The purpose of a full year of training for Raquel Stucky all came down to six miles stretched out over the roads of Duluth, Minn., in June.
Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic marathon team trials was the goal and Stucky had to complete the 26.2 miles in less than 2 hours, 46 minutes. Stucky, a 35-year-old living in Pretty Prairie, found another level to finish a minute and a half under the requirement in Grandma's Marathon.
"It's all about experience, feel and judgment calls," Stucky said. "Coming into the race, I felt like I had a really good base built up. But you have to do the self-check. You have to know the course and know your body. I knew I had it, I just had to push a little harder."
Trouble was averted over those final miles that day and since then, Stucky's training has been energized with the guaranteed appearance at the Olympic trials on Jan. 14 in Houston. That training will include the Prairie Fire Half Marathon on Sunday in downtown Wichita.
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"This falls into a great spot for me in my training," said Stucky, who won the race last year. "I really want to be able to have a good time and just put out a good effort. My training is actually geared toward this, so I'm hoping I can have a pretty good time."
For Stucky, that means cracking 1 hour, 19 minutes. For reference, she won last year's race with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes.
But Stucky doesn't bat an eye when talking about lofty goals. Since her training has intensified through the help of friend and coach John Alewine, so have her ambitions.
"I just thought it was time for a new goal," Stucky said of the reason for chasing the Olympic trials. "My coach proposed the idea to me and he thought it was something I could do if I did the right training for it.
"It's a lot of miles and a lot harder work. The workouts have been tougher than a lot of the ones I did even in college."
Stucky began running at an early age, inspired by her father and brother, who both ran in college. She followed in their footsteps, running at Southwestern College and becoming a four-time NAIA All-American.
Running has continued to be a central focus of her life. She has worked at First Gear downtown and has become a name in the Wichita road racing scene.
"I love it and the Wichita marathon has been a great thing for the city," Stucky said. "It really has been a big turnaround. The talk-up of it has been great and everyone in the running community is excited. It's gotten a lot of people involved in running."
After the half marathon on Sunday, Stucky plans to pick up training for the Olympic trials in January. She will withhold from running a race before then, planning for her best race.
"I'm hoping to run under 2 hours, 39 minutes there," Stucky said. "I'm just excited to be able to run there. I knew I could do it when I started training, so I'm hoping I can make the most of it."