Marathon of motivation in Tacoma

Staff writerMay 4, 2014 

In marathons, not all the winners cross the finish line first.

More than two hours after Seattle’s Bill Condon defended his Tacoma City Marathon title Sunday morning in 2 hours, 46 minutes, 52 seconds, Edward Lychik finished his second marathon in less than three weeks.

Lychik lost his left leg in 2011 while serving in the Army.

And about 1 hour, 45 minutes after Tacoma’s Kira Donnelly won the women’s race in 2:56:32, Aurea Nicolet of Puyallup finished her first marathon four years after she cheated death.

Like most of the other 2,667 participants on the overcast and sometimes wet morning, Lychik and Nicolet weren’t racing as much as they were motivating.

“I’m not out here for me,” Lychik said. “I’m out here for everybody else. I want them to see disabilities in a different way.”

At the finish line, Lychik was given a special medal reserved for Marathon Maniacs, a group that requires two marathons in 16 days or three in three months for membership. Sunday earned Lychik a spot in the worldwide club that was founded in Tacoma.

“This medal is nice, but it will go on the wall when I get home and start collecting dust,” Lychik said. “I’m out here for the people. That’s why I’m waving and smiling and giving high-fives, using energy that slows me down. It would be boring if I was just out there for myself.”

Lychik, who grew up in Puyallup, was shot in the leg while serving as an Army combat engineer in Afghanistan.

“At first I was really focused on what I couldn’t do,” Lychik said. Then he started thinking about running and inspiring others. He said running with the prosthetic is like running a double-marathon on his right leg. After finishing the Boston Marathon on April 21, Lychik became a celebrity in running circles. On Sunday it was evident as spectators and runners alike cheered him and asked him to pose for pictures.

He happily obliged — and said this is why he’ll keep running.

“If I can be out here as a hip amputee doing this,” Lychik said, “What can people with two legs accomplish? They just need to have the dedication and the perseverance and really believe in themselves.”

Seventeen minutes before Lychik finished, Nicolet completed her first marathon with her own inspirational story.

In 2010, obese and diabetic, Nicolet found herself in an emergency room with blood sugar so high her doctors said she could have died or gone into a coma.

Her coworkers had taken her to the hospital because she had slurred speech. She later said the writing she did at work that day was “nonsensical.” 

With a 1-year-old daughter, also named Aurea, at home, Nicolet knew she had to make a change. She said that was the day “my former (self) died and from the ashes a new me was born. An athlete, a runner.”

First she started losing weight by doing Zumba. Then she started running. In 2012 she ran her first half marathon. In March she ran her 15th.

Nicolet, 29, used to need to check her blood sugar four times each day. When Nicolet finished Sunday’s marathon three minutes faster than her goal of 4:45, she didn’t even have to think about her diabetes. She just focused on posing for pictures with family and friends.

She’s controlled her diabetes through exercise for two years and lost 40 pounds. And Nicolet recently had her second child, a son named Koben.

Last summer her story caught the eye of editors at Runner’s World, and they included a profile of her in a collection of stories designed to motivate people to run.

Now, even though her triumph isn’t as obvious as Lychik’s, she gets similar treatment on the course: cheers and high-fives from those who know her and even some strangers.

“I like to share my story because I hope it will help somebody who might be in a situation like I was,” Nicolet said.

Nicolet plans to join Lychik in the Marathon Maniacs club. To get in, she’ll run Olympia’s Capital City Marathon on May 18.

Marathon No. 2 shouldn’t be a problem. She felt so good Sunday she said she probably could have kept running.

Plus, as she likes to tell people, “Anything is possible when you get past all the excuses and just do something.”

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497


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