Stacy Bernal on running the Ogden Marathon
+ how it changed her life for the better
By Mekenna Malan | May 11th, 2022
Lace up those running shoes—the Ogden Marathon is happening on May 21st!
We sat down with Stacy Bernal, a runner and ambassador for the Ogden Marathon (and a valuable member of our local community in so many other ways!) to talk about what the marathon means to her.
It's a pleasure to chat with you, Stacy! You have a story—even a whole public speaking presentation—on how running the Ogden Marathon for the first time in 2009 changed your life. Could you tell me about that experience and why it meant so much to you?
Running, and specifically running the Ogden Marathon for the first time, was truly life-changing. And I didn't realize it at the time—I mean, I knew it was going to be hard. You start it as one person, and by the time you cross that finish line, it's like you're a different person. I called my story "Failure to Finisher" and talked about how, up to that point in my life, I was a three-time college dropout. I was three times divorced. My son had just gotten diagnosed with autism, and it was honestly a sort of rock-bottom point in my life.
The marathon felt like the only thing I could be proud of, with everything else going on in my life. Being able to say I was a marathoner was a pretty big achievement. And ultimately, after I did that, I decided to go back to school. My first marathon was in 2009. I signed up for classes at Weber State and started in 2010, and it just kind of snowballed from there. I attribute a lot of the good things that have happened in my life too be from running the marathon. And I've participated in the Ogden Marathon in some form every year since then—except for 2012, when I was pregnant with my youngest. And I've participated in the Ogden Marathon in some form every year since then—except for 2012, when I was pregnant with my youngest.
The Ogden Marathon has received a variety of accolades, including "Best Running Event in Utah" and one of the "Top Ten Marathons in the World." Why is this course so special?
Running through the Ogden Canyon—there's just nothing else you can compare it to. I remember thinking while riding the bus on the way up: "I can't believe they're going to drop us off in a field, and then we have to run back to downtown Ogden." There's just something truly magical about being out on the course and getting into this space mentally and physically. Where you're thinking, "This is impossible, I can't believe I'm doing this."
For my first time, everybody told me, "Oh, you're going to hit the wall when you get to mile 20." For me, it wasn't until maybe mile 23 and a half. I was like, "Okay, now I can feel the wall." And at that point, it really felt like getting to the finish line was taking forever. But then you finally get onto Grant Avenue, and you're just a couple of blocks away. It's just indescribable. I've done other courses that were also beautiful, but being able to run through Ogden Canyon—like I said, there's nothing else that compares to that. And you can't do that any other day of the year, without, you know, the risk of dying.
How do you prepare for the Ogden Marathon?
For my first one, I did the winter race circuit. That was perfect because you would go out and have support on your race, and then after that every other year I knew "Okay, I can do this. I've done it before." I've learned how to bring what I need to get through my long runs. Everyone has different methods of what works for them, but making sure you're eating the right things to fuel you through your miles and scheduling your bathroom breaks is important.
We also have such a great network of trails in our community. The Ogden River Parkway has always been a great training space for me because you can run as many miles as you need to run. We're really lucky that we have the Ogden River Parkway because it really is the perfect training space for the marathon.
How do you like to spend your day après-marathon?
I love how lively 25th Street is on marathon day. Any local restaurants are going to be a great choice, and they love hosting all of the runners, spectators, and out-of-towners coming in to check them out. I'm always a big supporter of local restaurants, so no matter where I go, I'm gonna find the local spot after a long run. I typically crave a burger—that's my go-to.
What does running give to you? Why do you run?
Running gives me the ability to connect to myself. So many of us are so busy and we're pulled in so many directions. For a long time, especially when my kids were younger, it felt selfish. I felt taking the time for myself was taking time away from my family. But everyone knows that self care is so important—we take care of ourselves to be able to take care of everybody else. And so for me, running is my mental health. This is my physical health. This is my happy place.
I came to Ogden in 2009. In fact, running the Ogden Marathon was really the first time I had even been in this community. Being on 25th Street and feeling that energy that day—that's ultimately part of the reason I moved to Ogden.
I was born in New Jersey, and I grew up all over the country in varying diverse communities. Coming to Utah—and almost every other person who comes from out-of-state will say the same thing—it's a little bit of a culture shock. It's definitely less diverse. Being in Ogden specifically, we do have more diversity in this community. And having the opportunities I've had to go to Weber State and get really active in the community helped me love this town. I've been serving on a bunch of different boards and organizations, and now I'm running for the Ogden school board. I stay because I love this town. I love the people here. I feel like we really could choose to live anywhere, and this is where we choose to live.