XC runner opens up about military, motivation for running


by Hunter Hillygus, Sports Reporter

Stacie Ahlers isn’t a traditional college student. After graduating Remsen-St. Mary’s High School in 2010, she joined the Air Force in hopes of finding direction in life.

“Once I went on one college visit, I immediately knew I wasn’t ready to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I joined the Air Force in hope that I’d figure something out while I was in,” said Ahlers.

The decision to join the military led her halfway around the globe to Qatar, when she volunteered for deployment in December of 2013. Ahlers arrived at Al Udeid Air Base on March 2, 2014 where she worked as an Aviator Resource Manager until she returned stateside on Father’s Day.

“I can honestly say it was the best experience of my life. I would deploy again in a heartbeat. There is nothing like being half a world away from the place you know best and leaving family and friends to go serve your country,” Ahlers said.

When she returned, despite the fact that she was back in America among friends and family, the 23-year-old couldn’t help but notice a void in her life.

“Being over there gave me more of a sense of achievement. When you come back to the States, you don’t feel the same. You feel like when you were overseas you were doing something a lot more rewarding, you felt like you had more of a purpose contributing to your country, whereas when you’re back stateside you get that feeling of being lost,” Ahlers said.

“So, I’d say a few months after getting back home, I wanted to redeploy, just because once you deploy once, you get that urge, you have to have that feeling again, that sense of purpose,” she said.

To regain that sense of purpose and belonging, Ahlers began running again.

“Running is definitely something that helps me feel like I’m doing something right or achieving something. It’s like another goal. Also, the military was like a family to me. I knew when I got out of the military, I’d need to get that family feeling back and the cross country team here at Simpson. They have become my family,” said Ahlers.

When it comes to her training, Ahlers credits the military for giving her the extra self-esteem boost needed to achieve her goals.

“It gives me that boost to come back and compete even harder. I just think that the military gave me that confidence to do anything I set my mind to,” she said.

Ahlers doesn’t run just for herself, however. She runs every race in memory of a fallen friend.

Adam James Lambert, a veteran of the Marine Corps, passed away July 5 this year, but without his help Ahlers might not be where she is now.

“We met when I moved here to Des Moines and he and I just clicked. I would share my goals with him and immediately he was like, ‘I’m going to help you get there.’ He was my biggest supporter ever. The days I lacked motivation he would say, ‘Get out of bed, move your butt, let’s go.’ He would run with me, motivate me and give me advice to keep pushing forward,” Ahlers said.

His greatest quality, however, was his kindness and compassion. That is what helps push Stacie to race on.

“His main thing was that he enjoyed helping people. That was his biggest attribute and that’s why I’ve continued to run. I thought about quitting after he passed. I didn’t want to continue with it,” Ahlers said. “But I knew he wouldn’t want that, so I continue to run for him. I told myself from day one that all my races will be in dedication to him for the fact that he was there for me.”