Athlete Interview: Lisa Stickel

Walt Disney World continues to find new and fun ways to encourage people to come and enjoy their parks.  If you hang out in any type of social media with other runners, one of the most common threads you may have seen as we turned into the new year was people running down at Disney and hearing about things like the Goofy Challenge.  Frankly, large crowds and lots of sugar crazed kids make me sometimes think just going to Walt Disney World is a goofy challenge, then throw in several days of races, wow!  A friend of mine from Twitter, Lisa Stickel was there recently and tells us about her race weekend in the following interview!

Lisa Stickel hanging around with pals Chip and Dale at Walt Disney World!
Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith:  Lisa, tell us a little bit about yourself and your running background. 

Lisa Stickel:  I am a mom of two teenage boys, Mayson and Clayton.  I decided to become a CPA as a junior in high school and have been doing what I love for over 20 years. I will be celebrating 10 years of owning my own CPA practice this May.  I provide audit and accounting services for nonprofit organizations and income tax services for individuals and small businesses.  I am a Christian and I attend Long Hollow Baptist Church.  I like to run, read, travel and laugh.  I am in the process of going through a divorce after being together for 27 years.

I dabbled with exercise and working out in my 20's and 30's but never made it a part of my lifestyle. My oldest son started struggling with his weight several years ago so instead of nagging him I wanted to be a role model to him by living an active lifestyle.  I was not a morning person but I knew something had to change.  I hired a trainer for strength training and started driving 30 minutes to a gym twice a week at 4:30 AM to workout.  This was 4-5 years ago.  I also started running 3-4 days a week.  I ran several half marathons without training, which in hindsight, was not that smart. However, I grew to love running and got serious about it in my 40's.  As you can tell, I am pretty busy, so I am not always consistent with running and it does not come easy to me.  It took me years to run a mile without walking.  Running is 90% mental for me.  I have ran 12 half marathons and 2 marathons.

Brad:  As the old saying goes, I think running is 90% (or more!) mental for most of us!  You are definitely a busy lady leading your own CPA practice, two teenagers, and going through a divorce. That's a lot of stress especially as tax season is just beginning here at the end of January.  I can guess that running is a great release for you.  

Lisa, tell us about your most recent running event and why you chose to run it?

Lisa:  It was the Goofy Challenge on January 10-11, 2015.  The Goofy Challenge is running a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles at Walt Disney World. I ran the Walt Disney World half marathon in January 2011 with a friend and I ran the full marathon by myself in January 2013.  I had a heel injury when I ran the full in January 2013 so I was going to run the marathon again in January 2014.  Something came up and I could not make the trip in January 2014 so I deferred the marathon to January 2015 and decided to step it up to the Goofy Challenge.  I like attempting things that are a challenge and this was definitely that for me since I cannot run a half without walking.

My 16 year old, Mayson, also runs with me, so I signed him up for the half marathon.  I thought it would be a great first one for him.



Mickey Mouse in jungle gear, Lisa in full marathon mode!
Brad:  How was your training going into the race weekend and what were your goals?

Lisa:  My training started in July 2014.  It was the first time that I was consistent with my training up until about 6 weeks prior to the event.  My longest training run was 9 miles on a Saturday and 20 miles on a Sunday.  I ran the 20 miles in a little over 4 hours.  Then the stress of going through a divorce got to me and I got sick for about a month during the holidays in November and December. Work was also quite hectic.  So my training was not where I wanted it to be going into the event.  My goal was to finish the half marathon with my son.  I had no time limit other to not be picked up by the van of shame!  

My son quit running 2 months before the event but I said he would have to pay me back the money if he didn't run.  It may not have the wisest thing for him to run, but I wanted him to experience the excitement of the half marathon.  I also wanted him to feel the accomplishment of finishing what he started and not to quit. 

My goal for the marathon was 5 hours prior to getting to Orlando.  After Saturday's half and spending all day walking the theme parks, my goal was to simply get in the right mindset to start and finish the marathon at all!

Brad:  The lesson you sought for your son to learn is an important one, and perhaps, he wasn't the only one living it out that weekend.  Tell us about the rest of the weekend and why you think it turned out that way?

Lisa:  During the half marathon, I stayed with my son and he finished and I still qualified for the Goofy Challenge.  This was the goal for day one.  I don't even know our time.

Lisa and her son Mayson after finishing the half marathon together!

Family smiling together with their medals of accomplishment!

My marathon time the next day was 6:18.  I cut 22 minutes off from my time in 2013.  At the race in 2013, I had a heel injury which prevented me from training for 2 months before the event.  I never ran over 14 miles.  I was getting shots in my heel and just trying to get rid of the pain.  I walked the last 6.2 miles in 2013 and it was the most painful thing ever!  So I had really hoped to do better in 2015.  However, I also took lots of pictures and decided to enjoy every step.  My goal was to finish and I did.

Brad:  Did you ever!  Knocking 22 minutes off your time from two years ago is awesome!  Rock on Lisa!  Now, that said, let's be honest, what struggles did you have out there that weekend?

Lisa:  You have to get up really early for the Disney runs, so not getting enough sleep was a big struggle.  Wake up time was 3 AM in order to catch our bus at the resort by 4 AM.  We also had gotten up at this time the day before to catch our flight down to Florida.  I felt great after the half marathon because I took it nice and slow to be with my son.  My 14 year old son, Clayton, was also on the trip, but not running.  He wanted to go to the parks after the half and I thought that would be a great way to spend the  rest of the day. That night however, about 7 PM, while at our third park, the fatigue hit me out of nowhere.  We still had to eat and I knew I would not be getting into bed until 10 PM.  My legs started to hurt and I seriously considered not running the marathon.  I decided I would get up the next morning and go from there. 

Brad:  Somewhere in a Tweet you sent out, I read that you cried between miles 25 and 26.  What was going through your head? 

Lisa:  I had gotten up at 3 AM and really didn't feel like I had the strength to run the marathon.  I was exhausted.  I went through the motions of getting dressed.  I looked at the weather and it said it was going to rain around noon.  I thought I don't want to run in a storm so that may be a confirmation that I don't need to run.  I got ready and checked the forecast again and the rain was now due to arrive around 1 PM.  Well, I knew I would be done by then so decided I would keep moving toward the start line.  I was still not feeling up to the run.  I was sitting in the corral and starting to get really anxious because I didn't know if I would be able to finish.  I was tired.  However, I didn't know if I would have to make the long walk back to the Epcot parking lot at this point if I failed to start, so I decided to start and see how I felt.  I decided I would stop if I felt I couldn't go on. I figured it was better to start and not finish than not start at all.  It also went through my mind, that I had spent all this money on the trip and race and so if I didn't start I would have to come back another year to race!  I wanted to get it over with now!  So when I hit mile 25 there was no question I was finishing and the emotions washed over me.  I was crying tears of joy!  All my doubts and worries seemed to be for nothing at that moment in time.  Plus, with 2015 being a year of major life changes, I knew that if I could complete the Goofy Challenge, I could face all the unknowns getting ready to come my way.

Brad:  Awesome Lisa.  Sometimes we just have to put one foot in front of the other and have the faith to step forward.  As you reflect back on the weekend of racing, how did you make it through what was a pretty tough challenge for you?

Lisa:  My faith in God allowed me to start and finish the marathon.  I prayed and talked with God the entire morning.  I asked Him for the strength to get me through the marathon.  I also had friends praying for me.  They called me and prayed for me and sent me texts.  Two of the people closest to me sent me texts with these words as I was waiting in the corral: "I believe in you." As I kept running, texts would keep popping up encouraging me.

Brad:  Encouraging words, somtimes that's all we need to keep moving forward in the right way.  Lisa, do you think that suffering and joy are linked in this life? How so?

Lisa:  Yes, I believe as a follower of Jesus Christ, that suffering and joy are linked in this life.  I am going through the most difficult time of my life right now with my divorce.  It is gut wrenching sadness and worst than a death in my opinion.  Yet, I have a joy in my heart that is not explainable to someone who does not believe.  I am joyful in knowing that God is good all the time regardless of my circumstances and He will provide for me at all times.  Joy is based not on my circumstances but on my relationship with Christ.  The sufferings are necessary to mold us to grow more like Christ each day.  It is through the suffering that I grow closer to God because I cling to Him and He in turn gives me peace and joy all the time. 

Running is also a metaphor for suffering and joy when I stop and think about it.  Running the long distances, such as the Goofy Challenge, brought a lot of suffering along the course of 2 days.  I didn't realize how hard it was going to be. Yet, I had joy as I started running and trusting the training that had led to this moment.

I am thankful for the gift of running and exercise that God has allowed me to experience over the years.  I stumble and fall in my training but I always tend to get back up and start over.  I am proof that anyone can learn to run and change their life.  You just have to want it bad enough for yourself.


Lisa with her marathon and Goofy Challenge bling!
Brad:  Lisa, thanks for your sharing your adventure with us.  Despite the hardships you are going through right now, your faith sounds strong and persevering.  May God guide you through 2015 and the days ahead as He did out on the race course down at Walt Disney World.