UTEP runner Kitria Stewart’s legs are all in her mind

EL PASO, Texas — My heart is racing. My mind replays the race over and over again 30 minutes before it begins, with me envisioning how I will perform. A part of me is very confident, telling me I will run well, while the other part doubts my ability to finish the 800-meter run. The gun goes off. Eight competitors bump and push at my side and I gradually move with them through the first lap.  One more to go.

Running Like an Animal

EL PASO, Texas — I was introduced to the outdoors as a child.  I would go on hunting trips with my father and would go with my family on month-long excursions in the wilderness. I was also a Boy Scout and my road to Eagle Scout really gave me a connection to the land. Despite having a loving upbringing with values and morals, I lost my way somewhere along the line as a teenager and failed to realize my true potential. After many failed attempts to get my life together, I accidentally discovered while wandering in the Franklin Mountains that nature was my touchstone to finding meaning in my life. I found the solitude of nature very therapeutic, and the rocks and trees to be the best listeners to a world of emotions and problems I was facing.

Driven by competition

EL PASO — The competition was tough. Olympic runners Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall, Kenya’s Salina Kosgei, Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga and 26, 327 others were up against her in the 113th Boston Marathon.  In the end, Stacey Sowards crossed the finish line ahead of 16,240 of them. While competition is a driving force behind her desire to run, her most difficult race, Sowards says, is “probably against myself.  I’ve always been a competitive person, but also a perfectionist,” she says. “The worst part is when I compete against people and they don’t know it,” she laughs. “If I’m at the gym on the treadmill, I’ll hit the speed up and the people next to me don’t know.”

According to Sowards, an Associate Professor in the department of Communication at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), the experience of “just being there” was more important than where she placed.