Home Run: Decorated Distance Runner Returns to Bears

Firth takes over perennial powerhouse Ursuline cross country program

Becky Wade Firth has run marathons around the world, but her serendipitous return to Ursuline Academy finds her covering new ground.

The decorated distance runner will take over as the cross country coach for her alma mater this fall. But it doesn’t mean that she’s retiring from competition.

“I think that the two can coexist very well,” Firth said. “I had always wanted to get involved back at Ursuline, but I didn’t think it would happen like this.”

Professional marathon champion Becky Wade Firth, who started her running career at Ursuline, is the new cross country coach for the Bears. (Photo: Kevin Morris) 

Firth is scaling back her training and race schedule this year because she’s pregnant, and she already planned to move back to Dallas from Colorado this year with her husband, Will. As soon as the couple put their house on the market, she received a text saying that longtime Ursuline cross country coach Jonathan Moody was stepping down.

Firth, 31, did some informal volunteer coaching after she graduated from Rice University almost a decade ago and saw the Ursuline opening as an opportunity to bring her running career full circle, back to the school that introduced her to the sport in the first place.

Firth was a sprinter and hurdler when she first joined the track team at Ursuline, but she credits the coaching staff for nurturing her success at longer distances.

“That changed everything,” said Firth, whose older sister Rachel also ran for the Bears. “I had such a great experience. It was a great entry into long-distance running.”

After becoming an All-American at Rice under coach Jim Bevan, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2012 (in the 3,000-meter steeplechase), 2016 (marathon and steeplechase), and 2020 (marathon).

When she’s not running, Firth also is an acclaimed author, most notably of Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe. She’s also a blogger and contributor to various running publications.

Firth said her coaching duties would work around her training schedule as she plans to ramp up her regimen next year.

Meanwhile, she takes over a powerhouse program — with almost 90 girls on the roster — that has won 15 TAPPS state titles, including five in the past eight years.

“I want to push them, but in a way that’s fun,” she said. “They know what the team has done, and they know what the expectations are. My job is just to guide and channel their energy and potential and foster a team. They’ve been receptive.”

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