Runners: Madeline Stambaugh

The Runners profile is posted on Friday mornings at the new Running Shorts. Today, meet Winston-Salem's Madeline Stambaugh.

Runners: Madeline Stambaugh
Madeline Stambaugh with her virtual Tobacco Road Marathon medal in March 2020.

Want to recommend someone who should be featured in the Runners profile? Email

The Warmup






Mother, Michele; father, Tim; sisters, Katherine and Alex; dog, Harlow, a 1½-year-old pointer mix

Day job

Middle school art teacher, Forsyth Country Day School, Lewisville; assistant coach, cross country and track and field

Why I run

"I run because I get to; I don't have to. When I was a kid, running was just the sport I did to stay in shape for soccer. I was competitive in high school, but it was not until I went to Wake Forest where I really fell in love with just running for running's sake and running long distances.

Madeline Stambaugh racing with a 4x400 team from Germantown Academy of Fort Washington, Pa., at the Penn Relays at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

"And being able to just embrace every single day and the little moments, because I'm a big goal-setter but I often appreciate the tiny moments along the way. It allows me to see more than I would if I were walking. And what's funny is I've gotten into biking and triathlon now, and I understand why people love biking, because you can see so much more than running. I'm really grateful that I get to do this and that I'm young and that I hope to be able to do this forever."

Training for Ironman Barcelona

"In the last seven years, I've run 24 marathons. I PR'd in the marathon in May at Myrtle Beach with a 3:15, and my first marathon was a 4:15. I always love to joke that I need something to challenge me even more. At the time I had just missed Boston's cutoff for this year by 24 seconds.

Madeline Stambaugh running the 2018 Boston Marathon for the Race4Chase Foundation.
Madeline Stambaugh running the Boston Marathon course solo on a Monday in July 2020.

"And then a week after that, I got an invitation to be a part of Team Athletic for Athletic Brewing Company, which is a non-alcoholic beer company that's based out of Connecticut and Southern California. I applied for this in January because I'm an ambassador. An Ironman has always been on my bucket list. And when I was accepted, I just sort of shut the email and was in disbelief that I could even decide 'yes' or 'no.'

"And I really wasn't going to say yes, because I didn't have a bike. I didn't know too much about triathlons. I'd actually never done one before. The Smiley tri in July was my first one. And within a week, my awesome athletic trainer at FCDS, Kevin Westwood, helped me find a bike. I drove to Greenville, S.C. I grew up swimming in Cape Cod and lifeguarding, so the swimming wasn't so much the challenge, but the biking has been the biggest growth area this summer.

"And (on Oct. 3) I'm going to do my first Ironman. So I'm really lucky for this opportunity for Athletic Brewing Company. It's taught me so much more about myself and the commitment that I put to things that I love to do because I've enjoyed every second of it and it goes back to why I run. I don't have to do any of this – I get to – and that's the cool part."


What I'm doing when I'm not running

"I am sitting at the dog park with my dog."

Running tribe

"My training tribe for biking has been pretty small, and I don't even want to list names because I just want to thank every single person who has run, biked or swam with me, ever. I have a running list of thank yous, and they're all on it. Every person who gives me a piece of advice."


"How I prioritize my time and what I give my energy to. The way I show up confident in my abilities. And the gratitude that I have for the little things."

Favorite surface


Must-have gear

"A visor or a hat."

Workout I hate

"Mile repeats. I'm actually pretty bad about track workouts."

Workout I love

"I love hills. It's just the sense of accomplishment that you get when you reach the top of it. And training on hills makes you a much faster runner on any course that you race on."

On my playlist

"I have a Spotify playlist that's called '26 point tunes.' And it's been four years in the making. And so it's everything, and I just press shuffle. ... I love all kinds of music. Most of the time running is the only time I'll listen to pop music. But I think Coldplay, any of their new ones."

Also on my playlist

"If it's a long run for me, I will actually choose a podcast (favorite is 'The Ali on the Run Show') because it slows me down, feels like I'm listening and talking to someone."

What I'm streaming

"I just watched 'Outer Banks' (Netflix) in three days. But that's pretty much it. I don't have much time to watch TV. I actually don't even own a TV."

Pre-race meal

"It's either a bagel with peanut butter or it's a white chocolate macadamia nut Clif Bar."

Post-race indulgence

"I often can't eat for a couple hours. But when I do, it's a burger and fries and a milkshake. Chocolate, always."

Brush with greatness

"The biggest kind of greatness moment is realizing how many places that running has taken me. Whether that's physically: I've done the Berlin Marathon, I'm about to go to Spain, I did one in Italy. But it doesn't matter where I go or what time I run, my greatest strength is just being grateful with how much it's taught me about myself.

"I'm currently writing a book on all of this. Hopefully, within the next few years, it's out. But it's taught me a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses that also helped me be a better teacher, a better friend.

Madeline Stambaugh after earning her first BQ finish (3:22) at the Hyannis Marathon on Cape Cod in 2019.

"And just what I do best, because I know that I am not my accomplishments. People often say, 'you run really well,' 'you've done really great' in a race. But it's those moments along the way. I'm really good at goal-setting, but I'm also good at adjusting. If I don't hit that goal, or what happens when the goal is over, it doesn't take away from anything else.

"Like Boston, I ran three BQs to get me into this year's race. And up until last Wednesday, I wasn't in and technically they meant nothing, but I never let myself believe that. I did get in last Wednesday, so I will be doing the Boston Marathon in person."

Favorite race

Madeline Stambaugh, in front, at the Berlin Marathon in 2019.

"Berlin. It was just incredible to start and then finish at the Brandenburg Gate."

Last race

Madeline Stambaugh, center, at the start of the Beat the Heat 5K, which she won in 19 minutes and nine seconds.

Beat the Heat 5K and Smiley Sprint Triathlon in July in Winston-Salem.

Next race

Ironman Barcelona, Oct. 3

The cooldown

An early love for art

"I grew up with my mom working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I grew up outside Philadelphia. I always knew I wanted to be in the arts world, but I also always knew that I was going to be a teacher. I started off teaching kindergarten, and then I moved up toward the middle school role once I moved back here. I went to Wake Forest, which is what brought me to Winston Salem, and then I majored in education and studio art. I found the best way to combine the two."

The art in running

"I don't just love making art, I love just surrounding myself with it. And I could do that all day. It connects to running for me, just that kind of slowing down. I did my master's online these last two years at Boston University in art education. I wrote my master's thesis on running and the concept of flow and mindfulness and how art and learning are connected.

"I am a marathon runner at heart. My specialty would be printmaking. I used my runs as research and the concept of 'where does flow occur between novelty experiences and expert experiences?' To add a little more flow occurs when our abilities are met with that next-level challenge, and along the way once things aren’t so new anymore, we’re better able to reach flow and tap into things like our runner's high.

"I ran a road marathon and I also did my first trail marathon, and I got a sense of when I'm running on the road it doesn't take long for me to hit flow. But when I'm running on a trail, some people can but I don't hit flow very often because you're constantly looking at that next step in front of you. When I seem to lose track of where I was, I fell twice during the course.

A stitched map of Madeline Stambaugh's Northern Trails Marathon course around Lake Brandt in March 2021, part of her Masters in Art Education Thesis portfolio for Boston University.

"And then what I did in the art world was I tried stitchwork, and I stitched my running routes that were generated from Strava and my GPS watch into a large print. That was really fun to stitch my routes and to be able to see where the story was. I could know where I was along the course."

The runner's high

"It doesn't take long for me to reach flow. I sort of let my head space get cleared with running; that's my outlet. But most of the time, it's just lacing up my sneakers and going out. And one of my biggest strengths is that I don't actually stick to a training plan, which is not everyone's cup of tea. But just going out with not really an idea of how much I want to run, but just going and seeing. Some days it's two miles, and some days it'll end up being 12."

What the pandemic took away, what the pandemic gave me

'Love of lighthouses and all things Cape Cod!' says Madeline Stambaugh, above at the 2019 Martha's Vineyard Half Marathon. "One thing I love about running is how many amazing places it brings me to.'

"What it took away from me was the chance to see people. Traveling is my favorite thing to do, so it took away that chance to go and race in person. It took me a while last spring to really wrap my head around Boston not happening, and I had three marathons postponed or canceled. But what it gave to me was this appreciation that running does not just happen in races. And if we were never training for races, what would we be running for? And so I had to really think about what was my 'why' in running. And I have so many more reasons now than if I were to have just kept running without a pandemic."

What I've learned about myself from running

"That's what my book is about. The biggest thing is just this concept of being proud of myself, not just for what I've done but how I show up in the world. It's given me a lot of resilience and grit; I definitely have a strong sense of grit and perseverance. I'm also a middle child, and that, too, has to do with it. But I don't give up on things. And sometimes that's a weakness, where I will sometimes give myself to too many things. So running has helped me come back to figuring out 'what are the most important things in my life?' And 'what am I not willing to sacrifice for?'"

Words to the wise

"For new runners, I would say don't get so stuck on paces or first-race goal times. Because the first time for doing everything is exciting, and the goal is to hopefully still want to keep doing it. For runners in general, I would say always come back to why you're doing it. And appreciate every moment along the way, not just that one goal, because that goal or the race date, it always passes at some point. So there's always something that comes next, but if you're always having a 'why,' then it's just an endless cycle."

Final thoughts

"A lot of people ask me, 'How have you been able to run 24 marathons?' ... And my answer to that is that because I don't stick to a training plan and not every race is a PR, I could truly love the sport of running. And it is a joy for me, not just a hard workout. Some runs are easy runs, and I get to travel. I'm young, I have time for this now, and I'm making the most of it."