For our second celebrity chat, the 42-year-old record-setting marathoner, Paralympian, Savoy resident and associate director of development in the College of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Illinois shared a few minutes.
What do you like best about your job? Least?
The best part about my job is the opportunity to meet many different people who attended the U of I during many different decades. My least favorite part about the job is the reports that need to be written.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
I have some very good friends here in East Central Illinois and a perfect Sunday afternoon usually includes spending time with someone. I am especially close to the family of my track and road racing coach, Marty Morse, so I am often with one or several of them.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish?
When I was in about fifth or sixth grade, I read a book called "Sand Dune Pony." I don't remember anything about the story line, except that is was about the Wild West and horses. I loved horses and couldn't get enough of them in picture or story. Around that time, I checked out several books about the Wild West from the school library and the local public library – although, I don't remember any other book titles.
Have you discovered as you matured that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
Hmmmmm, this is a difficult question. I don't know for sure if I'm becoming more like my parents as I "mature." Perhaps. I've certainly developed their strong work ethic.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Life has been full of reasons to celebrate! It's hard to choose just one thing. Some of my proudest achievements are: 1. earning my bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Illinois; 2. experiencing my eight wins and five world-best times at the Boston Marathon; 3. representing the U.S.A. in Olympic and Paralympic competition; and 4. helping to provide wheelchairs and sports opportunities to people with disabilities in Ghana, West Africa.
When did you realize that you could go really fast in your wheelchair? How did it feel?
I won my first national-level road race in May 1989 at an event in Spokane, Wash. Marty had been trying to convince me that I was getting fast before then, but winning the Lilac Bloomsday 12K is what proved it to me. It remains one of the most exciting wins of my career. Afterward, I was on Cloud 9, 10, 11 and 12. I still feel the butterflies when I watch the video of that event because the victory was so unexpected.
If you could host a dinner party with any five people in the world, living or dead, who would they be and why?
George and Martha Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher. Every one of these people put their personal needs/desires aside and chose public service over everything else. Their leadership impacted more than just a single political party or country. They impacted the world. It would be thrilling to learn firsthand about each person's motivations, desires, hesitations and goals during the dynamic times in which they live(d).
What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?
Baby-sitting was my first job and I was paid $1/hour. I did a lot of baby-sitting from sixth grade through college and even worked as a live-in mother's helper for a year when I was 19.
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?
A pivotal decision in my career was whether or not to do the marathon distance (26.2 miles). It took Coach Marty Morse two years to talk me into agreeing to enter a marathon. Even after I sent in my paperwork and entry fee, I still wasn't sure I should/could do it. Now, I have held the world's best time in the marathon for the women's wheelchair division since April 1990 and could have never imagined how quickly it became my signature event.
What the best advice you've ever been given?
The following quote by Abraham Lincoln has served well over time: "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other."