Upper St. Clair Lifeguard Completes Marathon No. 525
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Here's a previous article published in the fall 2021 edition of the USC TODAY Magazine:
A Stroke Won’t Slow Her Down: Upper St. Clair Lifeguard Completes More Than 500 Marathons
On May 7, 1995, Marie Bartoletti ran her first marathon in Pittsburgh, PA. She finished at 4:01:48. After receiving much praise the next morning at her substitute teaching job at Ringgold High School, Marie started to think, “Hmmm, maybe I can do it again.”
In the year 2000, Marie competed in another marathon. By 2006, to say Marie had caught the running bug was an understatement. Marie was running in 20 or more marathons a year.
“I like to say the Mother Road 100 Marathon Route 66 was my famous race,” said Marie. She won first place in the 100-mile race from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The next closest female competitor finished three and a half hours behind her.
Marie’s extreme athletic accomplishments continued in 2008, when she qualified for and competed in the Badwater Ultramarathon. The 135-mile course started at 282 feet below sea level in California’s Death Valley and ended at an elevation of 8,360 feet at the trailhead to Mount Whitney.
“It took me 35 hours to complete the race, so the whole time I was debating to sleep or not to sleep. I decided not to sleep, to just keep going,” stated Marie.
It was on Thanksgiving morning in 2015 when Marie was forced to take a pause. She experienced her scariest challenge yet -- a stroke. It was a severe ischemic stroke that blocked her left medial cerebral artery.
Amazingly, Marie’s physical abilities returned during a stay in the hospital. She thanks her boyfriend, John, a firefighter, for quickly recognizing her stroke symptoms and getting her to the hospital. Marie was discharged on a Tuesday, ran six miles on Wednesday and every day after that. In January 2016, Marie’s doctors gave her permission to run a full marathon again. Just two months after her severe stroke, Marie ran the Miami marathon with her good friend, Marcela, and they finished in 5 hours and 30 minutes.
However, the stroke did negatively affect Marie’s speech. She was denied medical clearance to return to her physical education teaching, a job she loved doing for 25 years.
“I was devastated,” said Marie. She remains passionate about physical education. Marie carries around a “P.E. Rocks” keychain on her car keys today.
Her physical education background has helped Marie become a reliable and popular lifeguard at the Community & Recreation Center at Boyce Mayview Park.
“I love this place and all the patrons. Everyone is so nice to me,” Marie said.
“I am extremely impressed at all of her accomplishments and her commitment to the Community & Recreation Center,” said Chris Biswick, the aquatics supervisor. “After a weekend of running marathons she comes to work for her shifts on time and shares all of the wonderful stories of her past adventures. Her commitment to run in is a great inspiration to her fellow lifeguard team members and our fellow members of the Rec Center. A handful of times I’ve heard her tell fellow lifeguards who mentioned they were planning on running a half marathon or a full marathon and I hear her say, ‘You can do it,’ followed by a smile and a thumbs up.”
Marie, a mother of two and a grandmother of four children, is now 64 years old and says she has no plans of slowing down. At the time of the interview, Marie had completed a total of 512 marathons (not including her ultramarathons or Ironmans). In fact, just a weekend before she sat down for the magazine interview, Marie ran three marathons in three consecutive days in Texas.
“How do you do it?!” I exclaimed.
“I don’t know,” she replied, with a shrug and a smile.
To find out more about Marie’s inspiring story, her book “Perseverance: How a Determined Athlete Tenaciously Overcame a Stroke” is available for purchase. Proceeds are donated to the American Stroke Association. Call Marie at 412-726-8582 for more information.