(ROCKWALL, TX — December 27, 2017) Ever since she was 15 years old, Dallas Marathon 2017 winner Chandler Self was always sure of one thing: that she could run, and had the ability to keep running for an extended period of time.
The Rockwall native said she first began running long distance competitively when she joined the cross country and track team at Rockwall High School. She admits she wasn’t the fastest runner on the team, but what she lacked in speed she made up for in hard work and determination.
“I wasn’t very fast, but I tried really hard,” Self said. “I knew that if I just kept working at it that I could get faster.”
After graduating from Rockwall High in 2003, Self attended Texas A&M University where she became a walk-on member of the Division I cross country team under then-coach Dan Waters. Self said the experience of training with a collegiate Division I cross country squad was very tough but also very inspiring. She found she was able to keep up with the workouts and was very impressed at the knowledge of Coach Waters and the training staff.
“Coach Waters was a phenomenal coach and took me from being a so-so runner to one that could keep up competitively in collegiate Division I cross country,” she said.
After graduating A&M in 2007, Self attended the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and eventually joined the residency program at Mount Sinai Hospital Psychiatry Department in New York City. During the six years between medical school and residency, Self said she found it difficult to find time to run, so she decided to take a break from it and focus on her medical studies.
Self said the move from Texas to New York was such a big culture change that she found herself missing home a lot and became very lonely, despite the large crowds of the city. Her best friend noticed the toll the move had taken on Self, and suggested she get back into running because that was what used to make her happy. Self took her up on the offer and joined a local running group called the Dashing Whippets.
“It completely changed my life,” Self said. “When I started running with them, I felt like I had found my people. We all came from different backgrounds but had a common ground in the fact that we all loved to run.”
When she returned home to run in the BMW Dallas Marathon on Dec. 10, Self said she had gotten very little sleep the night before the big race, and had a light snack consisting of a banana and some peanut butter in the morning before racetime.
With former SMU runner and volunteer assistant cross country coach Caitlin Keen leading the pack during the first 15 miles of the 26-mile race, Self knew she’d have to keep Keen in her sights in order to have a shot at winning.
“I knew that if I could do that I had a chance. She was going fast, faster than I wanted to go during the first stretch,” Self said.
Self made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to surge past Keen during miles 15-18, and was finally able to break away at mile 19.
“Every person I passed along that part of the route, even other relay racers and half-marathoners, were cheering me on,” Self said. “My family found different spots throughout the course to wave at me and show their support, and I loved getting to see them.”
Around mile 24 was when Greenhill School runner Ariana Luterman, who was competing with the high school relay teams that ran with the elite runners that day, joined Self for the final stretch of the marathon. Luterman told Self she would “be her pacer” and that she was going to help her get the win.
Self was completely out of gas at that point and fell down a couple of times, but Luterman was there to pick her back up each time.
“My legs hurt so bad and the pain was excruciating,” Self said. “I have never felt pain that severe before ever in my life.”
Self said when she was finally able to cross the finish line, all she could think about was the fact that she was glad it was over.
“I was so happy when I got put in that wheelchair and to be done with the race. I didn’t have any energy to be able to tell them that I was okay. I had completely run out of gas and could barely hold my eyes open at that point,” she said.
Self was officially declared the winner of the race with a finishing time of 2 hours, 53 minutes and 57 seconds. Keen was the runner-up at 2 hours, 56 minutes and 37 seconds. BMW Dallas Marathon Executive Director Marcus Grunewald said that although runners cannot receive third-party assistance from spectators, race or medical staff, the executive race committee reviewed the finish and determined that Self had enough distance between her and Keen that she would’ve won the race even without help from Luterman.
“While I really wished I could’ve made it to the finish line on my own, I think Ariana’s spirit was amazing and that it was an amazing show of sportsmanship to support me and encourage me the way she did,” Self said.
Self plans to take a well-deserved break from running for a while, but has her sights set on qualifying for the Olympic trials in 2020. Self said she’ll need to run a 2:45:00 in order to qualify.
“I’ll have to start bumping up my mileage slowly so that I don’t get injured, and I’ll also have to start eating right. I think if I can work on my nutrition alone that’ll have a big impact on my ability to be faster,” Self said.
By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Photos by Ryan Lange.
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