June 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 65°F


Former lacrosse players take on local half marathon

The transition from college to post-graduate life can be challenging, especially for student-athletes finding replacements for the hole previously filled by athletics. For two former Ithaca College women’s lacrosse athletes — graduate student Alexa Ritchie and Megan Motkowski ’22 — that replacement for lacrosse took the form of running.

Ritchie and Motkowski are training to participate in the Gorges Ithaca Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile race that will take place June 17. The race will begin at the Taughannock Falls State Park and finish at DeWitt Park, just short of the Ithaca Commons. 

The pair took on the challenge not only to stay connected as friends and teammates but also to stay active after finishing out their careers on the field. Motkowski said that putting lacrosse behind her was difficult and she felt the need to find a new passion to help fill the gap. 

“It’s definitely been challenging to find a new hobby in an athletic sense,” Motkowski said. “For so long, I put everything into one sport, and to not have that anymore, you need to find a new passion and hobby. That’s where this whole signing up to run a half-marathon stemmed from just looking to find a new passion athletically.”

Like many student-athletes, much of Motkowski’s time at the college was occupied by the balance between athletics and coursework with little room for much else. Motkowski said that besides running, she has picked up on more of the little aspects of life to fill the remaining gaps left behind from college.

“My whole life has been fitness, so I’m also trying to find hobbies that aren’t necessarily [related to] sports,” Motkowski said. “Besides focusing on the half-marathon, I’ve been trying smaller things like reading, as I was never really a reader before. I’m just trying to pick up on smaller acts during the day that maybe I didn’t do before.”

Mike Motkowski, Megan’s father, said sports mirror many of the demands seen in the postgraduate world and, by being an athlete, Megan had been prepared for it from the start.

“Unbeknownst to Megan, she has been preparing to make a smooth transition into the business world over the last 10-plus years,” Mike Motkowski said. “There are so many characteristics and skills that athletics subconsciously teach us — such as self-discipline, teamwork, sacrifice, hard work, dedication and persistence — that translate to the business world. My role hasn’t changed and I continue to encourage her to pursue her goals.”

Mike Motkowski said he was not surprised to see Megan sign up and train for a half-marathon, as she is always focused on working hard and accomplishing her goals.

“Few things in life are more rewarding than seeing your children achieve success and grow into young adults,” Mike Motkowski said. “I’m not surprised that Megan decided to run a half-marathon. She has always been a very dedicated, goal-oriented person. It will be a very proud moment when she crosses the finish line.”

Motkowski will not be alone in this race, as she will be joined by Ritchie, her former teammate. Ritchie — who suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2022 — said Motkowski brought up the idea to sign up for the race while she was still in rehab.

“Megan reached out to me about running the half-marathon during the fall semester,” Ritchie said. “I tore my ACL during last season and then my meniscus two months later, so I couldn’t get surgery until August [2022]. Being able to have something to work towards and train for during my rehab, especially doing it with Megan, was big for me as we have the same attitude and mindset — that’s kind of what got me hooked.”

During their time with the lacrosse program, the duo undoubtedly left their mark on the field. From 2018–22, Ritchie and Motkowski put up a combined total of 218 goals and 62 assists, ultimately leading the Bombers to NCAA appearances in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

Ritchie said that coming off surgery, she is thankful to reconnect with running and is looking forward to being active again. As the race grows closer, Ritchie said she will approach the half-marathon day-by-day, monitoring her knee as her training progresses.

“Throughout the training, I have been lucky enough to receive physical therapy here at Ithaca, especially within the PT program,” Ritchie said. “I’ve been taking it run-by-run, kind of self-assessing how my knee feels. I’m not really worried at all; I think by the time the race comes, I will be 10 months out of surgery, which is not a huge concern anymore. I’m just very grateful that I can get back into something.”

Motkowski and Ritchie created an Instagram account where they have tracked all of their progress in training for the race. Motkowski said the idea for the account stemmed from a point of discipline, but it also allowed the pair a way to keep their training fun.

“I thought it would be such a fun idea to track our progress so we could look back and see how far we had come,” Motkowski said. “It also was a great way to hold ourselves accountable for doing the workouts.”

Ritchie said that, through her understanding of physical therapy and some additional help outside, the pair chose to follow a 14-week plan designed by Runner’s World that will help keep them on pace to accomplish their goal time for the race.

“Megan has a family friend that has run a few marathons before [who is] giving us a lot of advice,” Ritchie said. “I’m also a physical therapy student who knows how to train and progress workouts. We decided on a plan that would fit our goal — running it in under two hours — and with where I was with my rehab coming out of lacrosse and fitting it all in, we’ve sort of entered a runner’s world.”

The plan consists of both strength and interval training that adds up to a 25–30 weekly mileage, ultimately tapering into shorter distance training in the week leading up to the race. Following the plan, which began March 13, will allow the pair to achieve their goal time without becoming injured or overtrained in the process.

Looking back on her time at the college, Motkowski said her experience as a student-athlete played a valuable role in shaping how she goes about her life today.

“I’ve learned a lot of different characteristics and it shaped me into being a student-athlete and athlete in general,” Motkowski said. “I’ve gained a lot of different characteristics, such as things like time management and being able to communicate and hold a standard for myself. I’ve taken what I’ve used with my team and brought it to my current job.”