Festival Spotlight: You Deserve to Shine

spotlight The Festival Foods La Crosse Fitness Festival would be nothing without you, the athlete. Whether it’s your first 5K or your tenth marathon, crossing that finish line on race day is a pretty amazing accomplishment. Now, we want to put the spotlight on you and all the hard work you’ve done! Read on to be inspired by some of our participants’ stories…

Brenda K.’s Story

The La Crosse Fitness Festival isn’t the first half marathon I ever did, but it is what got me started long distance running. I am a nurse at Gundersen Lutheran and worked straight weekends. I had heard about the marathon and watched it from the playroom window the first year it took place. I vowed after that, that someday I would run a half marathon. Watching the people running by was an inspiration. Some were so fast and some looked to really be struggling. That gave me all the more incentive to try. I signed up for the half marathon at the La Crosse Oktoberfest and completed it.

The next year I vowed to do a full Marathon. I started training by signing up for the La Crosse Fitness Festival 5K and Half-marathon. It was an amazing weekend. I continued to run a few half-marathons throughout the summer and then finished my training with the Chicago Marathon. I did the Fitness Festival Half Marathon again last year, and got my 8 and 9 year old to do the 5K with me. It was a cold rainy day, but not much complaining from the girls. It took longer for us to finish that run than some of the walkers, but I was so proud of them. It so happened that there were not many kids running that day, so my girls took 1st and 2nd place. It was probably one of my proudest moments. I am hoping to make it a yearly event by doing both runs as long as I am able: starting with the La Crosse Fitness Festival half-marathon and finishing with the Chicago Marathon.

If it wouldn't have been for that day watching it from the window, I probably would not have accomplished what I have.

Rick S.’s Story

I don’t have time to run a half marathon. Our home has two seniors, a junior, three freshmen, two 7th graders, two 5th graders, a 4th grader, two 3rd graders, a 2nd grader, a 1st grader, a kindergartner, two 4 year olds, and a 1 year old. We have a full house but I still make time to train for my third half marathon. I never thought I would be someone who would run miles to train to punish my body for two hours of non-stop running. That all changed two years ago when my then 21 year old son went in for his second open heart surgery to repair a defective valve. As I watched him recovering in bed after surgery I knew I needed to do something to improve my health, but I didn’t know what that could be. I had 15 kids at home then, I would never have time to do any kind of training. Six months after his surgery my son ran a FULL marathon in Florida, which is when I decided I could run a half marathon. Two coworkers were running their second half marathon and I joined with a third coworker, and the four of us ran last May. The four of us are running again this May and have added a fifth co-worker this year plus my two 21 year old sons. In future years, I hope to add more of my family to run the half with me. In January 2013 I will attempt my first full marathon with my 2 sons with the goal of finishing in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes. If I can do this, I am sure you can too.

Mastering Minds- Leah M.’s Story

Master your mind; don’t let your mind master you. This was my thought process as I started running two years ago. Making changes to better myself and accomplishing dreams I never thought possible; I developed “My Bucket List”. On this list I set the goal to run my first 5k at the 2010 La Crosse Fitness Festivals. After gasping for air at a tenth of a mile on the verge of morbid obesity I knew this was going to take serious work; not only physically, but mentally. Believing I could do something so far from reach I never dreamt possible; I learned to master my mind.

Initially, my mind dreaded running. My knees hurt and my lungs were on fire. As I progressed, I saw myself achieving little goals. Excitement filled my heart, running faster and longer I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. I still remember that first race, seeing everyone darting past me. I wanted to give up. My lungs felt like exploding as disappointment filled my spirit. It was I against myself. Realizing my mind was mastering me I told myself “No! You are finishing this race… running!” Crossing that finish line, I was ecstatic to find I ran my best time ever! I did something I never thought possible! Initially this brought me to running, but what keeps me running is appreciating the ability to run. In August 2010, my running was put on hold after an accident. With a broken back, ribs, and punctured lung my body physically needed to heal. But mentally mastering my mind had just begun. With a long road to recovery I needed to focus on setting small goals; literally learning to pull up my own pants was first on my list.

Hoping some day to lace up my running shoes again, major work lay ahead. Taking many small steps to recover, my body was healing. Slowly I started running. I focused my mind to be back running for the 2011 Fitness Festival with hopes of beating my time from the year before. On race day, not only did I shave 2 whole minutes off last year’s time but I placed third in my age division. For the first time I received a medal for hard work and commitment to running. Tears filled my eyes, knowing the strenuous road I had to take to get there. Though this was a defining moment; my proudest fitness moment was running a 5k race on my 25th birthday alongside my brother. With him by my side I placed 2nd in my age division, again beating my personal record. Along with proud moments are embarrassing moments of falling flat on my face, scuffing up my knee at the start of my first 5 mile race. Like any committed athlete does, I got back up and kept running. I persevered, running my best pace with a longer distance.

In each accomplishment, I continue to set new goals to better myself. This year’s goal was to run a 21 minute 5k; and run a half marathon at this year’s fitness festival continuing to train for a full marathon in the fall. However, along this journey of life are unexpected bumps in the road. In December 2011, I was set back. Rolling my car; I escaped death again. With a whiplashed neck, a sprained back, and injured hip I once more face another road of recovery. Knowing I have what it takes to get through it, I again am starting over, hoping to be up and running on race day!

Through all of these unexpected bumps, the road continues to go uphill, personally bettering my life. It also has enhanced the lives of others who have been motivated through example and encouragement in my experience. Whether, motivating friends to join my minutes in motion team, praising them for their efforts and accomplishments, or getting out by their side; encouraging others to live a healthy lifestyle is my mission. Two years ago with a small piece of paper “My Bucket List” began. With a desire to persevere, I learned to master my mind. Losing 85 pounds, recovering from a broken back and punctured lung, getting back up and dusting myself off, running farther distances, continuously racing faster paces, only to again start over from another major setback, while motivating friends along the way; I continue to master my mind and hope to continue to inspire others to master theirs.