POW Marathon a Destination Race: Interview with Vena Stough - P.O.W. Report

Monday, March 25, 2019

POW Marathon a Destination Race: Interview with Vena Stough

By Gretchen Klein

This week we are featuring a highlight from Vena Talea Stough, a Wrangell resident, who participated in the Prince of Wales Marathon in 2008. Our hope is that Vena’s story will inspire and encourage you to join us as we celebrate the 20th year of the Prince of Wales Marathon on May 25th!

During a lively conversation with Vena, she described her Prince of Wales Marathon experience 11 years ago. During the interview, she discussed why she decided to start training for the race, as well as, her perspective on the experience.

Vena is deeply rooted in Wrangell, Alaska. Wrangell is an island with mild temperatures ranging from 30 to 60 degrees in the spring and early summer along with an average annual precipitation – rainfall of 79.33 inches.

Vena has spent the majority of her life living in Southeast Alaska and is accustomed to the cool wet weather. She is very outdoorsy and is drawn to activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, and of course running. When it came to running, Vena discovered her love for the sport as a member of the Wrangell High School cross-country team. Years later, in 2007, she rediscovered her passion after an appointment with her Neurosurgeon, who advised her not to run anymore due to a fall the previous year that resulted in a broken neck. Vena has always thought of herself as stubborn, so when the doctor told her she was now facing limitations it was no surprise to her friends and family that she would set her mind to prove him wrong. Upon her return to Wrangell, she immediately started to training for the Prince of Wales Marathon.

Vena’s goal was now to complete her first long distance marathon—the full 26.2 miles! She began her training in December, starting slow with low impact workouts like water aerobics in addition to putting hours in on an elliptical machine. By February, she was hitting the pavement and completing her long runs on Sundays. With the Prince of Wales Marathon in May and creeping closer, besides her workouts, she spent a lot of time reading training tips online while anxiously awaiting her monthly subscription of the Runner’s World magazine to come in the mail. Throughout her training, she not only spent time working out, but also focused on proper nutrition. She watched her calorie intake, which fueled her body to keep it healthy and strong. One thing that she was amazed by in her journey was how it became normal to say, “My long run was just 11 or just 17 miles,” while discussing runs with fellow runners. It was moments like this that made her feel like all her hard work was paying off.

Six short months later, Vena, a few fellow runners, and friends were on their way to Prince of Wales Island via the Alaska Marine Highway ferry headed to Coffman Cove. They landed at the ferry terminal, which is located on the northern part of the island. After a beautiful drive south, they arrived at the race headquarters, located in Craig.

Vena running strong at mile 25
The day before the race, the skies cleared changing the weather from a 50 degree overcast day to a mid-60s day. Little did Vena and her fellow runners know what they were in for with the changing weather on race day!

The morning of the race, after a healthy breakfast, finding her focus and some serious stretching, Vena headed for the race. She recalls that the vibe at the starting line was powerful as all the runners fed of each other’s energy. Vena remembers starting off feeling strong, as she ran alongside her fellow Wrangellites, at a steady group pace. Also recalling, how all the racers pushed forward while the sun really started to burn.

The temperature was recorded in the mid-80s which was unseasonably hot for Southeast. Stough reminisced that “the route was gorgeous and hilly, but held little shade,” she recalled how the safety vehicles traveled back and forth watching out for runners in need, helping those who were not accustomed to the heat. She said, “It felt as if the ambulances were like vultures waiting for their victims, but in a helpful way.”

At one point during the race, Vena actually stepped off the road to a stream, where she splashed water all over herself attempting to cool down. She said, “There were many water stations during the race, but I couldn’t cool down enough with heat so intense. I needed to hydrate more often than offered.”

Vena at the finish line
Throughout the entire race, Vena had a caravan of friends offering her water and cheering as she ran past. Vena mentioned a particular moment that really stuck out for her - one water station offered watermelon slices! This fruit was a huge blessing as she is allergic to citrus fruits and this was a welcoming treat along the route. Vena stated, "The melon was so delicious! My mouth was so satisfied. All I could do for the next few miles was think about how good it was! I couldn't stop thinking about how I wanted to just kiss someone as the flavor was so overwhelming. Seems like an odd thought to most, but that is the funny thing about running, your mind goes places it doesn’t always go and your thoughts can become almost obsessive.”

Vena explained that while training and during the race, it was important to find the things that help her push forward. She found that supportive friends and the music she listened to were a few things that guided her during her journey.

She loved to run to upbeat music that assisted her with keeping her pace. Songs found on her playlist were Rihanna - Don't Stop The Music, Rednex - Cotton Eye Joe, and The Black Eyed Peas - Let's Get It Started. She expressed how tunes really helped motivate her, especially in the marathon as she ran up the hills that never seemed to end!

Overall, despite the overwhelming temperatures and challenging hills, Vena finished the 26.2 miles in a good time. She was happy to finish and having to tap out, like so many runners were forced to do that day because of the heat.

When asked if she would ever consider running again, Vena explained that soon after she completed the race, she ended up having to have her neck fused, but absolutely wants to run the marathon again.

She highly recommends the Prince of Wales Marathon, no matter what the weather forecast is and looks forward to coming back one day to race again.

Vena’s tips for runners:

Routines are important, but don’t forget to change it up.
Set reachable goals, but also reach for the stars.
Put in the time, but watch out and don’t become obsessive. Remember, as Oscar Wilde once said, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Remember to use common sense when it comes to pushing your body. Push your limits for your personal best, but don’t push yourself to the point of injury.
Take a rest day! Enjoy the journey, but also enjoy time to just breathe and relax. Hard work pays off. Don’t forget to treat yourself to something special, even if it is just a pizza loaded with toppings.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Join us to celebrate 20 years of the Price of Wales Marathon! For more information and to sign up find us at https://www.powmarathon.org/

Additional information on accommodations and transportation can be found at https://www.princeofwalescoc.org/

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