Meet Shelly Fuerte

Shelly Fuerte never saw running in her future until she found new purpose in living a healthy lifestyle and she started running 5Ks. Her passion was further ignited when she began running for more than just herself and found that was the inspiration she needed to go the distance.

1) What first inspired you to want to run a marathon? How capable did you feel you were of running a marathon?

I was a 5K runner and did the Pittsburgh Marathon relay in 2009. We lost my mother-in-law to lung cancer in 2010. It was during her funeral that I turned to my husband and told him that I wanted to run a marathon in her honor and to raise money for cancer research. I ran the LA Marathon in 2011 for Team Livestrong and was grateful to experience every hurdle, pain, and success in memory and honor of those who could not. It was daunting and overwhelming. The race was wet, cold, and miserable but I achieved my goals.

2) How did marathon training change your outlook on life?

It was a great life lesson that once a goal is set, define the plan and steps to achieve it, follow it to your best ability, update and amend if needed, in the end anything is possible. Once the race is over, find the next race and set out the plan. It is basic goal setting but we often forget to “find the next race.”

3) Sometimes training through the summer is hard due to vacation(s). How did you keep up with your training? What would you tell a runner that is considering training but hasn’t because they know they will miss some of it?

With vacations and work travel, many of my longest runs were out of Chicago. A big reason that I registered for the Chicago Marathon was to force myself to workout while traveling. In the past, the only time I stuck to my exercise plan was while I was registered for a race. Friends commented on Facebook that they were so impressed that I did my training on vacation in Mexico. I said, “If I cannot maintain my training while I have nothing else on my schedule, how can I continue when I am swamped with life and work?” I did a 15 miler on a treadmill in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and the 20 miler in a gated park in Monterrey, Mexico. The sense of accomplishment and the astonishment of my travel companions was HUGE! The 20 miler took some planning. I took a taxi to the park when it opened at 6am, had enough pesos to buy 3 cold bottled waters in vending machines, and ran nine 2.1 mile loops around the park and then the last bit along a canal back to the hotel. It was 90 degrees by the time I finished. After that run, I knew the marathon was no problem. I prefer training with my CARA group to running alone and it was the group that got me out of bed early on Saturdays after returning on a flight as late as 1am the night before. Left on my own, I probably would have slept in and missed my long run to the heat of the day.

4) Why did you choose to participate in the program again and what are you most looking forward to?

I swore that I would not run another marathon, just stick to half marathons. After the amazing camaraderie of my CARA training group, Team PAWS, and the fantastic spectators of Chicago, I signed up again for 2016. I need the structure of the program and the support of my training group.

5) What marathon are you running in the fall? 

I am running the Chicago Marathon again this year and hope to beat my 2015 finish time by 30 minutes.

6) What most surprised you during this marathon journey?

My only goal was to get an official time and I beat it by eight minutes. I cannot believe that I was able to go from couch to marathon is exactly six months (to the date). It solidifies my goal setting analogy.

7) During the training process there comes a point where every runner hits a wall. How did you keep yourself going? What did you tell yourself?

My fundraising for Team PAWS kept me going. The support (spirit and financially) was overwhelming. If my friends and family believed in me, so should I. I could not quit. Also, my CARA pace leader checked in every week during the week, even when I was not in town. I never felt alone during training.

8) How did marathon training enhance the already amazing Chicago summer experience?

I loved becoming a part of the Chicago running community for the first time. I am not an early morning person but discovered the beauty of the sunrise on the lake and the infectious drive of the athletes who experienced it with me.

9) What was the hardest thing for you to overcome during training or running the marathon? Time commitment? Doubt?

The time commitment was definitely difficult but so much more rewarding when I made the time for myself. The other obstacle was self-esteem. Once I realized that no one cares what your weight is and what your outfit looks like, training was much more fun.

10) If there was someone sitting on the couch right now, thinking about doing what you did, what advice would you give them?

Left. Right. Repeat. That is all this is. I was never an athlete and struggled to see myself as one. I had to actually say it out loud to myself while running, “I am a runner!” Start small, take it easy, you are only racing against yourself. Afterall, if I could do it, anyone can.


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