By Savanah Mandeville • Photos by Mandy Edmsonson

Stephanie Witcher is no stranger to multi-tasking.

This busy mama is a wife, mother of two, an English instructor at Crowder College, and a doctoral student working toward her Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Leadership.

Oh, and she’s a marathon runner. No big deal.

“A lot of people ask me how I find the time to run, but my big thing is ‘How do you not find time for it?” she laughed. “It’s the only way I manage all the other insanity in my life!”

For Stephanie, running is a stress reliever, her “me time,” and a chance to clear her head.

“It’s my time to reflect on what I’ve been learning or to think about my lesson plans,” she said. “That’s when I get my prayer time and my alone time. When my friends notice I’m really stressed out, they ask, ‘How long has it been since you’ve had a run?’”

But Stephanie wasn’t always a runner. She started running in her late 20s because she wanted to lose weight after her first pregnancy.

“I went for a slow, agonizing run exactly one day after my daughter turned one, over seven years ago,” she said. “I lost 70 pounds in about a year and a half. Then, we had our second baby, Scott, and, of course, I gained weight with him, too.”

But, by then, she was a card-carrying runner — she even ran a 5k on her son’s due date!

“It was the Joplin Memorial Run, and my doctor was a pacer and she was like, ‘Call me if you need me!’” Stephanie recalled with a laugh.

Stephanie’s husband, Daniel, is also a runner. A few years ago, the couple started a summer reading and running class for high school students in the Upward Bound program called “Read, Run, Repeat.” Students had the opportunity to learn about careers in health and wellness while improving their reading skills for college. The end-of-course exam was to host and finish a 5k.

“The pride they carried as they crossed the finish line and did this hard thing is embedded in my memories,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie also stays motivated with the help of her running group, a group of other busy moms who hold each other accountable.

“They’re who keep me going a lot of mornings when I don’t want to get out there, but it’s absolutely always worth it. They have been a huge blessing.”

On St. Patrick’s Day 2019, Stephanie and two friends, Sherry Whiteman and Tonna Powers, ran their first marathon together: The Shamrock Marathon on Virginia Beach.

“It was an eight-month training cycle, so we started in the fall and trained all winter long, sometimes in 17-degree weather,” Stephanie said. “It brought us together and has made a special friendship for the three of us. All our families came to cheer us on when we were running, so it was a really beautiful experience.”

Finishing a marathon prepared Stephanie to go after her doctorate later that year.

“When Sherry and I started our doctoral programs, the instructor said the program was like training for and running a marathon. We told him we already checked that box. He laughed and said we would be just fine!”

So how does Stephanie find time to run? She finds the time because running is one of the pieces that forms the beautiful puzzle of her life — without it, the picture wouldn’t be complete.

“I love that my children think sitting on the side of a road and cheering for strangers is a perfectly normal way to spend a Saturday. I love that they encounter so many people because they are mom and dad’s running friends. Running combines the best parts of my life: my husband, my kids, my friends, my teaching and learning, and my health.”