You’re unlikely to find someone more genuine and humble than Michael Stehling. This month marks his 1-year anniversary of running with the LRC and I’ve been planning to feature him for nearly as far back. To see him evolve as a runner and in the process become a good friend to all of us has truly been one of the more rewarding aspects of this Club, and as you’ll read, he’s grateful for what the LRC has done for him – both in his running and in his social life.
First, let’s delve into the pre-LRC Michael.
Michael entertained the idea of trying out for track in high school like his brother but that’s as far as he got. He didn’t begin running until after college, simply as a means to exercise. After a 2010 visit with his cousin, also a runner, he decided to run his first race – a local 5k. Completely naive to racing, minutes before the gun Michael overheard another runner suggest that a good time for a 5k is under 20 minutes and so Michael decided at that moment he was going to need to go all-out to achieve that… And that’s what he did. He was impressed with the time of his first mile but he got slower with each successive mile and was left feeling dehydrated and in pain. Though he managed to win 1st place in his age group, running a 5k was much harder than he thought.
The marathon came a few years later. His work has a wellness program that offers points for various activities. A marathon just so happened to net a lot of points and so he figured he could do one. He registered for the Prairie State Marathon 5-6 weeks before the race and did one 2-hour run to train for it. Needless to say, he had a tough time finishing that race. But he did finish. Then, the fatigue in the days after caused him to swear off ever running another one. Any first-time marathon runner can tell you what happened next…
With a training plan and after a few more marathons, Michael achieved what he thought was the perfect race and was ready to retire from marathons until that fateful day he met the LRC at the Advocate Condell Centre Pink Ribbon Run 5k at the Mundelein Seminary in October 2014. He admits to at first sizing up the group of LRC runners in their blue shirts as competition, but also that he thought it would be cool to run with people. After the race, Derek O’Sullivan, always the recruiter, introduced himself and the group to Michael and invited him to run with us.
Though not the outgoing type, Michael gave it a shot and came to the following Saturday run. On this particular Saturday the LRC was doing a run then an event at Crossfit Freedom, so many of the runners cut the run short to attend the free event; Michael was just interested in the run. He enjoyed the run (he likes running in Libertyville – it has access to streets and trails that easily enable him to run high miles on a variety of routes) and the scenery, but he left a little disheartened that there weren’t more people to run with. Luckily, he stuck with it and came back. In the Saturdays that followed, Michael found his place within the Club and soon had a core group of friends to run with. Michael laughingly notes now that when he saw the LRC’s “The Maple Bacon Donut Support Group” banner at the Prairie State Marathon, he quipped that a donut and a running group doesn’t seem to go together. Now he realizes that everything fun goes with running, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Michael has travelled with the Club to run the 2015 St. Louis Marathon and the 2015 Denver Rockies Marathon. In fact, that St. Louis Marathon is his favorite race to date. Previously, he had not traveled much. On the trip, he got to explore a new city with friends, experience a large race atmosphere complete with raucous spectators and have a fun post-race dance party. He also followed the LRC’s marathon training plan to a T and came away with a huge PR of 2:51 (better than he thought possible) from a 3:14 and after training with the LRC for just 6 months! He has come to really enjoy running with other people in such a welcoming and inclusive club and being included in the diverse range of activities the LRC offers outside of running.
Michael has found the Club to incite a more charitable nature about himself. It started with our Toys For Tots run last December and he soon found himself participating in all the volunteer activities and showing up to cheer for our runners at various races. One of his favorite charitable events was hosting an aid station at the North Shore Half Marathon where he found it completely natural to cheer, hand out water and Gatorade, and dance at the same time – we were having a party and helping others. The experience of being with friends before and after runs are what he’s come to enjoy most.
Michael’s charitable nature has permeated the Club. He’s there to help guide group runs, share advice, and most importantly, to support all our runners. In addition, he goes out of his way to show his support. For example, he just ran our inaugural Run of the Dead Elimination Race (the 17-mile distance) after having run the Milwaukee Running Festival Half Marathon in a blistering time of 1:22 that morning! He knew from the onset of the race planning how worried I was about making that a successful event and he did not hesitate to register even though that meant he would end up running 30+ miles that day!
It’s truly been a pleasure getting to know Michael and having him so admirably represent the charitable and friendly nature of the LRC.