Mason Intermediate School teacher and Springboro resident Erika Stansberry recently completed her first Boston marathon, and second marathon ever, in 3:38. She has her sights set on qualifying for the New York marathon and improving her position for the 2018 Boston marathon. CONTRIBUTED

Mile 17 in Boston was the true test

Sixth-grade teacher in Mason helps students.

Two years ago, Erika Stansberry and her husband were standing on the sidelines, cheering for her brother-in-law and sister-in-law as they ran their first Boston Marathon.

This April, the Mason Intermediate School sixth-grade math teacher crossed that finish line with a time of 3 hours and 38 minutes.

“The atmosphere was so electrifying that I caught the bug. I kept asking myself if I could do this and decided to give it a try,” said the Springboro resident. “I told myself I would run one marathon, and, if I qualified, I would run Boston, and, if not, then that would be my last. I trained hard and met the qualifying time with 12 minutes to spare.”

Working with the Rogue Racers team, Stansberry developed an 18-week training plan of running six days and lifting twice a week. In addition to logging many miles, she focused on speed work and hills. Her training paid off when she took to the course April 17.

“Everyone in and around Boston made you feel like you were a rock star for qualifying for the marathon,” she recalled. “From the moment you got on the bus that took the runners 26.2 miles to the start line, until you crossed the finish line, you were surrounded by people. Every step I took there were hundreds of runners all around me and just as many fans cheering us on. When things got tough, the mass of people that surrounded me kept me going.”

The race got tough around mile 17 for Stansberry, who will share her passion with Springboro runners as a high school assistant cross country coach this fall.

“It was 70 degrees at the start of the race. I knew it was important to stay hydrated throughout the race. I stopped at every water station — positioned every mile — to drink water and dump some over my head. But I think the hills were the toughest for me,” she said. “Running the first 10 miles downhill really did a number on my quadriceps. By mile 17 when the real hills started, my legs were burning. At that point, the last nine miles, I ran on heart alone. I can honestly say it was one of, if not the toughest thing I have ever done in my life.”

Up next up is the Erie Pennsylvania full marathon in September, where she hopes to improve her position for the 2018 Boston Marathon, and the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in November to qualify for the New York marathon.

The Today’s Pulse found out more about Stansberry, who earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in middle child education from Wright State University and is finishing her 14th year of teaching.

Q: Why do you teach?

A: I struggled a bit in school when I was a youngster. I found it hard to connect to the content being taught — mainly because of the content itself, but also because of the lack of connection I felt with the teachers.

I knew when I got older I wanted to help kids, especially ones who might need extra attention and different approaches to understand the material.

Q: What do you enjoy most?

A: The most rewarding part of teaching is running into your students years later and hearing how you had a positive impact in their lives, either academically or personally. I love the days I get letters thanking me for being there and believing in them. I have every thank you letter I have ever received. When I am having rough day, I simply read those letters and things seem to brighten up.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?

A: Some students need someone to be there and listen or care for them, in addition to making sure they are understanding the material being taught. I want to make sure all my students know I am someone they can count on and trust.

Once a sense of trust is built, the students want to work harder for you, and then they tend to want to work hard for themselves. I believe every student can learn, maybe not at the same time or way as their classmates, but they can learn.

For this reason, I teach and reteach every topic to every student until they master the skill.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I enjoy running, of course, but also spending time with my family. With two small children (a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter), we spend a lot of time outside exploring and discovering the world.

Q: How do you balance work and racing training?

A: I am so thankful to have such a wonderful support system. Without a lot of very special and caring people, I wouldn’t be able to pursue my passions. My husband, Jonathan, and my kids, my dad and mom, my in-laws, my extended family, training partners, friends, fellow teachers and so many others are so supportive of me. I would not be able to accomplish what I have accomplished in my professional and personal life.

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