick and choose what I want to do. I mean, yes, thank God, I’m in a situation where I have that luxury of being able to turn down the work if I don’t want it so I’m not the primary earner in my family. I think everybody needs something that they can do for themselves where they feel like they’re contributing, they feel like they’re learning and growing. And I mean, money is good, but it’s not the whole story.
TAMAR: It’s the happiness of being able to do what you do.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, you want to feel you matter.
TAMAR: Right. So, let’s take that for a while, like your top competitions that you’re doing and this, this instilling these, I guess the self-esteem within little tiny bakers and yeah, cooks in your way. And so, tell me a little bit about how that happened because you’re doing a lot of different things.
RACHEL BERGER: Well, somebody in the community approached me around the same time that I had started the bakery. I started writing for the local newspaper, and somebody approached me and their daughter likes to cook and she doesn’t like sports camps and she didn’t want to go to sleepaway camp, and she didn’t know what she was doing that summer. And the mother said, would you be willing to do a camp for a few girls who are not looking to do something local, and they really like cooking. And I remember like thinking, oh, like feeling? Oh, my gosh, I have to commit to something like somebody has to commit to your cake, I have to commit right? And then finally, she was like no pressure. And I was like, what else am I doing? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just say yeah, sure. I’ll do it. You know, what else am I doing? Once I got my own kids off to camp, what’s my summer setup? What am I spending my day doing? I was like, yes, I’m going to commit and that first summer I committed to that week, I had 10 girls, and had a great week, and I really enjoyed it the following summer. I think I filled up three weeks of Camp the following summer, I did four weeks, I think. I mean, it just kept growing and growing with more and more kids like wanting to do it and many of them doing it for multiple weeks. It’s like however many weeks you have, I want my kid to do it. And I was like, wow, wow, this will be the summer coming up, then I’m doing it already. So, it’s pretty incredible. And I already have people emailing me because they want to make sure they don’t get closed out. I’ve had a few inquiries already.
TAMAR: I might have to talk to you about that, too. She’ll be eight or nine.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, it’s a little on the young side. Once I had an eight year old prodigy who is amazing.
TAMAR: Ah, not that good.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, she was amazing. And yeah, the girls walk in and some of them see that knife because I make them all bring a chef’s knife, seven or eight and chef’s knife and the parents are more scared than the kids. They’re like really? You sure? I’m like, trust me. By the end of the week when you see those kids with that knife chop up like making salads cutting up onions like champs and they’re so proud. They’re so proud their mother walks in, mom, look what I made.
TAMAR: I might have to go to this camp.
RACHEL BERGER: Every end of summer, mothers like to do a mommy cooking count. Nobody wants to commit that amount of time.
TAMAR: I’ll commit. I’m ready. I’m going. See this scar over here.
RACHEL BERGER: Is that from a knife?
TAMAR: Oh, yeah. Right. Yep. It’s a real scar, everybody. Yeah. Yes, it was from a collar knife when I was ninth grade.
RACHEL BERGER: Wow. Okay, so that’s really going way back. But you still need to learn how to use a knife properly when you’re nine years old.
TAMAR: Exactly. I didn’t have sensation. I didn’t have nerve sensation for a year afterwards.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, it takes a year for a nerve to grow back.
TAMAR: Really, really, it was very sad. I really thought I was going to lose sensation forever.
RACHEL BERGER: Wow.
TAMAR: Anyhow, so and then you decided to culminate with this like, chop competition?
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, I think it just gives the kids the opportunity. We do the chop competition on Thursday. And I use ingredients that we’ve expose them to all week. And I introduce like, we’re, like on TV and they’re so excited. And I bring in women from the community to judge so they really feel it’s serious. Like, you can judge this. Yeah, totally. So, I get people to come in and they taste their food, and they give them good critique, and they taste it seriously. And they take it seriously. And the kids really, you know, they listen to the you know, and I do have a winner. And one of the mothers actually said to me I really appreciate that you had a winner. And not all everybody’s a winner kind of thing. It’s hard, but everybody gets complimented on something that they were good at, and everybody is good at something. There’s no prize, you’re just get the title, but I think the kids really feel good about themselves about what they produced. And especially when the judge some judges are more complimentary than others and there was one, somebody’s grandmother came to judge this year and she came twice. And she literally was like, can I take this home. Can I wrap this up and take this home with me. I really enjoyed it and the kids would just be me, and it’s just really good. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. My house is a disaster when they’re done. But when it’s over, I really feel accomplished, I feel good about it.
TAMAR: You’re definitely giving them a boost.
RACHEL BERGER: I hope so.
TAMAR: And they come back, for sure.
RACHEL BERGER: They come back.
TAMAR: That’s pretty amazing.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah.
TAMAR: So, a lot of what I want to talk about here also is to kind of get a feel for everybody, has a story where we’re all human. And even though we are, we definitely don’t come from the perfect background, or the perfect history, the perfect life story. And everybody has their own internal struggles. So, I know that you’ve talked about how you’ve kind of had struggles and I know that you’re better and stronger for it, but wanting to get a little bit of your story in however comfortable you are.
RACHEL BERGER: I could start it’s sort of almost sounds like a cliche a little bit. But when I was 12, my family made a move to Israel. We lived there for four years. And we all had a hard time adjusting, and I guess my parents more than the rest of us because they ended up getting divorced. And my mom ended up coming back to the States with the five of us. And I’m sure each of my siblings has their own version of how they feel things went down. But from my perspective, I kind of feel like we were all left to fend for ourselves, especially the older kids because we were older and had younger siblings. So, they were really more of a concern. My mother, when I think back, I’m older than she was when she got divorced. And she was 40 with five kids on her own. I can’t even imagine when I put myself in her shoes now like, wow, I could have a much greater appreciation for what she must have been going through because of course I was 16 at the time when they got divorced. So, I was just wrapped up, I was in 12th grade in high school. I was interested in boys and my friends and I wanted to be popular and all the usual stuff. So yeah, that was my focus and got into college. My parents’ divorce was a little messy, my first year of college, so I never really felt down by it. I felt I was able to compartmentalize it and to like that was going on at home, but I was this other person at school. And I was successful at school, and I was involved in school. And, of course I had my mission to go to law school. So, I had a focus like that. I don’t think I ever got lost because of what was going on at home. But looking back now, I never went home for the weekend, like I always had an excuse to stay in school or why I needed to stay in school. But I guess that was my coping mechanism. And school was my safe place and my happy place where I was not attached to my baggage. I was just in my own bubble and felt successful and happy. And when I would go home, I’d have to deal with all the crap that was going on. My sister now will say, oh, well, you ran away, and I’m like, I ran away. I was self-preserving. I put myself in a place that I felt good about myself. And I’m sorry if they weren’t able to or if they couldn’t. But looking back I think I did very well for myself and not letting that drag me down.
TAMAR: Right. Don’t let it define you in a way that really changed your whole demeanor.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah. So, I did it on my own, went to law school, I paid for it, borrowed, did what I had to do. I never asked my family for anything. When I met my husband while I was in school, I didn’t know he would be my husband at the time. But that worked out well. And so, I really feel lucky. But it’s interesting because somebody once said to me, I was at a conference I think, and they say you make your luck, because you put yourself where you were to have that luck. So, I’ve been thinking about things differently. Currently a little bit when I say I really was lucky, like, I was lucky that I got into law school, that I was successful, that I met my husband, that I ended up where I ended up. So how much of that is luck? Or how much is that I made happen for myself because of what I was able to do for myself. I mean, I think part of it is luck and blessing, but I think and I feel blessed that I was able to make it into what it is, and it’s funny, because my whole life, when I thought about all my friends, they had normal lives, they had normal parents, they had normal home, like, I always just wanted to live in a house, my mother lives in a small apartment we were all squished in one bedroom. And I wanted to just be like everyone else and have a normal life. And that’s what I wanted to give my kids and I find it where I am today; I feel like so happy. I’m so like, regular? No, but now the cool thing is to be out of the box and looking to be not regular which I find so hard to think. I could differentiate myself from everybody else by being not mainstream, not normal. It’s just interesting that to me, going back a little bit, given up a lot, my law practice or there’s a lot more tied to that because that was my anchor of my whole life. It was getting to that point I think you keep making new goals and new points, when I had that goal. Okay, so now what.
RACHEL BERGER: And then I got married. Okay, so now, I was hitting all the milestones I was supposed to hit. Alright, got the house, got the husband, got the kids, so it’s like, now what? So now I’m going to try and be out of the box. And now I’m going to try and differentiate myself, figure out what it is that I could do for myself. Not because I care about what anybody else is looking at me as.
TAMAR: So, you just did something?
RACHEL BERGER: Yes.
TAMAR: What can be considered out of the box? And you ran 26.2 miles in New York City. So, tell me a little bit about that.
RACHEL BERGER: So okay, it’s funny I would say, 22 years in the making. Before I had my daughter, I was living in the city. And I remember a whole group of us are living in an apartment building. And we all joined Weight Watchers together, we were all trying to lose weight. And back then I only had like 12 pounds to lose and if you say there was a gym in the building, we would go down to the gym and would go on the treadmill and or if somebody made a joke, oh, one day, you can run the marathon. And I remember thinking, that’s crazy but in my head somewhere, it stuck, one day, I’ll run a marathon. Anyway, years and years later, I became friends with this girl, she eventually ended up a health coach. And I guess I expressed to her that I always wanted to run but I just can’t. I’m just not athletic. I’m not built to run. I’m not a runner. But there was something that when I would see somebody run, I would be like, wow, I’m so jealous. Like, I wish I could run. And she’s like you can and I remember thinking like, no, you don’t understand I can’t run from here to the corner. I can’t run. She’s like, yeah, you can if you want to. And then I remember putting all my sneakers, putting on workout clothes, going down to Pinebrook over here, standing on the street, looking down and thinking, okay, and being embarrassed beyond belief that somebody was going to see me not one and thinking I’m just going to run, and they’ll see how far I could go. And I ran. And I was able to run for nine minutes. And I remember thinking, wow, I ran for nine minutes. That’s my run. I’m going to run every day for nine minutes. And that’s how I started. I started running every day for nine minutes and then eventually I went to 10 minutes and then I went to 12 minutes and I went to 30 minutes. And over the course of a few months, I increased till I got to about 25 minutes, 25 minutes to 30 minutes, took me forever. It’s just crazy.
TAMAR: It is.
RACHEL BERGER: I couldn’t go from 25, I mean, you’re a runner now. Okay, kind of. It takes guts also to say I’m a runner, like you have to say it because you don’t believe it.
TAMAR: You start running you are a runner.
RACHEL BERGER: If you run out, I saw that quote, if you run you’re a runner.
RACHEL BERGER: But still, it’s no, I’m not a runner.
RACHEL BERGER: So, everyone else has to wonder everyone else is a runner because I’m not a runner. Yeah, I just pretend to be a runner. Right? Anyway, so the same friend of mine was a health coach. I don’t know if I hit said that and she gave me this printout of a program that if you could run three miles, you could train for a half marathon. And I remember like thinking half marathon, that’s 13 miles. That’s insane. And she’s like, this event is 23 weeks away, sign up for it. And I remember thinking, all right, she told me when somebody else tells you do something you just do it, but I guess I really wanted it. And then I just started following the plan. I just said, Monday, run three miles, Tuesday, rest Wednesday, run two miles, Thursday, run five miles and I just started doing it. And then all of a sudden, I’m standing at the start line, and I’m running a race. I crossed that finish line. I was sobbing, literally I couldn’t believe that I had accomplished something that I thought was impossible. It was impossible. And it really was very empowering. It was very empowering to know I accomplished something that I thought I could never do. And I remember thinking all the people along the way clapping and cheering and I’m like, I’m just running. Why are you guys here? Why are you clapping for me? It was just so strange. Anyway, since that time, I’ve done about six half marathons plus a handful of other races, and I kept applying to the New York City Marathon because if I could do a half, I could do a whole. My uncle who has run nine marathons said, running the whole marathon isn’t like running two halves. It’s very different. And I remember thinking, what does he mean? Anyway, but when you finish a half marathon and you think, okay, you got to do that again? No, you’re like, oh, okay. Anyway, I applied to the New York City Marathon a few times, didn’t get in, and it was kind of went on the back burner. And then my sister became a runner a few years ago and she did the half marathon, the New York City Marathon last year. And she said, Rachel, you have to apply, and I’m like, I’m not going to get in. I’ve done this and she said, apply, so I applied, and forgot about it. And then she called me the day before she said, you’re going to get in, I feel it. This is your year. I know it. It’s going to happen. I like, okay, and then the next day, I got charged my credit card, and I knew, that’s how you get in. When you see the charge. You get it? And I was freaking out. I was like, oh, no, like, look, what have I done? Yeah, this is crazy. And she was so happy for me. She’s like, you don’t understand how life changing this is going to be. And at that point, I had stopped running. I mean, eight months. It was last March, I found out and at the end of last February I had stopped running. I couldn’t even run a mile if I started at the same time you were.
TAMAR: Yeah, I started December. But I made it more official in April.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah. So, we started around the same time running. And it was a struggle. But again, I had planned, I signed up for the thing. I had to follow it. In November, I had to run every day. It was eight months away. But in my head, I knew if I trained and seeing those numbers every Sunday go up from nine miles, 10 miles, 11 miles, 12 miles, 13 miles, and then 14, which is one mile past the longest I’ve ever run in my entire life, I was like, I don’t know, how I don’t know. And then every week came and I did what I was supposed to do. And I’d be freaking out like, oh my God, I did it. And I did the 18 miler in Central Park. That was the longest run I had done to date. And I remember thinking, oh, my God, I could do this. I get to do this. I may die, but I’m going to do it. And then I went back down a few miles. And then I had 19 miles and I was like, I got this and then I was just so excited for the opportunity. And I knew I had trained whatever happened. I knew I was crossing that finish line. If I would walk, crawl, skip hop job didn’t matter. I was crossing that finish line. And in the end, I exceeded my expectations. I ran I would say most of it. I did take a few walking breaks. But I finished, I felt good. I felt strong. I remember that crossing feeling. Like Is that it? Like it’s over? I cross that line now. And that was it. They put a metal around your neck and you’re like, I’m a marathoner. That’s great, and yeah, that was like a feather in my cap , felt really good to get that done..
TAMAR: Awesome. Yeah. So, tell me about the environments of the running experience.
RACHEL BERGER: You meet so many people and everybody has a story, everybody’s running for somebody from somebody, everybody has a reason. Everybody is motivated by whatever it is motivates them and anybody you talk to, you’re left with your jaw open, nobody’s just there. Yay, I’m a runner, I got it. And so, I’m going to run like everybody has, like something pushing them or something that makes them feel they have to do this. And it’s really incredible. Now I understand why people are on the side, cheering when I run down, and people are cheering me. I made eye contact with anyone. I wore my name on my shirt. And anyone who said my name, I made eye contact with them. And I smiled like I smiled. Like, I really appreciated everyone who was out there. And I, I understood because I wanted to cheer for the people around me, people were running for something, we’re just running to run. So, it’s a long day, either they’re running to beat their time. But why do they want to beat their time? Because there’s a reason. There’s a reason so 50,000 different reasons, 60,000 marathon? Yeah, 53,000 different reasons. So, I finished like 50,000 which is amazing because my husband’s like, he didn’t finish last. I was like, I know, that was my goal. Don’t get kicked off the chorus and don’t finish last. So yes, it was my mind blowing whole experience.
TAMAR: So, talk about what it was like in the city. You had mentioned to me sort of about how they didn’t shut down. So, tell me a little bit about how the city was so receptive to runners fast and slow, like how that works.
RACHEL BERGER: I mean, when we started, I was on the bottom of the Verizon, in the last wave in the last second to last corral. So, I was literally at the end of the line. And at the end of the line, there are people who dropped back because they want to run with friends. So, if you’re faster, you can run slower. But everybody had this more relaxed attitude in the back. It wasn’t so competitive. It was just like, the camaraderie and when the cannon went off everybody started shuffling forward, and then I saw the start line in front of me, and I see the mat on the floor. And I know once I crossed that my family’s going to know I started because they can see me on the app, and then they’re going to be following me. And when we hit the first mile marker which was in the middle of the Verrazano, and we all cheered, everybody was like, yeah, like, 25 more to go. But I was so excited. We let me pass the milestone, literally the first milestone. And it was like, oh, my God, I’m doing this. And nobody was on the Verrazano, although people were like shedding clothing, right and left, and it was like, I just wanted to pick it. Oh, gosh. And then you get into Brooklyn, and there are bands and people handing tissues and food just to be a part of it. Like they wanted to touch you and experience being a part of it. They wanted to be helpful and useful that people are handing out water bottles and paper towels and tissues and beer and homemade things, of course I was born, don’t eat anything from anybody, to touch anything you’ve never eaten. So, I just smiled and don’t even wave too much at people, it’s going to use up too much of your energy. And you have your instructions, don’t go through Brooklyn too fast because you got to save your energy for the end if you burn everything up in the first. And of course, I look at my watch, and I see I’m going too fast. I’m like, oh, crap, this is not good. And then I was like, pardon me was like, I don’t care. I mean, I’m going to slow it down, but I’m enjoying this, I’m enjoying that I’m able to run fast at this point. I’m just going to enjoy it. And I had family all along the course. And my husband met me at my five which was a surprise. I was like, oh my god, there’s my husband. And then my sister was at mile eight. My brother was 15. And then my husband again was at mile 12. And then he was again at mile 18 . And at each point, as you got further along, people knew it was getting harder for you. And they were so encouraging. It was unreal. Like they wanted you to finish and they wanted you to feel it. People like, Rachel the first marathon, you’re amazing. You could do it. I’m like, I know , guys. Thanks. I was like, really? It’s just so amazing. Brooklyn was great, bridges were hard because nobody was on the bridges. And then coming up First Avenue was when I first felt real because I am in the city all the time and running up First Avenue. I felt like I was in a movie. Did you see Brittany Runs a Marathon?
TAMAR: No. She was like over time. That your experience? Have you ever had that?
RACHEL BERGER: I don’t know. I don’t think about it. But I definitely had that when I finished a good run and I’m dripping in sweat.
TAMAR: It’s a sense of accomplishment.
RACHEL BERGER: It’s a sense of accomplishment. I don’t know if that would be the runner’s high or not.
TAMAR: It happens during the run. And I’ve only had it once and I’m not even sure it happens during the run.
RACHEL BERGER: It happens during the run? I don’t know that I’ve ever had it during the run. I always have it when I’m done and I just feel like, why didn’t I? Why don’t I run more often, when I stopped running and then I’d run again, I forgot how much I enjoy this. People when you talk to them, they’re like, oh, I hate running. And I’m like, shut up. Like, I really enjoy it. They’ll make me feel like, am I weird because I love running. But then you see there 50,000 people who love running, so I’m just hanging out with the wrong people, I guess. Yeah, First Avenue of getting into the Bronx, coming back into Manhattan. I was like, it’s already getting dark by the time I was getting back into the city and my goal was I didn’t want to run in the dark. And I didn’t want to get swept off the course. And I knew six and a half hours after the last wave, I think they start the sweeper trucks.
And my sister kept telling me like, you can’t worry about that, you worry about you. You worry about your run, don’t worry about your time, don’t worry about what you know, your whatever, but in the back of your head, you still feel like you still want to do it. And a couple of points along the way I looked at my watch and I didn’t know till I got back into the city that the time I was running like that I could still do it. But my goal was to finish in six and a half hours. The coaches, the virtual coaches I was training with online through the New York Road Runners told me I should shoot for 650 to 710 as a finish. I remember being horrified like seven hours, and then as I was training and realizing yeah, it just might be seven hours, and I just had to accept that’s what I was running. And then I got into the city, and I knew I had four miles left. And I had an hour and a half left. I had no, sorry. I had six miles left when I got into the Bronx. Yeah, because that’s mile 20. And I saw I had an hour and a half left. And I was like, if I keep 15 minute mile like I could do it. Like I could do six and a half. So, I was still motivated to run in the middle. I got a little hairy, but by the end I had that drive.
TAMAR: Right. Because you were already over the hump.
RACHEL BERGER: I was over the hump and my husband was in Mile 20. I don’t know. He’s in front of Mount Sinai, which is like up Fifth Avenue. It’s like the last one as you head back into the park, which is the last two miles. And he’s like, Rachel, you just have this hillman in the park. And once you’re in the park, you’re done. And he’s I remember like smiling. I remember thinking, yeah, I know. I know, like I got this. And there was one point at mile 12 when I saw him and I was like, oh my god, like I’m fading. I feel like I’m fading. I’m very fatigued. I felt like my legs are like, I don’t know. And then, I struggled a little bit in the middle there. And then by the end I felt strong. I felt good. I knew I was done. And then literally the last half mile on 59th Street. I see Gary again; he was like the Energizer Bunny. He was everywhere, like crisscrossing the city with the trains and proclaiming he was everywhere. And then I see Gary again and I see my sister who had finished two hours earlier. And she was still wearing her bib and she came back on the course and join me and we ran blast 800 meters together. And as we came in, she was supposed to wear a shirt that said Rebecca and her shirt said Rachel’s team, and so we ran into the park and there was a bandstand there. And the women who were announcing things said, Rachel and Rachel’s team, wow, she has a whole team named after her. And I remember like, I was just laughing. And then the last little bit is uphill. And I got to the top, I just started walking and she was looking at me like Rachel, you could do this. You could do and I was like, I know, I just wanted to take it in, I just didn’t want it to be over. It wasn’t that I couldn’t run like I knew I saw the finish line. I just wanted to walk but then I knew I had to run. I was running across that finish line, and then I saw the grandstands. And then it was over, you’re like, wow, I just want to sit down. And she was like, no, no, no, you can’t sit down. You can’t, you got to keep walking. But you’re on such a high because even running, I was running for six and a half hours I finished in 625. So, I was very, very happy with that. And I asked my sister, I said, what were you thinking when you saw me come running down 59th Street, were you like, oh my god, there she is. Or she’s really doing it. And she was like, no, I knew you were going to do it. I was like, really? She was like, of course you were going to do it. Anyway, we crossed the finish line and made our way back to her apartment where she had this whole surprise party for me. It was really so surreal, the whole experience. Like even now I think did I really do that? Did that happen?
TAMAR: I saw it.I was following.
RACHEL BERGER: You saw that? You’re following?
TAMAR: Yes. To some degree. I was trying to follow you on Garmin. But you were on the Verizon bridge for like five minutes.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah. And Gary said also went out, and I don’t know.
TAMAR: I had to get your information I think from Nicole
RACHEL BERGER: From Nicole, okay.
RACHEL BERGER: So yeah, that was quite the day and of course, the next day, took my name for the lottery for next year, even though I felt like this was a one and done thing. But I don’t know. You don’t want to be a one-time Charlie.
TAMAR: Keep it going.
RACHEL BERGER: We’ll see.
TAMAR: Get to start thinking about the other cities too, like Berlin and Boston.
Yeah. So, my sister’s looking to do the Abbot, the six majors.
TAMAR: So, try.
RACHEL BERGER: I don’t know if I’m going.
TAMAR: It’s not too late.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah. And that’s interesting. I’m 52 years old. I ran my first marathon when I was in my 30s. And people are like, somebody I knew was running a marathon. And she was like, 42, everything. Oh, my god, she’s so old. I can’t do that. I have a whole perspective change. I feel really proud that I’m 52, that I’m okay. Not a runner’s body, not an athlete. I’m not athletic, I should say, I was able to do it. I hope I inspire other people to do things.
TAMAR: That’s why we’re talking.
RACHEL BERGER: I hope so. I mean, just because you don’t look the part doesn’t mean you’re not capable. You shouldn’t let anybody else define you what you should look like, what you should be like, I’d like put you in a little box because you come from a certain background, because you look a certain way, because you shouldn’t be doing something. I guess that’s what people say about old age, you get to a point and you’re like, ah, who cares?
RACHEL BERGER: And anybody thinks like, just people like saying the craziest things and it’s like, start doing that a little earlier.,
TAMAR: Yeah, it takes a very long time for you to recognize that you shouldn’t care what other people think.
RACHEL BERGER: A long time.
TAMAR: For me, it happened very recently. I was always internalizing everything. But it eventually come to that point and realization and I just embrace it. Just like how to not give a blink.
RACHEL BERGER: I try and tell my daughter, 22. She also worried about what other people think how she appears to be. And I was like, nobody cares. Like, why do you think people are worried about themselves and what they look like?
RACHEL BERGER: So, if you knew that, if I could go back and tell my child self, like nobody cares.
TAMAR: Right. Like, they don’t remember what they do.
RACHEL BERGER: They don’t go oh, you were the kid who bla, bla, bla and they’re at school. And if they do, first of all, I haven’t seen anybody I went to elementary school with, I don’t even know when’s the last time I saw somebody I knew from when I was a kid. I mean, I’m sure other people around do see the people they went to school with but like for me, it’s like, I don’t know.
RACHEL BERGER: I feel bad if somebody is so trapped in that, like, leaving Elementary School in the middle. And I felt like I never belonged anywhere. I was never part of the click. I was never part of the high school. The cool group because I was never anywhere for long enough. Like we moved around a lot.
TAMAR: I just had my high school reunion May 20.
RACHEL BERGER: Oh, wow.
TAMAR: So, I flew to Florida. And it’s just weird because I started to realize that you’re totally right. I mean, I don’t I remember people in some capacity. Remember the smart kids and the not so smart kids. But you don’t realize what takeaways you’re going to get because the smart kids aren’t necessarily the most successful.
RACHEL BERGER: Right.
TAMAR: And the dynamic of that is so interesting.
RACHEL BERGER: And the cutest guy all of a sudden is like not that cute.
TAMAR: Not the cutest guy.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, and you’re like, oh my God.
TAMAR: You wonder what happened to the cutest guy in my class I had a crush on.
RACHEL BERGER: Oh, my gosh. Wow. But also, people I know, I went to college with that I formed probably not fair opinions of, and I’ve met, re met them, and they just are the way they present themselves now to me and then I just feel bad that I ever thought negatively about them back then.
TAMAR: Right. I think everything really happens when you’re like late 20s or early 30s. But for me, as I was explaining before we started this, I started really living life, I guess I would say the last like 12 months. And I’d only had almost four decades before I really started recognizing what my potential is.
RACHEL BERGER: That’s great that you did it now. There are some people who never get there and they just live in oblivion or do get there. And I hate to say too late because I don’t think there is a too late.
RACHEL BERGER: I think somebody just said this, and I wrote down this quote, it’s like, whenever you start reaching for your goals , it is the right time, whenever it is, that’s the right time.
RACHEL BERGER: So, whatever you had to go through to get there. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s more painful.
TAMAR: Sometimes you need a lot of recovery and a lot of soul searching.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah. But if you’re able to get through that, if you’re able to do it, that’s really luck. I mean, it’s really it takes a lot of work and desire to want to get there and sometimes you need help to do that.
TAMAR: Yeah, everyone talks about how Facebook and all the other tech unicorns were started by 20 somethings. But the average age for starting a successful business, I think I read an article about this recently on I think The Hustle, which is a really cool entrepreneurial type of publication, email lists and other things that they have is like 38. And I’m seeing now the change in that a lot of people just are not happy with their daily grind, their nine to five, they have to be responsive to every client at all hours of the day. That’s the lifestyle that I think a lot of people just don’t want to do anymore. There was an article that I just read yesterday on Yahoo about these lifestyles that are out and these are lifestyles that are in and one of them was like that. I’m sorry, no offense to The Hustle as a publication but they said The Hustle itself is not sustainable. Because eventually, you do burn out. I love what I was doing, my passion in life. But without a doubt I burn out eventually, you just do.
RACHEL BERGER: So, my takeaway from all that is that you don’t have to do the same thing your entire life.
TAMAR: Exactly. So, everybody’s changing that trajectory.
RACHEL BERGER: When I graduated, law school was good for me for that point of time in my life. I thought that was going to be forever. I thought that was my career, that was my life. And it was for that time period. And now I’m doing this, I don’t know, we’ll see. And now I’m happy doing this. So, we’ll see what else and I feel like I’m setting a good example for my kids, because they’re amazed. They’re, like, look at mommy going after her dreams, versus always her dream. They were so proud of me when I finished, they knew something I wanted to do, and they were so happy for me that I did that for myself.
RACHERL BERGER: And I was happy because I want them to know, if you have a dream, put it on your priority list, put it on your calendar and get it done. And I hope that was there, what they got out of it? I hope so.
RACHEL BERGER: Life is short.
TAMAR: You need to enjoy it.
RACHEL BERGER: You need to enjoy it, you need to be happy so that you could be there for yourself or your family, for other people. I mean, it’s important to give back and do things for other people. And you could get that done and in a variety of ways throughout your lifetime doing different things. It’s that pretty amazing.
TAMAR: Yeah. So, let’s wrap up a little bit. I don’t know if you have like, three things that you would urge anybody to do to kind of achieve their dreams, go toward their destiny, like what kind of takeaways would you want.
RACHEL BERGER: I would say define your dream. What is your dream? And it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be because if you know where you’re going, then you know what direction you’re headed. So, it may not be a straight path. It may take you a number of years like the marathon. Literally that seed was planted 22 years ago. Did I know I was going to do it one day? Yeah. Did I think it would take me 22 years? Do you think a year ago, I thought I would actually do it. I mean, it happened because it was something I wanted to accomplish. So, I think don’t get frustrated. Or sometimes you could get thrown off the path and things get in the way. But if you keep that in your horizon and keep it as a goal that you’ll get it done, you’ll get it done. And then just figure out the steps you need to get there. I think that would be the number one thing and you got to keep telling yourself, it’s hard to believe when things are bad, and you don’t think it’s going to happen, just keep saying that, that’s what I want. That’s what I want, know what you want. And, yes, you need to make yourself happy, and you need to be happy. When you’re happy, the people around you will feel it and will be happy. People want you to be happy. People don’t want to be around an unhappy person. People don’t want to be around you, if you’re happy that didn’t come out. I mean, when you’re happy, you bring happiness. And as you’re not always happy, and sometimes you need your friends to pull you up, you need somebody for you. And then when you see somebody else’s in a bad place, you could pull them up. But I’ve seen people who are in a bad way and just couldn’t get out, but they have to do it, you could do everything you can to be there for them and to help them. But it has to come from them. So, it has to come from you, if that’s something that you want, and it’s your goal, you have to make it happen and then ask for the help that you need. And those are part of the steps you need. So, if you need something not everybody’s going to know what it is you need. And you could define it for yourself.
TAMAR: Yeah, if I can add to that, I would only say that you have a goal, and surround yourself with people that’ll help you get there. So not necessarily your friends, for example, that’ll bring you out of your sorrow or whatever it would be.
RACHEL BERGER: Right.
TAMAR: Like, for example, as a runner, somebody who’s trying to run myself, I’m actually finding communities that I see people running every single day.
RACHEL BERGER: Right.
TAMAR: And I know because I have a vision of something I’m not really sure what that vision is, I hope the marathon is sort of there, it’s kind of there. It’s a little flicker of a marathon. There it is on my bucket list. I did write a bucket list; I think it’s on it, but I’m still can’t quite materialize that whole entire vision. But I found all these little online communities and I see people running toward a 5k right now. And I do see people running marathons as well. And I’m like, yeah, I’m going to get there. Hearing you speak about your marathon experience; it actually becomes kind of you can visualize in your mind. That’s actually good. So good. Yeah. surrounding yourself with the people who bring me to that point.
RACHEL BERGER: Right.
TAMAR: I think that’s a really important point.
RACHEL BERGER: Right? And if I’m in the cake business, and I want to get better at that or build my business, I need to find people who are in that business who can help me and give me advice. So, I belong to groups where there are people who can help me, or that I can contribute to whatever point I’m at, but and then there’s the running aspect. There’s lots of facets to it to you, to your life. And yes, all of those aspects if you get with people who are like minded, we could all help each other achieve the goals that you want to achieve.
TAMAR: Cool. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I love hearing your story. I think there’s a lot of takeaways, a lot of important inspiring messages.
RACHEL BERGER: Glad to hear.
TAMAR: Yeah, and thank you again. Again, this is Tamara Weinberg and I have Rachel Berger, and she is amazing and awesome inspiration. And I wish you much success.
RACHEL BERGER: Thank you.
TAMAR: Keep it up. Keep it going. We’re going to keep running together.
RACHEL BERGER: Okay.
TAMAR: Don’t give up.
RACHEL BERGER: The lottery for the half marathon. I’ll find out tomorrow.
TAMAR: Oh, yeah. So, just like your sister did the day before you got this.
RACHEL BERGER: Yeah, okey.
TAMAR: All right. Thank you again.
RACHEL BERGER: You are welcome.
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