Samantha Roecker, BSN, RN, MSC
Nurse runs 12-17 miles each day, places 3rd at the 2018 USA National Marathon Championship.
Nobody’s perfect — it’s the effort that counts. That’s one of the main messages from #healthynurse Samantha Roecker.
Samantha knows a thing or two about effort. Ever since she was a young girl, she has turned to running as her go-to form of exercise for both physical and mental health.
“I started running when I was a kid because I wasn’t good at other sports,” said Samantha. “And my mom ran, so I thought it was fun to run behind her. Over the years, running taught me a lot about patience, diligence, and connecting with myself.”
She started competitive running in middle school, and that’s when she first began to enjoy races. The sport became a healthy addiction for her — she loved the way the endorphins made her feel. Samantha continued running all throughout high school and college.
Running’s effects on the body and mind are powerful, and Samantha has benefited from them for years. Not only has running kept her in good shape, it has also strengthened her mental health by keeping anxiety and stress at bay. Especially with a career in nursing, having healthy habits that reduce stress is crucial. All of these benefits kept Samantha coming back for more.
A New Chapter in a New City
Post-college was the first time Samantha felt burned out from running, so she took a break. Her career brought her to different jobs in new cities where she enjoyed young adult life. A few years later, she realized she missed her runs. As a busy nurse whose job was often stressful, Samantha also knew that running would help her mental health.
“When I moved to Philadelphia, I finally got back into competitive running,” said Samantha. “It has helped me meet new people and form good friendships, since there’s a great running community here.”
On average, Samantha runs twice a day for a total of 100 to 110 miles per week. She usually does a shorter 4-5 mile morning run followed by a longer, 8-12 mile run later in the day.
Checking Off Big Goals
Samantha’s love of competitive running and her dedication to the sport has paid off in more ways than just the health benefits. She placed third at the 2018 USA National Marathon Championship. By placing so high, Samantha became eligible to enter the Olympic Trials. Her result was shocking to family and friends, but more so to herself. While she had gone into the race hopeful, she wasn’t at all expecting to finish so strong.
“It will always be a moment I dreamed of,” said Samantha. “It was such a surreal race, I’m so grateful for the experience. Every step was amazing, and I gave it my all that day.”
Even though Samantha is an incredible athlete with a strong track record of success, she’s still human. She faces challenges like any other person. Her nursing job takes a toll on her both mentally and physically. Some days she’s tempted to hit the “snooze” button on her alarm clock and skip her morning run. She has dealt with injuries and illnesses that forced her to miss runs for extended periods of time.
Samantha knows a setback when she sees one, but she has never let it stop her for good.
“Picturing the 2018 race gets me through those tough moments,” said Samantha. “Also, the way running makes me feel works as my motivation. I know I’m going to feel better after I go for a run. I love it.”
Samantha has accomplished a lot over the past few years, but she’s not done. She’s planning to run the Boston Marathon on April 18th and attempt to break the Guinness Book World Record for fastest marathon run in a nurse’s uniform.
That’s not all. At the same time, Samantha is using her running journey to fundraise for the American Nurses Foundation — specifically for mental health and well-being resources for nurses.
As a busy nurse at Penn Medicine, Samantha prioritizes herself by scheduling one or two runs into her day — every day. If you’re not a runner, there’s still a lot you can take away from Samantha’s #healthynurse story. She recommends:
- Prioritizing yourself: It may seem selfish in the moment, but you’ll be more present for other people (like family, friends, and your patients) if you take care of yourself.
- Starting is the hardest part: Once you make the initial step to get up and get moving, it will get easier.
- Find the exercise that works for you: Running isn’t for everyone, but everyone should try to do some sort of physical activity. Even if you don’t have energy for a full workout, doing something is better than nothing.
Samantha Roecker, BSN-RN, MSC, is a nurse at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
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