One local teacher and Lincolnton High School graduate will embark today on what she considers the “Super Bowl for runners” — the Boston Marathon.
Morgan Turner, who currently teaches physical education at S. Ray Lowder Elementary and Asbury Alternative Schools in Lincolnton, qualified for the world-renowned 26.2-mile race by beating the qualifying time for her age group (18-24) by 10 minutes, pacing herself at a fast rate of just under eight minutes per mile.
Turner will be running alongside Olympic athletes, a concept she said “blows my mind.”
“I’m just going to be taking in the exciting atmosphere and all the sites around the course,” she said.
While her nerves are ever present, she said she is more excited than anxious about the trek and only has one goal in mind — to finish without stopping.
The event is only the second marathon Turner has ever competed in, her first being the United Healthcare North Carolina Marathon in High Point, which she completed in 2011 immediately following the end of her cross-country season at Western Carolina University, where she graduated a year early last May.
Turner earned an athletic scholarship to WCU after setting records and making a lasting impression on the Lady Wolves athletic program.
At the time of the High Point marathon, the 21-year-old had never run more than 15 miles at a time but was focused and prepared to qualify, training three days each work week and always on the weekend.
“It (the marathon) was 11 miles longer than I had ever gone before so it was a shock to my system,” she said. “Sheer stubbornness got me through the race.”
Often times, long distance runs temporarily paralyze her muscles as the monotony mentally and physically drains her.
“On some runs I have felt like the Tin Man from the “The Wizard of Oz” because my legs and joints feel like they are stuck,” she said.
However, it’s not her physical strength that pushes her towards success. It’s her mind, always reminding her body to “keep moving.”
“Mental motivation is what drives me in running and in life,” Turner said. “I am blessed and cursed with the mindset that I have to do the best in everything I do. I have been given the ability to run and my goal was to run the most prestigious marathon in the world.”
She also draws inspiration from her friends, family, God and students, some of whom she coaches as members of S. Ray Lowder’s Lion’s Pride Running Club.
“One of my students told me, ‘Coach Turner, go win that Boston Marathon race,’” she said. “This is impossible, but words like these are my motivation.”
She even spent most of her training workouts alongside her mother, also an avid runner.
Her sister, Gracie, was another one of Lincolnton’s running legends and is currently part of Lenoir-Rhyne University’s cross-country and track squads.
While the sport that has consumed so much of Turner’s life once “confined” her with added stress, due to high expectations she set for herself, she can now run worry-free.
“It really makes me happy to say that now I enjoy running,” she said. “It makes me feel free — free from worries, free from stress, free to go fast, slow, short, long by myself or with someone else.”
She credits her high school coach Jeff Cloninger with encouraging her to attend a second practice after she thought running wasn’t was her.
“The first time I went to cross-country practice and ran three miles I never wanted to do it again,” Turner said.
After Cloninger gave her a goal to reach and told her she had potential, she stuck with it.
“I have been setting new goals and trying to reach them every day since that day,” she said. “Thank goodness I decided quitting was not the right thing to do.”
For Turner, running is no longer a complex chore but rather a simple, beloved hobby.
“All it really requires is tennis shoes and open space,” she said.