Inspiring Cross Country Coach Runs Fourth Marathon

Hope McKenney, Journalism I student

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Stacy Riela, Mechanicsburg Middle School’s Cross Country Coach, ran the Harrisburg Marathon. This was her fourth marathon and she pushed through all 26.2 miles of it. She describes that she gets into her race her seventh to fourteenth mile and how those miles always felt the best for her. Even with great miles, there are tough ones too, so when asked what mile was the most difficult, Riela answered “Mile 21! I hit a wall and I couldn’t really feel my legs any longer. I also was starting to get really lightheaded and feeling like I was going to pass out, so I had to stop and walk, so that was definitely the hardest mile”. Nevertheless, Riela never gave up and worked as hard as she could.

Riela chose to take on this challenge of the Harrisburg Marathon “during track season of last spring”. As the date was approaching, she looking forward to it, with nerves and excitement as she said, “I felt very nervous. I felt excited. I was also ready to do it and get it over with and see how everything would turn out.” As she approached the starting line, she tried to stay optimistic. Riela says, “I was trying to think as positive thoughts as I could. It was a really cold day and you always kind of feel a little worried and anxious…but I kept telling myself ‘I am awesome!”

Riela found encouragement in her cross country team too. She explains, “My biggest inspiration honestly is the cross country team. Every time I didn’t want to do something or didn’t want to go on my long run, or wanted to give up, I reminded myself of what I told all of our cross country kids during the season; how we push them to give everything and not give up.” Through the inspiration she found in others and herself, she prevailed in horrible conditions where, as she says, “It was really cold. I couldn’t feel my hands.” Riela did not enjoy these conditions, but she did love the “accomplishment” of running the full marathon.

This was not Riela’s first long distance race either. She has run three marathons prior to the Harrisburg Marathon and she has run many half marathons. When asked how those two races compare, she saw no comparison. Riela describes how after running a marathon, soreness could last over a week and a half, while with a half marathon, a few days of soreness can be expected. The training for the marathon is also much greater than the training for a half marathon. She explains, “It’s like you have a second job” (in regards to the marathon).

Running is not all about the races. It’s how you feel as you run. Riela describes, “I love the way that I feel when I run. I think that I always felt better when I ran, emotionally and physically. It always just felt really liberating to run.” She has been running with this mentality for “as long as she can remember.” Middle school was the real starting point, which transitioned into high school track, and further into “long distance once I got into college.”

Her first race allowed her to “fall in love with the road races.” While talking about her race, Riela says, “I did a 15k in Oklahoma my freshman year of college. That was my first one.” Riela saw training and strategy as key differences between this race and the Harrisburg Marathon that she just recently ran. Throughout these races and throughout training, she has had to battle injuries and time issues, but she always found ways to overcome anything in her path.

Riela is unsure of what her future holds in regards to marathon running. From the Harrisburg Marathon, her biggest takeaway is “to be okay with what you’re body lets you do.” She was planning on having this marathon be her last one, but she may “fall back into it” and run more. No matter what Riela decides to do, she will be an outstanding runner with a great attitude. She will continue to inspire her cross country team and all the people around her!