Never Running on Empty
Hi, my name is Sandy Manley! I have been married to my husband Bill for 25 years. I have two children, Kelsey who is 20, and Liam who is 17. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois. I moved to the Youngstown area about 28 years ago for my career at the time. I worked for Dow Jones in the production of printing The Wall Street Journal. In Youngstown, I found my husband and I’ve been here ever since. I left Dow Jones after 10 years to start our family. These days, I am a runner, a spinning instructor, and a triathlete. I would not be any of those without the relationships and friendships I have found and developed along the way.
I first became interested in running in my early teens because it was an easy way to become more fit as a young girl. It seemed fun to be able to go run around the block. I realized that if I ran around a city block about 4 times, I would have run a mile. I didn’t really get into running again until I was in college. I was working a summer job and decided that I was going to run a mile every day. At the time, this was a real challenge. I would get up before work and run my mile. I was about 20 at the time and I set a goal to be able to run ONE mile when I was 40. I participated in my first 5K race in 1992 at a local church festival and I pretty much thought I was going to die. At that point, I would run a couple of miles here or there but I really didn’t think I could run much more than a couple of miles.
Fast forward to the mid-1990s when I met my husband, Bill. He was a runner and inspired me to start running more. At the time, I worked second shift at Dow Jones, and running seemed to work well with my shift. In 1998, I did my first half marathon, The Distance Classic in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, Ohio. This race was very hilly and very hard. I laid on the couch for the rest of the day and thought never again. About a year later, my husband and several of his friends signed up for the Chicago Marathon. Since I was from Chicago, I thought that sounded fun. On a Saturday afternoon, I rode my bike with Bill and his friend to carry water for 14 miles. After the ride, I thought maybe I could do this. So, the next day while Bill was at work, I ran those 14 miles and signed up for my first marathon!
Over the next five years I dabbled in shorter races and did the occasional half marathon until I started running with my friend Chris. We started doing races together. We also began attending spinning classes together. Our spinning group introduced us to a lot of like-minded people who liked to do lots of fun exercise challenges. We started spinning at our local YMCA which had the most amazing spinning program. Classes were basically therapy sessions. There were a lot of sweat and tears that came along with what we call the Black Boxx. The Spinning room at the Y was designed as a sensory room. The room was mostly dark with some different controls with lights which added to the experience. I met many amazing friends and people who encouraged me to try new things and work out super hard.
When I was 40, I decided I wanted to try something new and signed up for my first sprint triathlon. I decided I enjoyed triathlons which are swimming, biking, and running and continued to do sprint triathlons for the next couple of years.
After running lots of half marathons, my friend Chris and I along with several other friends decided to sign up for the Columbus Marathon. This would be Chris’ first marathon. Since my first marathon in 1999, I had said that I wanted to only do 2 marathons. One in each century. The Columbus marathon would do that for me. What I didn’t know at the time was that this 2010 marathon would be the beginning of a new tradition: running at least 1 marathon a year; something I continue to do to this day!
When you’re a runner, the Super Bowl of running is to qualify for the Boston Marathon. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, you have to achieve a certain time based on gender and age. I was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon while running the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2014. I was lucky enough to qualify four times!
In 2016, I achieved some really great running times and was in the best shape of my life. I decided with the help of my friends that it was time to sign up for a full Ironman Triathlon. An Ironman Triathlon is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run for a total of 140.6 miles. My friends and I signed up for the Lake Placid Ironman.
Through all my running races and triathlons, I have rarely signed up for an event that did not include at least one or more friends. I enjoy training with many different friends whether they are close friends or just my friend for the day. Exercise for me is very social. I love the challenge of running, biking, spinning, and swimming, but what I love even more is having a friend with me as I take on the challenge. There’s nothing like suffering with someone; pushing someone to achieve the best of themselves as well as being pushed to find the best in yourself. Many, many, many, many, miles are therapeutic miles. There are lots of conversations about things going on in our lives, from the good and happy, to the bad, ugly, sad, and painful. Some of our fastest runs happen when someone in the group is mad, it always seems to push the pace. I know I would have never done all the amazing races and achieved the goals that I have achieved without having my friends by my side helping each other along the way.
It's all good training is one of my favorite catchphrases that I started using during all my workouts. Running in the rain, it’s good training. Running in the snow, it’s good training. Riding in difficult conditions, it’s good training. It also transfers to life. Having a bad day, it’s good training. Having a good day, it’s good training. Getting through difficult times, it’s good training!
I’ve learned along the way that taking care of my physical body only helps with my mental wellness too. Feeling good about myself physically and being able to challenge myself as well as burn off all kinds of anxiety and stress makes me feel better overall. Most of my running workouts, especially since I can chat as I run, are basically therapy sessions. We often talk about the issues that are going on in our lives and sharing those makes our friendships stronger. I never end a workout unhappy, especially if I am with a friend. Even if it was the worst workout ever, being with a friend always makes it worthwhile.
Now that I am in my 50s, I find that continuing to exercise and trying to live a healthy lifestyle will help me physically and mentally as I continue to age. I might not be as fast as I used to be or as physically strong, but I know exercise will continue to be a big part of my life.
After I started spending a lot of time working out at the Y it only made sense that I would start working there. I started at the desk and one of my favorite people that I got to know was this 80-year-old who would come in every single day with their gym bag in hand. Rain, shine, or snow she was there for the work out and the companionship. That’s what I want to be doing when I’m 80 and beyond.