2018 Monument Marathon runner changes 'I can't' into 'I can'

Dena Jones of Gering catches a breeze heading into the final stretch of the 2018 Monument Marathon. Despite health issues, Jones challenged herself to complete the full marathon.

GERING — Dena Jones of Gering wanted to show her nieces and nephews that anything is possible and “I can’t” was just an excuse. So at age 50, she ran her first Monument Marathon in 2018.

“Because of my health issues, I’ve never run before,” Jones said. “I’ve had 19 airway surgeries so my breathing is somewhat limited. I also suffer from fibromyalgia. But I’ve been working out at home and I was in shape, so I thought it was a good time to take on the challenge.”

Starting her running regimen in May 2018, she was ready for the full marathon distance by September.

“My airway is smaller than normal and my doctor told me I could never run that kind of distance,” she said. “My breathing was down to 30% capacity at the time, so I had to learn how to run and breathe at the same time.”

To keep her heart rate steady, Jones’ marathon was more run-walk, run-walk. Her goal was to finish.

“My very first marathon wasn’t about speed,” she said. “I’ll work on speed later, so I just wanted to finish. I was next to last, but I did finish. It was such a feeling of accomplishment.”

Because she suffers from fibromyalgia, Jones has used clean eating and exercise to minimize the pain at all times of year, not just during her marathon training.

“I don’t take any prescription drugs for it,” she said. “Cardio exercises get my serotonin level up so the pain is minimal. If I go two or three days without exercise, I feel the pain. I talk with others who suffer from fibromyalgia, but they usually tell me they just need more drugs.”

Jones posted her journey on Facebook as she prepared for running the 26.22 mile marathon distance, hoping to encourage others to take on big challenges.

“There are so many people who just say ‘I can’t’ and don’t do anything,” she said. “I posted the good days and the bad days so others could learn from my experience.”

Jones did a number of mock runs, starting from her home south of Gering and branching out to add more distance through downtown and along the county roads.

One-and-a-half months before the Monument Marathon, Jones suffered a knee injury, which forced her to stop running.

So instead, she went back to riding a stationary bike three hours a day to keep up her endurance. And although she was wearing a knee brace, she finished her first full marathon as a new runner.

“Everyone has obstacles in their lives,” she said. “We have to figure out whether we’ll go around it or lay down in front of it.”

While people told her she’d done enough and already proved herself, Jones said she started the challenge and was going to finish it.

“I’m one of those people who think running is kind of boring because I’m used to doing 20 things at once,” she said. “I thought the marathon was great. It was just me and the wildlife, away from phones and social media. The course lets you experience the hills and flats, the road and the dirt. You can’t beat the view all around you.”

Jones said she won’t be running in the 2019 Monument Marathon due to a business schedule conflict; but she plans to run the half-marathon distance in 2020.

“I’ve already done the full marathon, so I don’t need to prove that again,” she said.

The eighth annual Monument Marathon, with marathon, half-marathon and 5K distances, is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Monies raised from the event help the Western Nebraska Community College Foundation provide scholarships to students in need.

For more information or to register, visit their website at monumentmarathon.com.

We're always interested in hearing about news in our community. Let us know what's going on!

Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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