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Running smart: Eugene marathoner doesn’t let multiple surgeries stop her



Shaluinn Fullove has been running competitively since she was five years old. After growing up in Los Angeles, she became an athlete at Stanford University, where she ran three cross country races during the 1996 NCAA Championships before graduating with an American studies degree in 2000 and landing a job at Google in 2002.

Today, Fullove still works in human resources for Google in Palo Alto, California, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

The past few years have tested Fullove’s commitment and perseverance. In 2017, she underwent a double mastectomy, followed by a breast reconstruction surgery. Between the two procedures, her dad and aunt both passed away.

“Running is always the common thread — it is always the thing you can come back to. It’s an anchor…” said Fullove.

The pain from that season of life was sharp, but it didn’t extinguish her drive. Fullove is planning to run the Eugene Marathon on April 29. She has embraced the difference that her new shape and circumstances bring, and she admits that her training cycle this time around has been different.

“I gotta rebuild,” Fullove said.

Instead of expecting to be a hero every day of training, Fullove said she operates from the perspective that it is a triumph every day just to show up. She decided that at the very least, she is going to start each workout and see what happens.

“I have learned how to give myself a little grace this round,” she said.

According to Fullove, her coach, Michael McKeeman, knows the perfect balance between challenging her during workouts and recognizing that running isn’t her full-time job. Mckeeman grew up a runner himself, and won the Philadelphia Marathon in 2012.

“He is a big reason why I still run,” she said. “You have to have elasticity for coaching the whole person, not just the athlete portion of their day.”.

Running has been a common thread throughout each phase of Fullove’s life. Many of her longest, closest friendships are with old coaches and teammates.

“There is something about when you run together — when you sweat and you persevere and you push through new barriers with one another,” she said. “There is just a bond that gets created, and a mutual respect, and a desire to support one another.”

With a daughter in the first grade and day-to-day work responsibilities, training for the Eugene Marathon has been scattered for Fullove.

“I wish it was a little more templated. But it’s been more like jenga or tetris,” said Fullove.

Whether early in the morning, with fellow Google employees during lunch or after work, she always makes time. The schedule isn’t always optimal, said Fullove, but “done is better than perfect.”

On April 29, Fullove’s goal is to run smart and execute a race that reflects the work she has put in. In 2008, she qualified for the Olympic Trials as a way to prove to herself that she had beat thyroid cancer. Though she has the potential to qualify again, her focus has shifted this year. Fullove said this race is a celebration of her ability to rebuild and condition her body to withstand the rigorous workouts that are required when training for a marathon.

“To define success for the Eugene Marathon so narrowly to the Olympic Qualifier, I think that would be a missed opportunity,” she said.

The Eugene Marathon will take place on Sunday, April 29. Runners can participate in the marathon, half-marathon or 5k — there will be a 1k available for kids. Races begin as early as 7 a.m. and will finish near Hayward Field.


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Sarah Urban

Sarah Urban