Nebraska legend and ’95 Lincoln Marathon winner racing again, this time with a different goal

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 7:50 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - World class athletes will return to the capital city this weekend, taking part in the Lincoln Marathon.

Marla Rhoden has heard the starting gunshot 195 times in her marathon running career. Running marathons is in her blood and she said she isn’t ready to give up yet.

On Sunday she will be running again, but this time it will look a bit different. Her recent training has been minimal and this year she will only run the half marathon.

In 1995, Rhoden took home the gold medal, winning the Lincoln Marathon. But, as with any athlete, there were injuries that set her back. That’s why this year she decided it was best to run the half marathon instead.

“Twice in February of 2020 I fell and had head injuries. The second time I had 21 stitches above and along my left eye,” said Rhoden.

Later in 2020, Rhoden was diagnosed with a cardiac arrhythmia, which is an improper beating of the heart. Cardiac arrhythmia occurs when electrical impulses in the heart don’t work properly, possibly jeopardizing her running career.

Rhoden says after receiving medication, she’s been able to run on the treadmill, but is still hesitant to run outside during training.

Once she was cleared by doctors to race again, she thought of no better way to return but in Lincoln. Rhoden said she has similar butterflies to when she first started running marathons, her first the Lincoln Marathon in 1983.

Leaders with the Lincoln Track Club say this year’s race is important for people to return to normal.

“We’re expecting about 5,000 people. This is probably going to be the third largest race post-COVID race in the United States, so that’s attracting a lot of elite runners. We’ve got more than a dozen, probably close to two dozen athletes that are international or elite athletes from the United States that have a legitimate shot at breaking our records,” said Lincoln Marathon Director, Ryan Regnier.

Once an elite runner herself, and current masters record holder, Rhoden said she’s a bit nervous for her return, “This year is going to be a bit strange because I’m not in the kind of running shape to even place in my age group, so that’s a different place for me. Mentally I feel kind of sheepish about going, and on the other hand it’s Lincoln, that’s my motivation.”

Marathon organizers have made it very clear, no matter where she finishes, the legend is always welcomed back in Lincoln.

“I very well could be the last place finisher in the half and my goal is to finish it. But I’ll be slogging through it, definitely will not be racing. And it was like that didn’t matter and that was so incredibly encouraging to me,” said Rhoden.

The Lincoln Marathon and Half Marathon are scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. on Sunday, May 2 at 16 & K.

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