The only thing that could stop Sara Slattery was her left shoe.
So, 8 miles into the P.F. Chang's Rock ‘n' Roll Half Marathon earlier this month, she pulled up lame.
She quickly untied and re-tied her shoe before taking off running again.
"My foot was bothering me in the race," Slattery said. "I had tied my shoe a little too tight, and I couldn't really push off on the left foot. I wanted to be able to finish it and not have to compromise my foot, so I stopped and did that."
With her foot comfortable, Slattery didn't just run the last 5 miles of the race. She outlasted her competitors and finished in 1 hour and 16.24 minutes, winning the half marathon by 2 minutes and 10 seconds on Jan. 15.
Slattery, 30, grew up in Ahwatukee Foothills and graduated from Mountain Pointe before moving to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado. She enjoyed being able to win her first half marathon in front of her hometown crowd.
"It was just good to have so many friends and family supporting me by going out there," Slattery said.
For a runner accustomed to competing in 5K and 10K races, that recent race proved to be a tough workout for Slattery. The increase in training mileage and traveling both took a toll during the race, causing her to feel a bit sluggish.
But, as proven by the shoe incident, nothing stopped Slattery from keeping up with a pack of guys during the race and continuing to give her all anyway.
While she is proud of the victory, she hopes that it was just a stepping stone.
The Olympic Trials are June 22 through July 1 in Eugene, Ore., with the top three qualifying, as long they meet the standard time, for the London Games.
"My main goal is to hit time standards on the track this spring and to run the Olympic Trials in the 10K and the 5K," Slattery said. "I placed fourth at the trials in 2008, and I'd like to improve on that and make the team for the Olympics this summer."
The Chang's victory is just another sign that Slattery is ready to reach the next level.
While much has been made of her connection to Mountain Pointe teammate Sally Meyerhoff, who won the full marathon last year and died two months later in a tragic bike accident, Slattery admitted her parents don't get enough of the credit in helping her reach her goals.
"Both my parents have always been hard workers and have taught me a hard work ethic," Slattery said. "I'm not a person that likes to give up and I think that's something that has been instilled in me from my parents."
Returning to Arizona the day before the race gave Slattery the opportunity to spend time with her family while getting in her necessary preparations. She drove the course with her father, Terry Gorton, to anticipate how to tackle it, and the family spent dinner that evening at Outback Steakhouse.
"I always want to make them proud because I know how hard they work and I want to be able to do the same thing," Slattery said. "I feel like a lot of what I do is because of them."
Meyerhoff did leave her own imprint as the force behind Slattery pushing herself to be better.
"We weren't super close friends, but we both respected each other a lot," Slattery said. "We both became better athletes, I feel, because of each other."
Slattery was just coming into her own as a runner during her junior year at Mountain Pointe when Meyerhoff transferred there from Marcos de Niza. Slattery enjoyed training with Meyerhoff and admired her for how hard she was always working at her goals.
"I definitely wanted to run the (1/2 marathon) because of Sally," Slattery said. "I think a lot of people really respected her and can take a lot from her as far as never letting other people tell you you can't do something."
Slattery, who won the gold in the 10K at the 2007 Pan-Am Games, knows a thing or two about telling not just other people, but, more importantly, herself that she can do whatever she puts her mind to.
After growing up a dedicated swimmer, she got burnt out on the sport and took up running as a freshman in high school. It only took her until the spring of her sophomore year to focus her time and energy solely on running.
She never looked back.
"You don't win races very often as a professional, so to be able to win a medal for your country and represent your country was amazing," Slattery said of the Pan-Am victory. "I feel very appreciative and lucky to have been able to do what I love to do for so long."
Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.