In it for the Sticker: Lisa's story
By Amy Marxkors. Reprinted from Fleet Feet flyer.
Sure, Lisa Hautly liked running. As a professional fitness and wellness consultant, she had been involved in athletics—racquetball, tennis, the occasional 10K—for over twenty years. In 2006, she ran her first half marathon, the Lewis and Clark in St. Charles, enjoying the experience enough to complete several more half marathons over the next few years. She didn’t consider herself a runner (she was known to wear a t-shirt emblazoned with the humorous acronym “DBL,” or “Don’t Be Last”), but after crossing the finish line at the 2011 GO! St. Louis ½ Marathon, she decided it was time to run a full. After all, she wanted that “26.2” sticker.
Shortly after GO!, she signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon and started training. For her previous races, training consisted of lacing up her shoes and heading out the door for a run. Most of the time she ran alone. Sometimes she ran with her friend Kim. But training for a full was a new experience for her. It required longer runs, more dedication, greater time commitments, and an actual training plan. Yes, she had run half marathons before. But this—the idea of running 26.2 miles—was a whole new ballgame.
Lisa had heard about the Fleet Feet Social Runs and decided to give them a try, despite her anxiety about running in a group. She called the store for more info and talked to Andy, who told her to just go out and have fun.
“And guess what?” she says, “I had fun and I was faster than usual, despite the hills of Fenton. I walked out [of the Social Run] pretty stoked and began showing up for the speedwork sessions a short time later. And guess what? I was faster there, too.”
She laughs as she recounts her first experience at the Fleet Feet Speedwork session.
“I showed up with my new tricked-out Garmin. I was all sweaty and nervous about completing the workout (or having a heart attack). I had no idea what speed I’d be on short distance since my 5K days were long ago. Once again, Andy encouraged me to have a little confidence and to push myself. (He did this while correcting my Garmin settings.) I picked a granny pace for the step-downs, figuring I had until dark to complete the workout. But I had so much fun, I ran faster than I thought [I could].”
Building on the confidence she gained from her first successful laps, Lisa tried to keep up with one of the head Fleet Feet Training Team coaches, Brandi, who was running casually around the track and encouraging everyone.
“By the last two 400s, I was fatigued, so I figured I’d hide in the pack,” she says. “But instead, I heard Brandi call from the front of the pack, ‘Hey, where’s that gal? Come up here! This isn’t cool down!’”
Lisa responded by running her fastest 400 ever.
Summer was now in full swing, but Lisa still didn’t have an official training plan. A friend steered her towards Kristen Murphy, another head coach on the FLEET FEET Training Team. (“It was love at first sight,” laughs Lisa.) Kristen served as a mentor to Lisa, referring to her as her “summer project.” It was an auspicious start to Lisa’s little fitness whim, a harmless fling with a full marathon. After all—as she told Kristen—she was just in it for the sticker.
And then, suddenly, her life changed forever.
Lisa’s dad passed away unexpectedly in August. He had gone to the hospital for a routine procedure and had contracted staph infection. He died within days. (“He went from healthy to gone in two weeks,” she says. “They were the darkest days I’ve known.”)
Less than a month later, an elderly friend became very ill. Lisa became the woman’s guardian and had to orchestrate the painful, delicate, and emotional fatiguing process of moving her from independent living to a nursing home. At the same time, Lisa saw dramatic growth in her wellness coaching business, a coveted phenomenon, to say the least, but one that also brought with it added pressures to an already stressful time in Lisa’s life. Her training collapsed under the heavy burdens. By September, Lisa decided enough was enough. She couldn’t do it.
“My training had tapered,” she recalls. “My sadness and new responsibilities were creating sleepless nights. I ran one mile that week. I decided I didn’t have the makings of a marathoner.
“Kristin and I had been meeting at Creve Coeur Lake once a week. (It was her idea to drag me out of bed each week at 5:30am.) When I confessed my mileage to her, she told me to let it go and just to focus on the rest of the time, especially my long runs.
We switched to running/walking intervals of 10:1. Allowing me a speed-walk break was the boost I needed. Quitting was no longer an option.
“[Kristen] texted me often after that with encouraging words. Sometimes I did the remaining long runs just so I could text her back. I have no doubt that I wouldn’t have completed [the training] without her.”
Kristen also told Lisa to find a mantra that she could repeat to herself when she wanted to quit. She tried to think of one, but nothing stuck with her. What she did notice, however, was that when she felt she couldn’t go any further, she would count out eighty-six more steps, just to prove she could keep going. The number was significant. It was her dad’s age when he died. She also ran most of her long runs on Grant’s Trail, where her dad used to ride his bike. She thought about him often while she trained, and it was the memory of him that propelled her forward.
And then it was race day.
“At the starting line, I knew it was going to be a good run. I was prepped with proper fuel, pretty decent sleep (despite game six of the World Series on Saturday night), and a great attitude. My hubby joined me with his bike. Plus, several friends and family were coming to cheer me on. I think I smiled for the first five miles. I couldn’t believe I was actually running my first marathon!
“Near Carondolet Park, I saw the church where I was baptized. It brought tears to my eyes, and I cried and prayed for peace and strength. (The poor guy running next to me thought I was a nutcase.)
“I bonked around mile seventeen, which was earlier than the rumors I’d heard about hitting ‘the wall.’ I walked a bit and then saw my son and his girlfriend with a camera and signs. I thought, ‘Wait, don’t take pictures of me walking!’ So I picked up the pace. Then came the friends. There were two separate groups screaming and cheering. It was a super energy infusion!
“After mile twenty, I knew it was all good. I was ahead of my goal time, and I even stopped to help an injured runner. I didn’t really want the buzz to end. (I felt like Peter on the mountain with Jesus when he said, ‘Let’s build a tent and not come down!’) My other son was waiting close to the finish line to run me in. I don’t think you’re supposed to have that much juice left at the end, but I sprinted in on a high I’ve not known before. My husband Alan was waiting [at the finish line] with my 26.2 sticker.
“At fifty-two years old, I feel stronger and able to overcome more obstacles than ever before. My head is clearer. I learned mental and physical discipline, I learned how to overcome obstacles, I learned how to ask for help (through Coach Kristin), and I learned perspective, for finishing a race parallels life.
“I’ve met so many new friends, and I love being a part of the St. Louis running community. We share stories, lift each other up, laugh at our fumbles… and then we go out and do it again.”