“I’ve always been a busybody. Sitting down is a rare occurrence for me,” laughs Brittney Tucker, a fresh-faced 34-year-old. This first-grade teacher recently finished second in her age group in the Memphis St. Jude Marathon. Her time of 3:15, a personal record, qualifies her to run in the Boston Marathon, where she hopes to earn yet another personal best this year.

A native of Huntingdon, TN, Brittney was a cheerleader in middle and high School but drew particular inspiration from her mother. “From a very young age, I’ve watched her fitness journey. Jane Fonda was always on at bedtime.” Brittney had been running with her mother in the afternoons, but it was when she moved here to attend the University of Memphis that Brittney truly caught the running bug. “Running was my therapy. The more races I did, the more I enjoyed it.”

Before long, 5Ks led to longer races, and for three years, Brittney participated in the St. Jude Half Marathon. “In 2012, I PR’d the half and I didn’t really want it to be over I felt so good.” With Boston in the back of her mind, Brittney trained to run her first full St. Jude Marathon in 2013, but that was the year it was canceled.

Undeterred, Brittney kept up her training and ran the Nashville Marathon in 2014. To date, she has run nine marathons and is training for her tenth. She enjoys the different challenges with each one: “I like running Memphis as a St. Jude Hero because it’s for someone else and the donors who give on my behalf push me. But when I do Boston, I’m showing what I can do myself.”

Of course, not every race has been easy. “The first marathon, when I got to the 22-mile mark, I felt like quitting. Luckily a friend kept me entertained and told me I had to keep going. Now I know the pain I’m going to endure between miles 22 and 26, and if I can get to 23 I tell myself, ‘Okay, now you just have a 5K.’”

In Boston 2016, it was the heat, not the distance, that proved the biggest challenge for Brittney. “By mile five I had consumed a whole bottle of water.” The thought that her mother was waiting for her at the end got her to “hurry up and finish.” And despite the inevitable obstacles, she has never stopped challenging herself to run races.

Brittney brings that same positive energy to her classroom. “I love my job as a first-grade teacher at Kingsbury Elementary. My class is always a big inspiration to me, and I also want to be a positive role model for them.”  Her dedication to her students paid off when she was awarded the Tennessee Lottery Teacher of the Week award several years ago. Though her students are naturally more interested in whether or not she won the race, Brittney uses the St. Jude Marathon as a way to explain what it means to be a hero. And after school, she turns to running as a way to relieve the stress of the day.

With an admirable amount of self-discipline, Brittney does not work with a coach and has designed most of her training workouts herself. She follows Breakaway’s plan for the marathon distance and attends Paul Sax’s Tuesday speed workouts at the University of Memphis. “I have to thank Paul for believing in me and pushing me beyond what I think I can do.” She also works with weights to build leg strength and rows. “I’ve become very familiar with that rowing machine,” she laughs.

Brittney does not follow a particular diet but will give up certain foods like chips, soda, and candy when training. “Discipline is the most important piece of the puzzle for success,” she says. Though she hastens to add that, “Cake does not count as candy.” Her disciplined approach to training has kept her relatively free of injuries and obviously successful in the field.

Brittney looks forward to future challenges and wants to try a triathlon. She also wants to complete the World Marathon Majors, running marathons in Boston, Tokyo, London, Chicago, Berlin, and New York.

Despite her accomplishments, perhaps what keeps Brittney in love with running are those she meets. “Through running I’ve met so many amazing people. No matter the distance, running always brings people together. You can start a race beside a complete stranger, and by the end, you’ve made a friend for life.”

By Pamela Poletti

Photo by Tindall Stephens