Stagecoach woman embarks on 175-mile run for multiple sclerosis
If you come across a woman running north to south through the heart of Summit County in late May, say, down Colorado Highway 9 north of Silverthorne, with a van trailing behind her, don’t hesitate to grab your running sneakers and jog along, just like a scene out of “Forrest Gump.”
Stacy McAllister is running through the county, down Highway 9 into Dillon and east over Loveland Pass before descending to Denver. And the Stagecoach resident will be glad to have your company, even if you don’t want to stay for the remainder of her 175-mile journey.
“That would be really cool,” McAllister said. “I’m still trying to figure out where I’ll be each day, to get my head wrapped around when I hit each area each day. But it would be cool to meet people along the way.”
McAllister, a Maine native who is a Steamboat Springs-based figure skating coach by day, will be running through the Colorado High Country down to Denver for the the annual MS Run the U.S. cross-country relay.
It’s a 3,100-mile relay run across the country to benefit the multiple sclerosis cause. Eighteen runners, including McAllister, pledge to raise at least $10,000 each for several MS programs, including the National MS Society and The Race to Erase MS Center Without Walls Program.
Beginning in mid-April, the first of 18 segments will depart from Los Angeles. Four months later, the relay will conclude in New York City. Along the way, each runner will run around 160 total miles each over six-or-so consecutive days.
Here in the High Country, from a sheer altitude and terrain perspective, McAllister may be challenged more than any of the 17 other runners. She specifically will be traversing 175 miles, which comes out to roughly a marathon a day.
McAllister has run five marathons in her life — but never five back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. She’s run 15 half-marathons in her life, but there was a normal amount of rest and recuperation time between those races, too.
Some of those endurance events did take place in the High Country, as her first marathon was in Steamboat Springs and she’s since run the Revel Rockies Marathon. But this 175-mile journey — one where she’ll run during the day and sleep atop the queen bed inside the van at night — is something very foreign for the endurance athlete.
In order to prepare for the difficulty of running at such high elevation — up and over 9,426-foot Rabbit Ears Pass and 11,990 Loveland Pass — while also attempting to cover so many miles, McAllister is adding on about 300 feet of elevation while running every other week to train. Like many endurance runners, McAllister is also prepping with weekly “long runs,” such as her 20-mile jaunt Friday morning. And she’s also sprinkling in quite a bit of speed work as well.
As for whether or not her lifetime of competing and coaching in figure skating will help her, she said she feels there are mental skills she can translate to moments of pain endurance when out on the plodding 175-mile journey.
“Just skating growing up,” McAllister said. “It was more or less if you fall down, get right back up. And running can be that as well, mentally pushing through any tumbles.”
When on her journey, McAllister said she’ll utilize the token modern ammenities of podcasts, audiobooks and music to help her not focus on the pain of pounding the pavement over nearly 200 miles. An avid fan of the Harry Potter book series, McAllister said J.K. Rowling’s tales of wizarding fiction may be a go-to when completing the run.
But it’ll be the inspiring memory of her grandfather, Bernard, that will be the primary driver to keep on keepin’ on down to Denver, no matter what she runs into.
Bernard worked at saw mills in his native Maine his entire life before retiring from Bailey Manufacturing in Fryeburg, Maine in 2001. An avid craftsman and lover of cars who also loved the wild outdoors of the northeast, McAllister has fond memories as a child of visiting her grandfather at work and taking in the aroma of fresh-cut wood.
“His hard work ethic is something that I have tried to mirror and I can definitely attribute some of my stubbornness to him,” McAllister said. “He would give anything to help others, which I hope to carry on, his caring nature.”
McAllister was 10 years old when her grandfather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She remembers how the debilitating disease stole his usual active lifestyle.
“Our entire family looked up to him for advice and as a role model,” she said. “So it was difficult to see someone you love not being able to do everything they wanted to do. As the disease progressed, he transitioned into a wheelchair and eventually to local health care in Maine because we could no longer care for him.
“But his fight,” McAllister continued, “his love, and positive spirit never waned. I was always amazed to see how strong and resilient he was, even in the darkest moments of his MS.”
McAllister is almost all the way to her goal of raising $10,000 in honor of her grandfather, as her fundraiser is live online here.
And though she’s determined to finish the 175-mile journey in honor of her grandfather, long before she meets her family at her personal finish line down in Denver, she’ll remind herself of the mantra previous High Country MS Run the U.S. runners have bestowed to her: “Take it all in, because it all goes by so fast.”
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