If you ran the inaugural Montgomery Half Marathon 10 years ago, your main goal was to beat Vicki Sue Merry.
Vicki Sue was bringing up the rear as the balloon lady that day, showcasing two of her greatest strengths when it comes to racing — she’s a steady pacer, and she loves to make memories.
“Typically the half marathons that I remember the best are the ones I do with someone,” she said. “I have paced quite a few friends to finishes over the years — sometimes for a personal record, sometimes just to finish within the time limit.”
But she’ll tell you quickly that she’s not fast. For a lot of the races she does, she “race walks” or does a combo of walking and running.
“You don’t have to run fast to run, and you don’t have to run at all to be active,” she said.
For Vicki Sue, racing is just a way to stay healthy and have fun.
On her 50th birthday in 2007, she skated a half marathon at Walt Disney World. In 2016, she did the inaugural Star Wars half marathon there with her son. And over the years, she’s done 14 Goofy Challenges.
With that in mind, it might come as no surprise that her pre-race pump-up music is largely Disney themed.
“I have some songs in a playlist called ‘race motivation’ that I will listen to before the race while driving to the start usually,” Vicki Sue said. “They each have a particular line that resonates with me. A few examples:
- Go the Distance (Hercules)
- How Far I’ll Go (Moana)
- Try Everything (Zootopia)
- Believe (Mirror Mirror)
- Let It Go (Frozen)
- Touch the Sky (Brave)
- I Can’t Break Away (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
- Immortals (Big Hero Six)
But she doesn’t listen to music during the race itself — she likes to talk to people and take in the atmosphere.
“One aspect of the races is the social part,” she said. “I get to see friends from all over the world at races, and I often make new friends along the way.”
In 2012, Vicki Sue did two marathons back to back — the End of the World marathon and the Day After the End of the World marathon. Both were based around the Aztec calendar’s prediction that the world would end Dec. 21 that year.
It didn’t end — and neither has her racing hobby. The upcoming Montgomery Half will be her sixth half marathon this year — her 144th in total. She’s also done four Half Ironman triathlons, each of which includes a half marathon.
“Part of my motivation is health related,” she said. “There is a lot of high blood pressure and diabetes in my immediate family, and I know that exercise might help keep me from developing those issues.”
When it comes to racing, “don’t do it because someone else thinks you should,” she said. “Do it because YOU want to do it. Find what works for you.”