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By Emily Bontrager
Athletes from across the world dream about having the chance to participate in the TCS New York City Marathon, which is the largest marathon in the world.
Along with 50,000 strong competitors from across the world, local teacher Toni Middleton, 42, had the opportunity of a lifetime to run in the marathon this year.
Middleton is from Memphis, Missouri and she attended school in Scotland County.
After graduating from high school in 1998, Middleton furthered her education with a two-year associate’s program at Indian Hills Community College.
In 2005, she completed a bachelor’s degree in education from Buena Vista University. In 2013, she earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from William Woods University.
Middleton is a 4th grade teacher at Scotland County R-1, and she has been a teacher in Scotland County for 17 years.
Since junior high, Middleton has always enjoyed running, but it was not until 2014 that Middleton really became serious about running.
In 2015, Middleton decided to run her first full marathon in St. Louis, Missouri.
“It became an addiction after I ran my first marathon,” Middleton explained.
“Runner’s high is a real thing. It is a sense of accomplishment and it makes me feel good about myself.”
So far, Middleton has completed 29 full marathons, and she has no plans on stopping anytime soon. She has run in the St. Louis Marathon seven times and many other marathons across the United States.
Some of the other marathons that she has participated in are the Utah Valley Marathon, Des Moines Marathon, Nebraska State Fair Marathon, Chicago Marathon, and the Brooklyn Marathon. She has also run in marathons in the states of Washington, Indiana, Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota.
According to Middleton, the New York City Marathon is one of the hardest races to enter.
“It is very difficult to get in, you either have to have a qualifying time or you have to raise a lot of money for a charity or get in the non-guaranteed lottery. Those are the only options I knew on how to get in,” Middleton explained.
This is not the first time that she tried to enter the race. The last time she applied, she was not selected, but in May of 2022, she received an email that started her journey to New York.
“I received an email in May from the New York Road Runners, NYRR, which I am a member of, and it said we are looking for teachers if you would like to run the New York City Marathon and if you feel you are worthy, tell us why,” Middleton explained.
Teachers who were contacted, had to submit a short video application saying why they wanted to run in the New York Marathon.
There were only 50 open spots for teachers to run in the marathon, and Middleton really wanted a spot in the race, so she submitted an application video. In the video, she quoted one of her favorite runners, Des Linden.
“She says, ‘Keep showing up,’ and one of our character awards at school is perseverance and I feel that I show my kids perseverance because I keep showing up to all of these races” Middleton explained.
Middleton’s students were in the video as well, holding up signs and saying, “Pick Miss Middleton, she wants to run in New York.”
In June, an email informed Middleton that she was one of the lucky teachers who was chosen to run in the New York Marathon. She was so excited to have the opportunity to run in New York and she was the only teacher chosen from the state of Missouri.
To prepare herself for the marathon, Middleton trained during the week and weekends.
“I do one day of speed work out on the track during the weekday. I also do one day of hill repeats, so I am used to the hills, which was very useful in New York because it was very hilly,” Middleton explained.
“On the weekends I build up to 15 miles one Saturday, maybe 18 the next, and I always try to max out at 20.”
Middleton tries to get in two 20 mile runs before race day and two to three weeks before the race she runs fewer miles so she can prepare her muscles for the marathon.
On November 3rd, the students from Pre-K through sixth grade surprised Middleton by lining up on the sidewalks outside of the Scotland County school for a sendoff.
“They were clapping and cheering with signs and they had these two huge goodie baskets for me full of Epsom salt, Icy Hot, candy bars, chips, and pop,” Middleton said.
“That was an amazing and emotional day.”
On November 4th, Middleton flew to New York with her youngest daughter Kennedy, who she wanted to share the experience with. The two stayed with Middleton’s oldest daughter Kendra who lives in Brooklyn.
On Sunday, November 6, 2022, at 10:20 a.m., Middleton’s dream came true as she lined up to run in the 51st TCS New York City Marathon.
Each of the 50,000 participants were divided into different classes and started the race at different times so they would not crowd each other on the racecourse.
The racecourse travels through the five boroughs of New York, which include Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Manhattan. The marathon is 26.2 miles, starting in Staten Island and ending in Central Park.
One of the things that Middleton wanted her daughters Kennedy and Kendra to experience was her crossing the finish line at the end of the race. Middleton bought her daughters two stadium seat tickets, so they could see her complete the race.
As she was 200 meters from the finish line, Middleton started to tear up because she knew her kids would be sitting there watching her, but she powered through and crossed the finish line.
At about mile 16, Middleton said her calves started to cramp really bad, but she kept going.
After crossing the finish line, Toni went to the VIP recovery tent and was checked out by the medical team. After being cleared by the medical staff, she met up with her daughters and that evening they ordered food from Pizza Hut to celebrate her great achievement.
Middleton finished the race with a time of 4:46:58. She placed 24,638 and received a finishing medal, a blue poncho, and goodie bags after completing the marathon.
She is grateful to have had the opportunity to run in the New York City Marathon and if given the chance, she would love to run in the marathon again. Her next goal is to run in the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts.
Middleton has some advice for other runners who might be interested in starting their own journey of running in marathons.
“Start out with low mileage and slowly work your way up and listen to your body because overuse happens so much and you can get injured quickly,” Toni said.
It is not every day that a local teacher has the opportunity to run in marathons across the United States, but Middleton has persevered and has kept showing up. She continues to work hard to obtain her goals and she hopes to be a role model to others around her and show people that they can follow their own dreams and achieve their own goals in life.