OGDEN — We all have inner greatness and can overcome the hard things we’ve been through.
That’s the message Stacy Bernal of Ogden shares when she’s asked to speak at corporate events, to women’s groups and others. A trainer of real estate agents by day, it was a different training that inspired her to lift herself up and, in turn, try to inspire others.
In 2008, Bernal was 31, a college dropout three times over and was working at Roosters Brewing Company and Restaurant in Layton. Co-owner Kym Buttschardt, a founding member of the GOAL Foundation which produces the Ogden Marathon, wanted Roosters to field a marathon relay team — one of the marathon events in which several people form a team to split the 26.2 miles into several legs.
Bernal, not a runner, ultimately decided to participate. She ran the opening leg for her team, which happens early in the morning in the Ogden Valley.
After her leg, she was bussed to the finish line in downtown Ogden and saw the delighted faces of runner after runner as they crossed the finish line.
“That was the inspiration, I wanted to do that,” Bernal said.
Prior to that, Bernal said she struggled a bit with her self-image.
“I had these very limiting self beliefs,” she said.
So she trained. And, the next year, she completed the full marathon course that winds around Pineview Reservoir, down Ogden Canyon and into the city.
“There is no feeling quite like crossing that finish line. It’s this magical moment. It changed the way I thought about myself and I realized I could do hard things,” Bernal said. “I’ve taken my life in a completely different direction and I think I found my inner bada--. That’s what I like to say, we all have an inner bada — and sometimes we just need to find it. I found mine at the finish line.”
The year after that, she fully committed to college — “I wanted a 4.0. I thought, ‘I worked really hard to get here so I’m not going to do it halfway’” — and soon, she graduated from Weber State University with a communication degree in public relations and advertising.
Now, the mother of three (and grandmother to one) has run eight full marathons, four of them in Ogden. She’s participating in this year’s half Ogden Marathon and, as usual, volunteering at events before the race Friday. Bernal says she’s participated in one of the marathon’s races — full, half, 5K or relay — every year but one since her eye-opening experience as a relay runner in 2008.
She’s found that recall of those early running accomplishment helps a great deal.
“All the time. The thing with those long distances is it’s a lot of time to just be in your head,” Bernal said. “You’re having conversations with yourself. Sometimes, you’re telling yourself ‘this is hard, I don’t know if I can get through this.’ But you do. That absolutely translates to life.”
Bernal’s middle child, now a teenager, has autism.
“We deal with hard stuff every day. And I have to just keep telling myself, ‘you’re capable of doing the hard things.’ I learned that lesson in the marathon and it applies to my life daily,” she said.
The process inspired one of her main public-speaking messages, which she calls “failure to finisher,” encouraging people to find their own finish lines.
“People say, ‘I’m not a runner, I could never run a marathon.’ It doesn’t have to be that you run a marathon. Just find your finish line,” Bernal said. “It’s getting to some goal, getting to some thing that you need in your life that you’re going to feel like, ‘I made it.’
“But I highly recommend running a marathon, I think it’s life-changing. Even a 5K, for some people that is a marathon. Just find your finish line.”