Five years ago this weekend, nurses and doctors and loved ones watched Analicia Martinez-Foley shake and sweat and groan as she lay in a hospital bed suffering severe withdrawal symptoms from alcohol.
She was coming off a two-day bender during which she still managed to care for her then 6-month-old daughter while her husband was on a business trip. It was the realization that she was putting her child at risk that finally pushed Martinez-Foley, who had struggled with alcoholism since 2005, to seek help and begin attending sobriety meetings once again.
As she fought to stay sober, Martinez-Foley suffered from insomnia. One early morning as she lay awake she decided she might as well exercise if she wasn’t going to sleep. As she ventured outside and went for a run, she found what she needed to thrive.
On Sunday, Martinez-Foley will rise early, head downtown to the starting line at West Market Street and North Presa Street, and run 26.2 miles in the 2018 Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & 1?2 Marathon. There was no way she going to miss this year’s race, because it falls on her five-year sobriety anniversary.
“I kind of incorporated running into part of my program to stay sober,” Martinez-Foley said. “It’s my only alone time, and for whatever reason that is when I get the most clarity. So I kind of consider that my meditation and me-and-God time. It’s very integral.”
When the 11th edition of the race begins at 7:15 a.m., there will be more than 20,000 participants, each with a story and personal motivations behind their decision to compete.
People from all 50 states and 27 countries will be represented, including Nolan Blanchfield, a 12-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, who is the youngest participant, and Fahel Moon of San Antonio, who is the oldest at 85.
A group of 16 men and 13 women will compete in the elite half-marathon. The most notable name in the group is former University of Colorado runner Kara Goucher, who won this event in 2015. Anita Perez of San Antonio, who won the 2016 race, will also compete.
Only four men are scheduled to compete in the elite marathon and one woman, Sarah Watson from Austin, had registered for the elite women’s marathon as of Thursday evening.
When Martinez-Foley completed her first marathon here two years ago, she finished in 4 hours, 47 minutes. She’s hoping to shave at least a minute off that time this year, 362 days after the birth of her son.
She thanks her husband, Jamie Foley, for standing by her through her worst and helping her reach her best.
“He always takes me to my running events, no matter how early he has to wake up,” she said. “He tracks my races and brings the kids to the finish line to watch me cross, and Siobhan, my 5-year-old daughter, has been able to hold my hand and cross with me.”
Rob and Stephanie Kemp will be there, too. The couple from Corpus Christi discovered four years ago they could share their love of fitness and racing with people who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to have the experience.
The Kemps push people in wheelchairs through races numerous times each year as part of larger groups dedicated to assisting the physically disabled, including Ainsley’s Angels and Wings of Texas. They will participate in the 5k on Saturday and the half-marathon on Sunday, pushing themselves mentally and another person physically.
“We really enjoy pushing,” Stephanie Kemp said. “It lets us give back to somebody who can’t do a race otherwise. You can’t even begin to explain how meaningful it is.”
Those being pushed are commonly referred to as “captains” and those doing the pushing are “angels.” There are always at least two runners with each wheelchair in case the pusher suffers a cramp or cannot continue for some other reason.
Stephanie Kemp said captains are generally in their teens or 20s but there are some who are younger or older.
“If we see [a disabled person] out in the community, we’re going to invite them” to participate as a captain, Stephanie Kemp said. “It’s really all about community.”
Just a few months ago, Stephanie Kemp wasn’t sure she would be able to participate in this year’s race. She was diagnosed with cancer and recently underwent surgery, but her doctor cleared her to run in the race on Thursday.
“When I was lying in the hospital bed eight weeks ago, I told myself there was no way I missing this race,” she said.