Hitting her stride
Dartmouth runner is breaking personal records and smashing goals twenty years after her first race by Julia Kirkey
Published in Optimiz Magazine
Written by Julia Kirkey
For Stacy Chesnutt, her passion as a runner and triathlete blends nicely with her career as a realtor. The Dartmouth, N.S. resident is in her twentieth year of running marathons and triathlons around the world with no plans to slow down.
A self-proclaimed “AmeriCanadian”, the 41-year-old came to Atlantic Canada in 2006 via Nashville and New York City. She has a runner’s physique – long and lean, she stands tall with exceptional posture. She is warm and friendly and speaks animatedly about her running experiences with just a hint of a southern twang.
With more than 30 marathons and countless half-marathons and triathlons under her belt, she finds no separation between her life at home and her life as an athlete. “There aren’t two personas - there’s one persona. Very often, even with work, I meet people who say ‘Oh, you’re the runner’,” she says. “Whenever I talk about me, I talk about my training. It’s simply the most important thing.” “It’s what defines me as Stacy the athlete. Everything else follows.”
Chesnutt met her Canadian husband Tim, also a triathlete, at a race in Lake Placid, N.Y.. She says the foundation of their relationship was the sport and she couldn’t continue to train and race without his support. “He’s my biggest cheerleader,” she says. “He is so positive about everything I do and so proud of me that it inspires me to keep reaching for bigger and faster goals.” “I know I never would have gotten to the Ironman World Championships in Kona (Hawaii) without him. He picked up the slack so I could focus on my training. It was an intense year of preparation,” she adds.
Tim Chesnutt accompanies her to most races and she believes he has fun. Support at home isn’t all she needs though, she says a supportive work environment has made it possible for her to compete. Her job as a realtor gives her the ability to do work via phone and email when she is out of town for races. “I work really hard when I work and when I’m away, I’m away. I travel quite a bit but I do three day weekends instead of being gone for two weeks,” she says.
For more than a decade she had the same goal - run a marathon in under three hours. She had come close but says it took 20 years for her to “get fast”. She achieved her personal best time this January in the Houston Marathon finishing in 2:59:05. Chesnutt calls it the race of her life.
She realized, with five kilometres left to go, that she had hit the milestone she’d worked so hard for. "I got to that point and knew that unless I fell down or stepped in a hole that I was getting my goal,” she says. “I didn’t start to cry but I was close to it, and I knew I was achieving something that I always thought I could do but didn’t know if I would.”
Looking forward, she says she’s not interested in having another goal that big and plans to make this year more about having fun. “There’s a little bit of depression after you get your biggest goal. You ask: Where do you go from there? I’m at my peak, I’m at the summit, how do you follow getting what you’ve wanted for a decade?”
While she normally sets very specific, time based goals, this year she plans to challenge herself in different ways. She says her plans include trying something new, going back to something old and simply having fun. For the new component Chesnutt has signed up for two ultramarathons and a 50 kilometre run. After not competing in a triathlon last year in order to focus on her marathon speed she says she will go back to something old when she competes in EPIC Dartmouth, an Ironman distance triathlon her husband Tim Chesnutt is organizing for Canada Day, as well as another trip to Ironman Canada. She is still running marathons, having competed in the Boston Marathon in April and now training for the New York City Marathon in the fall.
“I want to do well - I’m always competitive,” she says. “Everything I’ve been doing I’ve been getting faster so I’m not ready to slow down yet.”
Chesnutt passes along her knowledge through charitable work with multiple children’s groups, boosting the confidence and self-esteem of young boys and girls through participation in sport. She is also an active member of the Dartmouth Running Club, otherwise known as Heart and Sole. The club, run by her close friend and business partner Michelle Kempton, prides itself on welcoming runners of all skill levels.
Chesnutt, tells new runners that the biggest mistake they can make is comparing themselves to others. “You judging your running based on how you stack up next to me... you wouldn’t allow yourself the small victories of what you’ve just done and what you’ve achieved,” she says. "Just start running with blinders on and think that what you're doing is really good.”
READY TO RUN
With long hours and many kilometers behind her, Stacy Chesnutt passes along these tips for beginner runners:
1. Find somebody to run with: If you know somebody get out and run with them. If you don’t know anyone at all join a running club or do a learn to run workshop. Get yourself around other runners, it makes you accountable.
2. Have a goal: It keeps you motivated and keeps it from being completely overwhelming.
3. Let everybody know what you’re doing: They can support you or you can just talk about it to stay motivated.
Chesnutt says when picking a running club, it’s okay to shop around. “You can go to websites to get a feeling for the group. If you show up and you’re in the wrong group, go to a different one or show up on a different day. Emphasize that you’re a beginner,” she says.
Julia Kirkey is a public relations student and aspiring bodybuilder with a passion for clean eating. firstname.lastname@example.org