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55 miles of memories
Carla Stewart won’t stop running, with Relay For Life up next



Doug Ramsay photo

Carla Stewart, who plans to run 55 miles during the Monroe Relay for Life on June 2 and 3, stands in the garden at the Sky Valley Food Bank on Thursday, May 24. She is a cancer survivor and the 55 miles are to honor 55 people. She also raised more than $3,800 for the American Cancer Society for the walk and memorial event.


MONROE — “I will run on a boat, I will run with a goat.”
Carla Stewart takes running for fun very seriously.
Her T-shirt, which bears a Dr. Seuss-style rhyme about her favorite hobby, is just the beginning.
Since a remarkable transformation in 2009, the
self-described couch potato has propelled herself from the sofa to the YMCA to a pair of marathons in one weekend last month.
Even cancer couldn’t stop Stewart from doing the thing she says she loves most.
Next up is Monroe’s Relay for Life on June 2, a benefit for the American Cancer Society.
She was diagnosed with aggressive, but stage one breast cancer on Oct. 13, 2016. Three weeks later, she was running in the New York City Marathon, “a 26-mile street party.” Two days after that, it was surgery.
Two lumpectomies later, plus rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, and she was back on the circuit.
She came back with more perspective, advocating for cancer awareness and healthy lifestyles.
Stewart turns 55 in June and will run her age, in honor of her father, who did the same thing.
The number means even more though, as she solicited $55 donations from sponsors and plans to run 55 miles during the relay in honor of some special people.
Stewart has dedicated each mile to a family member, friend, or other cherished connection, and commissioned special bibs for each one. Every mile will be a meditation on that person, and fulfillment of a successful fundraiser.
Stewart is the top registered individual fundraiser in the Monroe event, with $3,895 in contributions so far to the American Cancer Society.
She doesn’t do things halfway, but Stewart is no lifelong fitness buff. Her journey to marathons began with the proverbial first step when her son was a senior in high school, less than 10 years ago.
She was already busy working at the Sky Valley Food Bank, where she’s been 13 years and currently serves as administrative director.
She and husband Eric decided to get fit with just 20 to 30 minutes of periodic exercise.
Soon, she hit a plateau and had to pick up the pace to keep her heart rate elevated. She began running for just 30 second intervals in between walking.
The treadmill led to a 5k at the University of Washington, Bothell, a little race that “treats you like a marathoner,” Stewart said.
She did not fancy the running. But she loved the way it made her feel.
It only took three more years for the tenacious trainee to actually enjoy her sport.
She worked her way up from 5k to 10. By 2012 it was half-marathons, a year later, she was running the full 26 miles. Husband Eric kept pace, and they continue racing together, a much healthier couple than when they began.
“I’ve gained perspective, just total appreciation for every moment in this life,” Stewart said, and “I’m not going to waste a minute … life is ‘now’.”
Stewart is looking ahead to the next race and a couple more milestones: her 25th wedding anniversary is in December.
Further down the road, she dreams of having the fastest marathon time by the oldest marathon runner and hopes to join the 100 marathon club.
If cancer couldn’t stop her, there is no reason to believe age or anything else will either.
“I will run here or there, I will run everywhere.”
Stewart is proving, one mile at a time, that she means it.

 

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