By Kimberly Stoeger, owner of Nutritional Healing, sponsor of the Nutritional Healing Health & Wellness Expo for the Fox Cities Marathon
My name is Kimberly Stoeger, but many people in the Fox Cities community probably recognize me for my company Nutritional Healing, a functional medicine clinic that helps people take their life back by providing customized treatments to help people improve their health. When I learned that the Community First Fox Cities Marathon Presented by Miron Construction was looking for a new Health & Wellness Expo sponsor, it just made sense to join in the fun. To me, partnering with the Fox Cities Marathon is even deeper than nutrition because this community event has helped me heal mentally and physically throughout the years, plus the Nutritional Healing Health & Wellness Expo has a nice ring to it.
The 2012 Community First Fox Cities Marathon was my first full marathon. While I loved running and would practice regularly, I never expected to run my first full marathon and qualify for the Boston Marathon, but I BQ’d (Boston qualified)! I finished the Community First Fox Cities Marathon with a time of 3 hours and 33 minutes and I was even recognized as one of the top three female finishers that year for the full marathon. All of my family and friends were telling me I had to go to Boston, so with just five months between when I qualified and to the next Boston Marathon, I began training for one of the most pivotal moments of my life.
I loved running. Every Sunday I would run from my house in Appleton to my parents’ house in Hortonville to make sure I kept my stamina up to run the full 26.2 miles. My parents would ask me to stop doing this saying it was too dangerous of a trek from my house to theirs, but each Sunday I disregarded their concerns and ran to their house anyway. For quite a while I enjoyed this distance running, but as I approached the Boston Marathon date, instead of feeling excitement, I became more and more anxious. It got so bad that one Sunday, my parents ended up coming to my house because I never ran to theirs, only to find me sobbing at home, feeling anxious and worried about going to Boston in a few weeks.
I began having dreams leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon and I just couldn’t shake this unnerving feeling I had about going. Still, despite all the warning signs my body was giving me, everyone around me encouraged me to push on, saying it was nerves and I would feel better once I got there.
Come race weekend for the 2013 Boston Marathon I remember feeling very lonely, despite being in a sea of people who were excited to be there. I even met some women who tried to make friends with me and wanted to run with me, but I intentionally lost them at the start line, something that is not like me at all. I should have felt that excitement everyone else was feeling too, but all I could think about was finishing that race and going home. I didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t know why.
I use music to cope, and I really leaned into my music during this race. When I got to the start line I was deciding how fast or slow to run, trying to determine my pace for this run and the Queen song called “Don’t Stop Me Now” came on. It was in that moment I decided to give it my all with this race. I tuned out all the excitement and fun around me and focused on completing the race. I never even stopped for water, snacks or a bathroom break while on the course. By mile 24 I started to feel this incredibly suffocating level of anxiety. I turned up my music to distract myself and the song was by Swedish House Mafia called “Don’t You Worry Child,” was playing and I remember the lyrics saying “Don’t You Worry Child, Heaven’s Got a Plan for You” just as I was coming up on the last leg of the Boston Marathon course. For some reason, these words made me even more anxious. I kept my head down and focused. I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes and a time of 3 hours 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
There were people everywhere congratulating me on finishing the Boston Marathon. I even remember the woman who gave me my medal telling me I had completed the race, and I could smile now but I couldn’t. I just wanted to leave, so that is what I did. I did not celebrate, I left the finish line and went to my hotel, which was 3 miles down the road.
No sooner did I get to my hotel room, my phone started blowing up with family and friends leaving me voicemails, texting me or sending me private messages on Facebook wanting to know if I was okay. I turned on the TV and that is when I saw it; bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon finish line. People were dead and my loved ones thought I might be one of them. It was surreal to witness my own mortality, which is what was happening in that moment. I quickly let everyone know I was okay, but instantly I started to realize I was uneasy the entire time leading up to the race and even when I was there. It was like my body was trying to tell me something, but I wasn’t listening to it.
This day marked the end of my running career and I never talked about my Boston Marathon story publicly until now. It feels very much like a full-circle moment coming back to the race that I loved so much. For a long time, I associated running with pure evil, but in being vulnerable and sharing my story, I have learned there is healing. I’ve had to overcome a lot of mental trauma, but I’m working on it. Helping others focus on their health and run at an event that I care about so much, is healing. Being a part of the Health & Wellness Expo is my way of coming back to the sport I love in a different but just as connected way.
I have learned many things throughout my running career but after 10 years, I can now say one of the most important lessons is to trust my instincts. Our bodies tell us when something isn’t right. They have a way of knowing when something is off, and I want to help others listen to their bodies as well so they can become the most optimal versions of themselves. Partnering with the Fox Cities Marathon and helping people cross that finish line, is helping me move forward with trauma as well, one step at a time.