Mom, Entrepreneur, Cancer Survivor, 14x Boston Marathoner Featured Runner: Lisa Maciel

I met Lisa through social media in a runners group for the nutrition products that we both use.  Seeing the gains she was experiencing with her nutrition, I knew that Lisa could help me not just with my running, but with incorporating fueling and nutrition into my training which proved to be game changing.  Lisa coached me to my first marathon and a Boston Qualifying time in 2016.  We met in person for the first time the following year when we ran Chicago together and then we did Boston the year after that (in the ridiculousness that was Boston 2018 weather conditions!). And when I say ran together I really mean we hung out together in the starting corrals and then once the race started… off she went!!

I sat down with Lisa to talk about her upbringing, her family life and professional career, and her long and ever improving running career.  Lisa gives us some insight on how she does it, and my hope is that her story inspires you while also giving you some tools to apply to your own training and health journey.

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Growing Up

Lisa was born and raised in Somerville, MA, a self-described tomboy who was active and loved sports.  Her drive comes from her parents who instilled discipline and a “don’t quit” attitude.  Growing up it was a family tradition for them to take the subway into Boston every Patriot’s Day, and watch the marathon as a family, sitting just after the 22 mile mark on a stone wall on Cleveland circle where  they would have a picnic and watch the runners go by.  Lisa watched the likes of Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit and other historic greats run past her during those years.  This is the same spot that her parents would later come to watch Lisa run the Boston marathon for several years before they both passed.  She honors them now each time she runs Boston, by carrying their ashes in a little pouch and sprinkling them as she passes by their spot.  Knowing what it feels like at mile 22 of a marathon, I can only imagine that her angels help to carry her through to the finish.

Stick with it, see if you like it

During her 8th grade winter, Lisa learned how to cross country ski with her aunt up in New Hampshire.  The following year as a freshman, she heard an announcement at school for cross-country tryouts and was so excited at the prospect of joining the team.  To her surprise, she showed up at try outs and realized after the coach sent them out for a 2 mile run, that this was not skiing!   She came home to her mother and said “it’s not skiing, it’s running!”, to which her mother responded “stick with it, see if you like it”.  Lisa eventually admitted that story to her team her senior year which I’m sure got a howl of laughs, and ironically she has never skied since.

“It’s not skiing, it’s running!”

Lisa, to her mom after showing up to high school cross country try outs

Senior Year – Cancer Diagnosis

Lisa’s high school track coach has been influential in her life and running, becoming a lifelong mentor and 2nd father who she refers to as her “Running Dad”.  During her junior year he encouraged her to start lifting weights, noting some weakness in her upper body strength.  As she started to do this, she noted recurring pain in her arm so she went to the doctor to check it out.  Scans and tests revealed that Lisa had Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer typically found in children and adolescents.  With this news being shocking and upsetting to her family, Lisa’s first thought as a young athlete was “can I race on Saturday?” 

She was diagnosed in October of her senior year and proceeded to have 50 weeks of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of radiation and 15 surgeries that spanned over 5 years from high school to college.  The treatment included replacing the cancerous bone to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.  2.5 years after the bone transplant, Lisa developed an infection, at which point she had 6 inches of her fibula removed (between her knee and ankle) to replace the infected bone in her arm.  When she reminded the doctors that she was a runner, they admitted they had never done the surgery on a runner before.  Lisa now tells people “you have an issue with your fibula?  You don’t need that bone!”  (Did you know the fibula is not a weight bearing bone???  Also, be an organ donor, bones save peoples’ lives!)

Lisa has been cancer free now for over 30 years, and attributes much of her positive attitude, strength and everyday resilience to this experience, noting that “it could have been worse, and it could have been one of my family members”.  It is also no doubt one of the reasons she is such a tough runner, able to adapt, endure, and solve problems especially in the late stages of a race when it hurts.

Marathons

Following a 2 year break from running during her cancer treatment, Lisa enjoyed a successful college running career at Tufts University, clocking PR’s and becoming captain of her team. 

Lisa ran her first marathon with her running Dad in 1994, at age 23.  What race did she run?  Boston!  Her coach was able to secure bib numbers through a running club, for a small group that she would run with.  There was no time goal and for Lisa, she was sure this was a one and done.  (haha!).  Halfway through the race, her coach realized that at their pace, they could potentially break 4 hours.  While many in her group were stopping for water and restrooms, Lisa kept on going.  She clocked 3:57 for that first marathon and swore there would never be another.  A week later when the soreness died down, she was ready to go again.  

“I needed to be fast that day”

Lisa, on her performance at the 2013 Boston Marathon

With 26 marathons under her belt, it’s hard for Lisa to pick just one that was the most memorable.  However, Boston 2013 stands out because she had solid race and PR that day which would then be overshadowed by the tragedy on Boylston street that struck the whole city, just 15 minutes after she crossed the finish line.  Lisa had changed up her nutrition following Chicago 2012 and found that pouring this new nutrition into her body was having amazing effects on her health and her running.  She ran a 3 minute PR coming in at 3:43.  15 minutes later, the bombs went off on Boylston street.  She credits her nutrition for her strong performance, “I needed to be fast that day”.  

Boston 2013 3:43:27

A Career Shift

Since nurses had such a profound impact on Lisa through her cancer treatment, Lisa had planned to go to nursing school once her arm was healed from her latest surgery.  Instead she landed her first job at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (now Frontier Science), where she proceeded to work for 20 years as a biomedical data specialist, pathology coordinator, and corporate meeting planner.  When she saw the potential with Isagenix to help people with their nutrition, and the alignment with her own personal values and professional experience, she took the leap and never looked back.  Lisa has now worked as a Health Coach with Isagenix for over 9 years.  She certainly loves what she does and has helped so many people transform their health and lives through her coaching and Isagenix products.

Faster with age

Lisa has continued to improve in her running, and incredibly with each year that goes by she has gotten faster, in no small part due to her nutrition and healthy living habits.  Lisa ran the Dublin Marathon in 2015 with her running club and broke 3:40 for the first time.  Everything came together and clicked when she ran CIM in 2018 coming in at 3:34, and she finished knowing she still had a faster marathon.  Last year, at age 50, she ran her current PR at the Cheap Marathon, clocking a 3:33:02.  The name says it all – all she got was this ribbon!

What does Lisa credit for her running longevity and success? 

  • Experience – With every race there is something to learn and improve upon, and that experience helps her know what to expect from her body and mind when racing gets tough.
  • Nutrition – Lisa has honed her nutrition and with her cancer background and career in medical research, she considers it imperative for her to be putting clean nutrition in her body.
  • Race Fueling – Lisa adheres to a carefully planned schedule for her nutrition starting in the days leading up to the race, through to her recovery post race.  She is disciplined about taking in her hydration, gels and caffeine according to a strict schedule during the race, knowing what her body needs to perform throughout the distance of the marathon.  
  • Recovery and Rest – Lisa says “if you’re not fully recovered after a workout, it sets you up for failure the next day”.  She is faithful to fully rest on her regularly scheduled rest days.
  • Sleep – During her earlier years juggling 2 jobs and a young family, Lisa was often getting only 4-5 hours of sleep.  Now, she ensures she is getting 7-8 hours of sleep plus schedules in naps particularly in the weeks leading up to a race.  (who doesn’t love a nap?)

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For more information on run coaching, visit www.runriseshine.com

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