Lisa Rainsberger Commemorates 1985 Boston Marathon Victory
By Lynn DeBruin
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Though Rainsberger is pushing 50, she’s still fit as ever, running, biking and swimming every week six days a week. Only now she’s usually helping someone else, whether it’s members of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) or wounded Marines.
Nate Pennington is among those who earned a spot in WCAP, with the ultimate goal of participating in the Olympic Trials and 2012 Games. He said Rainsberger already has helped him trim 25 minutes off his marathon time.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rainsberger is helping wounded Marines transition back to health and competition. One athlete she’s working with had his leg amputated above the knee; another below the knee. A third returned from war severely burned.
“They’re awesome guys and this program takes them and (transitions) them from a program of rehab into sport,” she said.
Triathlon was chosen, she said, because traditionally Marines didn’t have that experience growing up.
“We wanted to put them into a sport that is healing—with the swimming and bicycling aspect —that they would have nothing to compare to. They’re reinventing themselves, but are still able to get the same feeling of sport and competition,” she said.
Rainsberger, meanwhile, figures she’ll always be active, even if the economy has her crying foul. She was founder and director of two separate triathlons in Colorado Springs that are no longer possible because the bodies of water are no longer open to the public. One, Prospect Lake, was closed because of budget constraints, and the other used in the Cheyenne Mountain Triathlon is now private.
As of January 1, she said, every public pool in Colorado Springs was closed due to budget constraints. Unless a family belongs to a country club, she said a child in Colorado Springs cannot learn to swim.
“It’s criminal,” Rainsberger lamented. “It’s the home of USA Triathlon, USA Swimming and the home of the USOC and they have their brand-new office complex but the city cannot balance a budget to save our pools.”
She’s hopeful that will change for the better. In the meantime, she counts her blessings to have grown up in better times, and remains thankful that her career as a runner has been so rewarding. It’s especially fortuitous considering she started out as a swimmer, only to see her Olympic dreams in that sport end when the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Games.
Determined to get away from it all, the University of Michigan undergrad took a summer biology class that sent her to Wyoming. It was there that she discovered boys and beer, gained 15 pounds, and turned to running as a way to stay in shape. She eventually had to choose between sports and gave up her swimming scholarship, only to walk on to the cross country team and earn another full ride, making ends meet in between with student loans, a work-study job and Pell grants.
“It’s a risk that I don’t know I could ever take again but it was just something that felt right at the time,” she said.
Looking back, the mother of four couldn’t have asked for a better outcome to her running and athletic career, even if she would finish fourth at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Trials in marathon and miss the Games.
“I’m still able to do what I love,” she said.
“A lot of athletes have a very difficult time transitioning into plan B and never reach their full potential in other areas. They make it as far as they can as an athlete and that’s where it ends. I am so fortunate because I get that thrill every day, watching my other athletes and watching them perform and watching them achieve.”
From the sounds of it, 25 years later, Rainsberger is still living the dream.