Published 11:16 am Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dr. Stacy Saunders completes 80K

It all began with an auspicious gift.

“I felt bored and that my life had become stagnate,” Dr. Stacy Saunders, clinical psychologist and ultrarunner, said. “I asked my husband for a pair of running shoes for Mother’s Day.”

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That was in 2009, Stacy said, and she’s been running ever since.

Stacy, 35, is a Catlettsburg, Kentucky, native who lives in Ironton with her husband of 17 years, Josh, and daughter, 10-year-old Lily.

She began running just as many runners do, competing in local 5K races before working her way up to a marathon. After a couple more marathons Stacy said she decided it was time to test the limits of her body and mind.

On Nov. 15 she and her running partner, Scott Harris, of Grayson, Kentucky, went to Vienna, Illinois, to run in the Tunnel Hill 100/50, an ultra marathon that takes place along the Tunnel Hill State Trail. The numbers in the name of the event are indicative of the distance of the run – in miles.

“This was my first attempt at an ultramarathon,” Stacy said. “I ran the 50-mile course, or 80K, in 10 hours and 45 minutes.”

There were 176 ultrarunners – any runner who competes in events longer than the traditional marathon length of 26.2 miles – who finished the 50-mile race and Stacy’s finish landed her in the top half.

Josh and Lily were there to support their favorite runner.

“I would like to think that I’ve seen some cool things, but watching all these people tackle a 50-mile race really was amazing,” Josh said. “I’m convinced these people don’t complete the race because of their physical ability, but because of their own amazing inner strength.”

A person’s body, Stacy said, is a finite thing. A person’s mind, however, is the more important component to being an ultrarunner.

“Willful suspension of disbelief is the only thing that allows your mind to realize your body has the ability to cover such a long distance,” Stacy said. “Before the Tunnel Hill run I was the most nervous and excited I have ever been in my life. It’s all about being in the right place mentally. I think anyone could be a distance runner if they truly want to be. Ultrarunners are constantly testing their limits to see how far they can go.”

Within her running group, the “5K Crew,” Stacy said she’s affectionately referred to as the “Nazi Barbie” because of her rigidness and her dedication to following through with plans and schedules mixed with her blonde hair.

“It doesn’t matter the weather, I will run,” Stacy said. “I stay on people about hydrating properly, too.”

Stacy said she will compete in at least one more 50-mile race, such as the Ice Age Trail in Lagrange, Wisconsin, in May.

“The 50-miler was a really humbling experience and was awe inspiring,” Stacy said. “ I like distance running because it’s peaceful and gives runners almost a feeling of disembodiment. At Tunnel Hill it got dark at mile 44 and I couldn’t see anyone, then it started snowing and it was very peaceful.”

Stacy admits she’s entertained the notion of running a 100-mile ultramarathon.

“I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t get me excited to think about it,” she said.