Yohalice Rodriguez Fantasia never shies away from big challenges, especially when it comes to marathoning.
Though she's run only two marathons in her life, Fantasia has competed in and completed two of the most challenging races in the world: the Chicago Marathon and the Berlin Marathon.
"I like the big races. Somebody told me about the Berlin Marathon and I was thinking about it. It's a big challenge, but I like the challenges," Fantasia said.
Alpena resident Yohalice Rodriguez Fantasia flashes two thumbs up after completing the Berlin Marathon in September. Fantasia was one of more than 40,000 participants in this year’s race and finished in 3:44:52, a time good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Fantasia completed the Berlin Marathon at the end of September, finishing in 3:44:22, a pace of about eight and a half minutes per mile.
"I thought it was a big challenge because it's a big race (with) 45,000 people," Fantasia said. "I did Chicago and (because of that) I thought I could do it for sure. I signed up, but in that time I wasn't sure that I wanted to go."
After competing in the Chicago Marathon in 2012, Fantasia signed up for the Berlin Marathon last winter. Though she runs in half-marathons and trains constantly, Fantasia was initially unsure about going.
"I like the big races. Somebody told me about the Berlin Marathon and I was thinking about it. It's a big challenge, but I like the challenges."
While she contemplated her decision, she kept up a vigorous training regimen which included speed running, plyometrics, weight lifting, core work and short and long distance runs. One morning, she even started a run early to get some miles in before an impending rain storm. The rain came anyway and Fantasia ran for several miles in the rain and felt very accomplished afterwards.
Early in the summer, Fantasia made the decision to run in Berlin and even though she'd been training for months, the reality set in that the race was now just a few months away.
"In June or July, I talked to my husband and I had to decide if I was going to go, because I'm training all the time," Fantasia said. "(But I thought) 'Oh my gosh it's July, the race is in September and it's July and I need to train.'"
Fantasia called a friend in Venezuela who is a marathoner and kept him updated on her weekly progress.
Throughout her training, Fantasia made sure to stay healthy. When she ran the Chicago Marathon in 2012, Fantasia sustained an injury a month before the race and ran in discomfort and with some fear of getting hurt again. She ultimately finished in 3:58:25, a slower time than she hoped for.
Though she felt a little discouraged after the Chicago Marathon, Fantasia made sure to be careful, even if it meant holding herself back sometimes with her training.
"I can be so hard on myself in my training. All the time when I'm training, I always thought, 'Hey Yohalice, you can do more, you can do much more.'"
When Fantasia got to Berlin, she found herself surrounded by more than 40,000 runners and found it difficult early on to run at her own pace or to attempt to pass people. With so many runners, competing, Fantasia nearly fell several times early in the race and reminded herself to take it easy.
Later on when the crowds thinned out, Fantasia was able to increase her pace, but feared she was on pace to finish at a less than desired time.
"I remember after 17 or 18 miles the people were thinning out, I was feeling more comfortable on the way. When I saw I had 20 miles, I was so sad, because when I saw my time I thought, my time is not good," Fantasia said. "But after 20 miles when the way was a little more empty, I said 'Hey Yohalice, you can improve your speed' and I did."
On a day when Wilson Kiprotich of Kenya set a new marathon world record of 2:03:23, Fantasia set a new record of her own, finishing in 3:44:22. When she crossed the finish line, Fantasia checked her watch and when she saw her official time, she immediately became excited because she had accomplished her goal.
But there was an added bonus that came with it.
After Fantasia found her husband, he told her that not only had she set a new personal record, her time was good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
"For me it was very exciting because it's my second marathon. I can't believe it because I was thinking about it for years," Fantasia said. "I was thinking some day I'm going to get my spot in Boston, but I knew it was so hard to get a spot in Boston."
Since registration has already passed for the 2014 Boston Marathon, Fantasia is considering running the race in 2015. She is also interested in doing a Powerman duathlon which combines running and biking.
Though she's already contemplating future races to compete it, Fantasia is proud of what she accomplished in Berlin and said it was very enjoyable.
"I ran Chicago with fear because the whole race I was thinking I didn't want to feel the pain again, so I tried to be careful," Fantasia said. "In Berlin, I felt more comfortable with myself. During the race I was very concentrated on my pace and enjoying my race. Every mile I enjoyed."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.