She ran her fastest marathon 11 months post-stroke
Name: June Estrada
“I was a very, very healthy 32-year-old that had a stroke.”
Background: June Estrada began running at age 21. She completed her first marathon in 1999. “I crossed the finish line and I thought I was the greatest person in the world,” she says. She rode that feeling and ran three marathons in 11 months. “I always had my next marathon in mind.” Soon, she set a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. “I trained so hard and did everything possible,” she says. But after four more marathons, she hadn’t achieved a qualifying time.
The Challenge: While on a business trip in Florida in February of 2005, Estrada woke up to find her right hand was numb. She brushed it off and drove to a gym for a workout. “I was on the elliptical machine and my hands kept slipping off,” she says. After showering, a wave of numbness flowed from her shoulder to her hand. She went to an urgent care office, and tests came back OK, so he returned to her hotel with orders for rest and Motrin. The numbness returned, and it became hard for her to talk and understand others. She booked the first flight home. By the time she went to the airport, she was paralyzed from the neck down and in a wheelchair. She slept all the way to Sky Harbor Airport, where she had a petit mal seizure. “I thought I was dying,” she says. “I was aware of everything around me during the seizure, but I couldn’t breathe.”
The Turning Point: Doctors diagnosed Estrada with an ischemic stroke. Determined to walk out of the hospital and run again, Estrada began therapy immediately. Within two days she moved her leg and within eight she moved her arm. “Being in good physical condition and having a good attitude helped my recovery,” she says. On June 9, her birthday, she went for a 20-minute run. Six months post-stroke, unbeknownst to her family, she signed up for a half marathon. In January of 2006, she ran the Chicago Marathon, qualifying for Boston with a time of 3:38.
Staying Motivated: After the stroke, Estrada was determined to get back to her life as quickly as possible. “I didn’t want to lose my life,” she says. She’s a goal setter, who always has her next race in mind.
Goals: Estrada is currently looking for a job, while planning her wedding. She trains and competes in harder and longer races, like triathlons and Ironmans. She and her fiancé are planning for a half Ironman triathlon they will compete in together in April. “My friends call me the Bionic Woman, because I came back faster and stronger than I was,” she says.