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Year II, Entry V


Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Real Illinois. In this edition, Eric updates everybody on his travels in Costa Rica and what else he is doing, Beth brings us up to date on everything she is doing, and a special guest appearance by the one and only Sean Berbert. Without further ado, here is Eric.


Eric DeGuevara


Hey again,

It is now 3 weeks later and since the last time, I have to honestly say I have been having a blast and enjoying life in CR, but at the same time upset for the reason of failing on running constantly. I don’t know where to start so let’s just go with the good things first. Sad to say that I only have just one more week left here at CR but I have enjoyed it as much as I can by going somewhere every weekend. There were more beaches, volcanoes, adrenaline adventures, and meeting cool ticos! I strongly recommend putting CR on your bucket list or something because it is a country that has a lot to offer! Other than that, school is great and sad to say, coming to end (weird to say, huh?). Going back home will be obviously different, specifically the food. No more fresh exotic and tropical fruit, gallopinto (rice & beans), and huevos a caballo. Ah! These 6 weeks flew.

Eric would approve this song

Now to the bad. One big reason for my mishap was motivation. I started good by running everyday here until one weekend where I was exhausted. Once I got back home I told myself “take a day off” which was not a good idea because it only led to more than one day off. After that I was just not able to get up and run. And a huge factor with that was that being “winter” in Central America it constantly rains in the afternoon which stops my run because they aren’t drizzles, they are downpours with lighting and thunder. Then I can’t do it in the evening because its not safe, only option is early morning but that is where I lack the motivation. It’s a moment in a runners life that I think one hits, where they don’t have that humph to go anymore. I hope I am not making this moment out of the blue, but I think runners do hit it. It’s only for a moment, until you realize and tell yourself why you are doing this and why you enjoy it.

After a tough break, I got out of it. What really helped me was thinking about my goals and the main one talking to my best friend who is my main competitor in every cross season. With that I signed up for an 8k here to keep my mind focused on running. This 8K will be one of the items in my bucket list, which is to run a race in a foreign country. So that can be checked off now! Woo woo! I will be running it this Sunday at 7:00 am and I’m hoping to break 28:00 barrier at least. I’m excited and ready to run with some Costaricans!
Well there was my story of my second half in CR. I have been enjoying it but not the way it should have unfolded. Now we are back on track. Can’t wait to be home actually running with friend (and not alone) and be with my family. Ciao amigos y allí regreso otra vez hablando de como me va corriendo.
Translation: Bye friends and I will be back again talking about how running is going.



Beth McGreal


Heyyo! Since my last blog entry, the campers have arrived and I have been working at day camp for the past three weeks. I can’t believe that I have already been working that long because it hasn’t felt long at all, but I’ll take this as a good sign. These past three weeks, I have been working with the local fourth, fifth, and sixth grade kids of the Estes Park area. Our day camp group is called “The Scrabbits” after an animal in the area. I thought the name scrabbits was a made up animal for the camp, but to my surprise it is a mix between a squirrel and a rabbit that is black and man are they weird to see around! It’s quite a change from the squirrels that I am used to seeing at U of I. Besides seeing some scrabbits around camp, we had an unexpected visitor my first week. The visitor was a BULL MOOSE that roamed right outside the day camp buildings. This was an unusual sighting since they are very rare on our side of the mountains. Although we are outside around the YMCA the whole day, my group didn’t see the moose since we were cautioned to stay away and I guess it was best for my sake since the kids were already frightened by hearing a moose was on the loose!


Scrabbit, obvi

Moreover, I have about ten campers in my group each day that I take to do archery, sports, swim, make forts in the forest, hike, and play many games like capture the flag (I feel like I have gone pro in capture the flag… so watch out). These kids have so much energy and trying to keep up with them can be a bit exhausting, but I love being engaged by playing the games and giving them a challenge especially during the games that involve some running aspect. I like to think these games, as a kid, started my running career (the games got pretty intense). From these past few weeks, I have learned so much already and I am excited for what is to come.


The sign I see on most runs

Besides work, I have been able to consistently run. I am running in the mornings with my now smaller, but still dedicated running group. If I didn’t run in the morning, I don’t think I would have the energy after running around with the kiddos. In addition, it has been challenging to find trails that aren’t as hilly because who are we kidding… we are surrounded by mountains. Yet, we have done some exploring in and around the national park where we found some trails that aren’t so hilly because I’m not going to lie, I long for some flat ground. Also, one of my goals for the summer is to be able to stick with a regular routine of mobility and abs. Because of running in the morning I have been rushed to get ready for work and haven’t had as much time as I would have liked in the morning. So, I have been able to switch things around to where I can do my exercises on days I run in the afternoon or on weekends. I have been doing well with getting in timed runs, but I am worried that I am not meeting the mileage since I am so much slower due to the many hills. On a positive note, I have been able to gradually build from 30 minutes to running 40 minutes and I don’t feel like death afterwards so that’s always a good feeling. Lastly, there are so many activities that we can do here which includes hiking. I have gone hiking every weekend since being here and I have been able to plan ahead to use my hike day as my day off since I know I would be exhausted from an all day hike to come back and run. I am happy with how many new activities I have been able to do so far and I am excited to keep on exploring.



Our guest contributor today is Sean Berbert. I met Sean freshman year when he was a senior and one of the leaders on the Illinois Cross Country Club. The year he was there left me with a ton of memories and we were all sad to see him graduate, but happy to see him move on to the next stage of his life, grad school at Wheaton College. He is one of my favorite people to talk to and catch up with and I have nothing but respect for him (even with all the dorky dad jokes). Anyways, I’ll let him do the talking. Here’s Sean.


Sean Berbert

Hello all! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sean Berbert. I graduated U of I in May of 2011, and was a member of ITC from 2007-2011 (three seasons of cross country, three seasons of track). Predominately a sprinter in high school, much of my collegiate running career was defined by adjusting to higher mileage training and longer races. Under the guidance of Coach Jake I ran 4:14 in the 1500, 10:31 in the 3000m steeplechase, and 20:57 for 6K in cross country. Post collegiately I have run 28:42 for 8k and 16:42 for the 5000m run.

I knew early on in my undergraduate career that I wanted to pursue a career in the psychology field. At the time I had a somewhat naïve idea of what it meant to be a therapist, but I knew that my gifts and talents best suited me for that profession. It was easy for me to decide to continue straight into a master’s program after graduating from U of I. In the fall of 2011, I began a master’s program in clinical psychology at Wheaton College. Although it was not a particularly academically strenuous two years, it certainly was in an emotional sense. One of the mottos of Wheaton’s clinical psychology program is “You can’t take your clients any further than you’ve gone yourself”. As someone who had been spared of experiencing any serious trauma, I found it difficult to understand this philosophy of healing. How was I to sit with clients who experienced abuse, neglect, and other traumas if I had not experienced it myself? I had lent an empathic ear to friends and family who experienced much heartache before I began the program and believed that I would most likely be able to continue this trend after I obtained a master’s degree. However, I quickly realized that my understanding of the program motto was faulty. The faculty’s intentions was for us students to acknowledge, examine, and work-out some of our deepest (yet sometimes unconscious) biases, skewed beliefs, and vices so that we could see our client’s lives more clearly. For someone who is extremely introspective, this process essentially sent my mind into overdrive. I would go as far as to say I devoted too much time to this process instead of being with the people I love and doing the things I love (like running!). I should note that the full effects of this process didn’t come into effect until my second year in the program, leaving me with about a year to enjoy living in my hometown again with some of my closest friends, a light academic load, and a desire to run fast.


The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, where I have spent the majority of my days the past two years

That being said, I rode the motivation I had from my senior year into my first year of graduate school and put in some of my best training to date. Although it was difficult adjusting to running alone  95% of the time, I still found the will to get out the door and put in the miles. I even ran two of my PRs during the fall of 2011. Unfortunately I was not able to carry this momentum into the 2012 track season as I discovered that I had a partially torn Achilles, which my podiatrist thinks was the result of too many of these:


My podiatrist was able to treat the injury without surgery (he used something called Platelet rich plasma injections instead, which I highly recommend. Although this was my first significant running injury, I patiently stayed in my walking boot for about a month and then began rehab with a physical therapist. And wa-la! After four months of no running I was sloooowly getting back into training.

It was a good time to have a lull in training given how busy I was in school, work, and internship. In October of 2012, I accepted a job at Linden Oaks Hospital in Naperville. Linden Oaks is an acute-care psychiatric hospital. This essentially means that we offer both inpatient and outpatient services to folks who have moderate to severe psychiatric disorders with the ultimate goal of stabilizing them to enter back into healthy daily functioning. My role at Linden Oaks is somewhat diverse—my title is intake associate which basically means I am the first person a patient sees at the hospital when they come in for an assessment. I also verify their insurance benefits, legally sign them in as inpatients or outpatients, answer crisis calls from the community, collect payments from patients, coordinate the transfer of patients from other hospitals in the area, transport and observe patients who undergo electro-compulsive therapy for severe depression, and respond to behavioral emergencies that occur on the inpatient units. Up until a couple months ago I was pretty set on working in an academic setting–either as a mental health counselor at a college or as an academic advisor. However, a series of experiences and interactions with patients at Linden Oaks have led me to strongly consider working as a clinical therapist on one of the inpatient units there. I will need to have my professional counseling license in order for me to work as a therapist on the inpatient units and that won’t be happening for another 6 months. So in the meantime I will continue to work as an intake associate (which I am completely fine with as I am learning a lot from the counselors and really enjoy the people I work with!).


Linden Oaks Hospital, located just outside downtown Naperville. This building houses adult, adolescent, chemical detox, and eating disorder inpatient services. 

In addition to my work at Linden Oaks I am also an outpatient therapist at Warrenville Youth and Family Services (a community mental health clinic) and a volunteer assistant cross country coach at Wheaton Academy (the high school that I attended). I am mainly working with the varsity and junior varsity boys, and it has been great so far. I work closely with the two head coaches, one of which is Jim Spivey (former U.S. Olympian and American record holder). I don’t think it has fully hit me (or the athletes) that we have the privilege of learning and training under the guidance of a man with as much professional experience as Jim.

My new role as assistant coach has really given me a reality check in regards to my own training. I will be expected to push some of the fastest varsity guys in workouts, which means I need to be back to my Fall 2011 fitness level. It’s been great running my first legitimate interval workouts and long runs since my Achilles injury, and the more consistent running has done wonders for my mental well-being after dealing with the intrapersonal stress brought upon by completing the clinical psychology program at Wheaton. I am hoping to follow an 8K training regimen for the next 4 months, with the goal of hitting 50-60 miles per week. I want to hit 16:00 for 5k and 27:30 for 8k. The only thing that may get in the way of these goals is my new work schedule—I recently accepted a full-time position at Linden Oaks working 11pm-7:30am…so I hope that my body finds a way to reset its circadian rhythms and I find the energy to run after my shifts. I think the biggest thing that I’m going to have to change with these new hours is my diet. As some of you know, I am not the healthiest runner out there. I am a self-proclaimed fast food connoisseur and drink my fair share of pop.  These habits definitely need to be curbed as my body will be dealing with enough change with my new and unorthodox sleep schedule.

All in all the past two years have been difficult yet formative. To be completely honest I am very happy to no longer be a student. I’m sure I’ll miss it eventually (and that may be when I find a way to work at a college), but for now I am happy with living in “the real world”.

I want to take a moment here to recognize a dear friend of mine, Eren Batu. Eren lost his battle with leukemia this past January. I ran countless miles with him starting when we met each other in 2003. Although Eren was a great running partner, he was an even better friend. Eren was a fellow Illini (Class of 2011, Chemical Engineering) and also competed and trained briefly with the Illinois Track Club. As someone who has worn the same singlet as all of us I believe is right for us to acknowledge him and his life. 



That’s it for this week’s edition of The Real Illinois. I want to thank my contributors, Eric and Beth, and send a special thank you to Sean for his contribution. I really enjoyed reading on how he is doing and I hope all of the readers do as well. Next week, Monica writes an update from New York and Henry provides his newest update from HDR. Until then…

“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.” 
-Arthur Blank