Overcoming Challenges: One Woman’s Incredible Journey


Overcoming Challenges: One Woman’s Incredible Journey

Recently I ran a half marathon at the Hatfield McCoy Marathon in Williamson, WV.  This race brings people from all over the country for many reasons, not the least of which is the friendliness of the community and racers and the fact that this is considered one of the Top 10 marathons in the country by many running publications/sports media outlets.

What brings me back to this race is meeting all the great people from so many different places.  This year was no exception. I had a booth at the race expo for Walk Fiercely. As I talked to folks, I learned so much about each person and what brought them here. One person’s journey had such an impact on me that I had to tell her story.

Marie Bartoletti, a 65 year old lady from Bethel Park, PA, approached me at my Walk Fiercely booth. She had the biggest smile on her face. I realized later she is always smiling. She introduced herself to me and we started talking. As I listened to her journey, I realized not many people could go through what she has with her courage, determination and Perseverance (this will come back up later).

Marie started running in her 30’s and did her first marathon in 1995. She thought, as we all do, it would be her one and only marathon. Mark it off the bucket list and move on. That’s not exactly what happened. Marie went on to do 597 marathons!! If you’re doing the math, that’s about 21 marathons a year since 1995. That alone is enough to make you in awe of her.  But the story doesn’t stop there.

Thanksgiving 2015 Marie suffered a stroke. In an instant her life changed. She couldn’t talk and mobility was shaky. Where does that leave her with doing what she loves…running marathons? That’s a scary place to be. Emotionally she was struggling. Her profession was teaching and if she couldn’t talk, she couldn’t teach. And somewhere along the way she decided this wasn’t going to defeat her! She worked hard to get back to running.  And since the stroke, less than 8 years ago, Marie completed 250 of the total 597 marathons! It’s one thing to suffer a health crisis, survive and thrive. But Marie has taken “recovery” to a whole new level! It’s almost like she’s decided the stroke gave her superpowers. And in a way, it did!

One person that helped her refocus during stroke recovery was her speech therapist. During the time she couldn’t talk she was very frustrated, as you can imagine. Her speech therapist, Donna, suggested she write a book. If you can’t talk, get your thoughts down on paper. So she did! With Donna’s help, it took her a year and a half to write her book Perseverance: How a Determined Athlete Tenaciously Overcame a Stroke.

I know I have focused on her marathons. But did I mention that before the stroke she also did 10 Ironman races, a 100 mile and a 50 mile race, as well as the Badwater 135 miles in Death Valley. She is unstoppable. One way she is giving back to the running community is to be a race pacer, someone who helps keep runners on track to finish at their desired time. At the Hatfield McCoy marathon she was the 12:00 mile pacer. She says she loves being a pacer because it’s kind of like she’s “teaching” people to stay on track during the race.

I asked her what advice she would give to someone who wanted to start walking or running. She said “just have FUN”. When I asked what advice she would give to someone who had obstacles to overcome- physical or otherwise- she said “start slowly, the whole trick is perseverance.” Yes, Marie, it sure is!

I have bought her book and I can’t wait to read it. You can get your own copy on Amazon at https://a.co/d/8r0nYUX.

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