The Ogden Pub Runners not-for-profit organization aims to promote fitness at all levels, encourage social and responsible drinking, and support locally and independently owned watering holes. They have, over the last three years, contributed to Real Men Can Cook, the YCC domestic violence center, many local races as volunteers, and GOAL and the Ogden Marathon. Tracy Lynn Valdez is a member of the group.
On Oct. 15, 2016, I finished 17 half marathons in 17 months. Stacy Bernal has nicknamed me the “Half Marathon Queen,” but those who are not runners and don’t understand the runner’s high say I am half crazy. I would agree with both at times.
My running journey started in 2013, when I was taking karate. My goal was to become a black belt, but in order to get my black belt, I needed to run 3 miles. At that time, I really hated running. As a blue belt, I knew it would take me months to get to 3 miles, but I began to enjoy running.
For the next few years, I did a bunch of 5K fun runs. In May 2014, I had shoulder surgery, which ultimately ended my karate pursuits. As I was healing from surgery, I continued to do as much karate as I could but started to focus on running. In September 2014, my life took a huge turn. I had to quit karate because my shoulder just couldn’t take the repetitive movements without pain. In the same month, my boyfriend — who I was living with — woke up one morning and decided he didn’t want to pursue a relationship any more with me.
ABOUT FROM THE COMMUNITY
From the Community is a new Standard-Examiner project where northern Utahns are invited to share their stories. Want to write about your experiences, interests or expertise? Get in touch with news editor Ann Elise Taylor at email@example.com. You can learn more about From the Community here.
My body and heart were broken, so I decided to put all my effort and energy into running. Diane Nelson, who I knew from karate, noticed I had been focusing my energy on running and took me under her wing and trained me. She encouraged me to run a half marathon. It had never before entered mind to run one, so I signed up for my first half marathon.
In May 2015, I ran the Ogden Marathon, my first half marathon. I caught the running bug! A few months before the Ogden Marathon, Diane and I found the Ogden Pub Runners, who took me in with open arms and lots of training tips.
Running this first half marathon was very therapeutic for me in healing my body and heart. I had met an amazing group of runners who have since turned into my support group and second family. Despite the fact that my first half marathon was in the rain, my music cut out at mile four and I lost Rachel Balboni somewhere on the route, it was the most amazing experience. I remember seeing Rachel at the finish line waiting for me, and tears just poured from my face. She placed the medal on my neck, and I knew I had found my next addiction. As I continued to walk through the chute I saw my parents waiting in the pouring rain to give me a hug and congratulations. The tears of pride in their eyes brought more tears to my eyes. I did it! I accomplished what I set out to accomplish.
There have been some fantastic runs and some runs were I wanted to quit. I have fibromyalgia, and running with this chronic illness is not easy at times. Running as helped me manage this illness so I can function better in life. Before running, there were times I couldn’t even get out of bed, now I can get out of bed with less pain.
I am often asked which race has been my favorite, and my answer is truly all of them. I have been able to run some of the most gorgeous country I have ever seen.
In these 17 months, I also completed one Spartan and two Ragnar races. These races have taught me about teamwork and about just having fun. I have run with some of the most supportive runners I know. I have had the best trainer, who knows me well enough to know when to push me and when to back off. Mark Balboni has been a great trainer who has never told me I couldn’t do something or couldn’t reach a certain goal. He just keeps telling me to push forward and reminds me I can reach the goals I want to reach.
I have cheerleaders at the end of races who cheer so loudly that those last steps seem easy. There is nothing better than seeing Donna and Steve Hernandez at the end of race, with their big, rainbow-colored umbrella. Seeing the umbrella at the end of race is such a relief. At the end of a race, there is always an Ogden Pub Runner there to congratulate you on a great race, even when you are beyond disappointment because you didn’t PR.
I will admit, running Mt. Charleston for my 44th birthday and seeing my sister with Teri Greenhall with a poster of Superman made me realize I have such a great family and friend. As I went through the chute, my mom was blowing bubbles and my dad had balloons in his hand. This was the perfect way to spend my 44th birthday. It reminded me I am not old and I can do anything I set my mind on doing.
Running is my therapy, it’s my time for me and it has helped me get through some really tough times in the past two years. I am thankful for my family and the support they give me. I often leave my daughter, Kenzie, with my parents so I can go on a runcation, and they never once have complained or said no. Kenzie reminds me to go for a run even when I don’t want to, or she will go with me. The Ogden Pub Runners have been my second family; they have been there throughout my months of training and running races, and when I am just having a hard moment.
What is in the future for this Half Marathon Queen? Could it be a triathlon, or maybe a full marathon? Time and training will only tell what is next for me. As for now, I will keep on running and enjoy my moments hitting the pavement in rain, snow or sunshine.