RAPID CITY, S.D. – Most people cringe at the thought of running long distances, but the South Dakota Army National Guard’s Capt. Becky Linder uses running to find peace of mind while balancing being a single-mom, a company commander, and an avid marathoner.
“I love the feeling after mile four or five, after you’ve gotten over the ‘ugh, I don’t want to go for a run’ attitude,” said Linder, commander of the 1742nd Transportation Company in Sioux Falls and Flandreau. “You fall into a pace or mindset and you can start thinking about life and can use it to digest thoughts.”
Linder, a Rapid City native, began running in sixth grade during a hometown running camp. From there, she continued to participate in cross-country, track, and other activities throughout high school. While in school and with some persuasion from her twin sister Beth, she joined the SDARNG in 2005.
“She [Beth] has always been someone I look up to,” Linder said. “She always wants more for herself – our mom was a single mom of four kids and we just had to figure it out, but there’s definitely a reason that God put us on this earth together.”
Linder went to Basic Combat Training between her junior and senior year of high school, and then completed her Advanced Individual Training after she graduated high school in 2006.
Linder began attending the University of South Dakota. Shortly after starting, she became pregnant with her son Karter. Her son was born in 2007 and Linder began to balance work, school and being a new mom, but she took the challenge head on.
Later in 2008, Linder was hired as a full-time employee with the SDARNG as a drug demand specialist with the CounterDrug program. During the next four years, she continued to work in the Counter-Drug Office while pursuing her bachelors and masters degrees, raising her son, and completing her first deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. It was during her deployment that Linder began running long distances again.
“I would wake up early and run the half-mile track in the motor pool and as terrible as Kabul smelled, the view of the mountains were beautiful, especially if they had snow,” Linder said. “It was a way to release what I needed to and get into a good mindset for what I needed to do that day.”
When she returned home, she went back to her role in counter drug and finished her bachelor’s degree in alcohol and drug studies with a minor in sociology. She also continued to run and began doing races.
During her deployment, Linder had heard of the National Guard Marathon Team. The team consists of 55 National Guard members from all over the country, only 15 of those are female, who participate in marathon races throughout the year. She reached out and began preparing for the tryout and her first full marathon: the Lincoln Marathon. Linder competed in 2012 and ran a 3:35:55 to make the team.
“I was so overwhelmed,” Linder said. “I remember training and wondering how I was going to feel after I completed 26.2 miles, but I set my mind right and accomplished it and was happy to come back to South Dakota and representing it in a good way.”
That same year, Linder decided to take on another challenge and began Officer Candidate School. She credits her decision to become an officer to her experiences working with officers in her units and during her deployment.
“She always wants to be a better leader and seeks out those opportunities,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Deiss, public affairs officer for the South Dakota National Guard. “She advocated for herself to have that command opportunity and those challenging and tough opportunities; she’s dedicated and hardworking like that.”
Linder has made many meaningful connections through her Guard career and especially through the National Guard Marathon Team. She has been on the team for eight years and attributes the team as a retention tool for her. She loves the fact that the group is full of like-minded individuals who like to challenge themselves and each other through the unique experience of running marathons.
Since her first marathon in 2012, Linder has ran in 37 marathons, to include two ultra-marathons of 50 miles each. Aside from her first marathon, one of her most memorable experiences was doing the Boston Marathon in 2014, a year after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Linder recalls the day as sunny and 65, and the streets of the race were filled with people.
“I sat next to a woman on the bus who was there the year prior,” Linder said. “The people who couldn’t finish the year before due to the bombing were invited to come back the next year to finish. This woman was a half mile from where the bombs went off and described how blessed she was to be able to go back and run it, and that really motivated me to do well that day.”
Linder continues to do new marathons every year and her personal goal is to run a marathon in every state. She enjoys taking her son with her on trips so he can experience new environments as well. Linder’s son Karter has completed a few 5Ks and did his first season of cross-country this year. She feels it is important for him to see that you can be a successful athlete and successful in other areas of life.
“Being a single mother, raising a son and getting an advanced degree – she always pushes herself personally and professionally,” Deiss said. “She’s motivated, hard-working, dedicated, and passionate about any job that she does. She’s a driven Soldier.”
Whether it be a marathon, a deployment, taking care of her son, or commanding her company, Capt. Becky Linder has been able to maintain resiliency through her love of running.
“‘Mind over matter,’ that came from my sixth grade running camp and it’s always stuck with me,” said Linder.