Even through the worst of it, such as intestinal cramps or the energy-sapping heat, Kay Stumbo never forgets to run happy.
She needed that good attitude when she ran a marathon in Africa with her sister on Aug. 26.
Stumbo, 42 , of Severance enjoys marathons. Yes, there are people who like them. She appreciates what running does for her. It keeps her thin, gives her goals and lets her recharge from her two young daughters.
It also helps her appreciate life. That’s what pushed her to run her first marathon with her sister, Emily Sheahan. Sheahan’s husband bought her a marathon entry in Seattle as a birthday present (OK, you can chuckle at that; even Stumbo laughs a bit at that), and Stumbo knew it was time. It worried her a bit because the training was tough and she was married to Steve and a stay-at-home mom to Abby, 7, and Ashley, 5. But she knew it was time. There were health problems in her family, and both Stumbo and her sister were getting older: Three years from now, she may not feel good enough to run one at all.
Her younger, thinner, taller sister nailed last year’s marathon and even ran faster than Stumbo — Stumbo rolls her eyes a bit at this — and so naturally, her sister wanted to join Stumbo when she brought up the idea of running the marathon in Africa.
If marathons were about appreciating life, perhaps no race was as important as the one in Africa.
Stumbo was familiar with World Vision. She first heard about the organization, probably most known for its work digging wells for African villages, while she did some youth ministry work in college. She became involved by running the Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon last year with her sister to raise some money, but when she heard about the marathon, she was all in.
Stumbo was excited to run a marathon in Africa, but she liked that there were other reasons to do it. The goal was to get about 300 kids sponsored at $35 a month for the World Vision team of eight runners (the group met half its goal). She raised about $1,000 from friends and family to whittle down her own $4,000 it cost for the trip.
That helped push her through the training. She admits to being a little burned out when it came time to do the marathon, and that, plus the actual race in Zimbabwe, would push her limits on her “run happy” philosophy.
She forced herself to start some of her runs at 9 a.m., where she would face temperatures that were bathwater warm, not the refreshingly cool mornings that make Colorado so great. Those runs were hard, she said, but she had to get used to Africa, not Colorado. She also used a Camelbak and ran with a belt with bottles of sports drink attached.
“I was pretty weighed down,” Stumbo said and laughed.
The Victoria Falls Marathon course was actually two loops, and that would come back to bite Stumbo as she climbed a steep hill around mile 8 or 9. She knew she’d have to do it again, as the race weighed on her legs. By that last hour, it was hot, probably in the high 80s or low 90s, and the hill that second time, she said, kicked her butt. She finished around 4:16, which wasn’t as fast as her first. It still disappoints her, despite knowing that it was hot and her training wasn’t as sharp as she would have liked.
But when she looks back at the race, she has a favorite memory that has nothing to do with crossing the finish line (although that was pretty cool too). It was the chance to meet Stener, 11, a girl she sponsored. Her health is good, but she lives in a village where AIDS runs rampant. Stumbo brought a backpack filled with stickers, coloring books and hair ties. Organizers told Stumbo that Stener would probably talk about it for years.
“I just wanted to put my arms around a kid,” Stumbo said. “We have so much here, and that was something so simple to do.”
A marathon is not a simple thing. Stumbo never thought it was. But it was a way to help others. That’s why she wants to go back so she can run the race again. Well, that and the chance to improve her time.