When she first tried distant running more than a decade ago, Amy Fletcher barely made it off the treadmill alive.
“I ran for about 4 minutes, and I about died,” Fletcher said. “I couldn’t breath.”
Fletcher, 49, is a Greenfield-Central Community School Corp. teacher at both Maxwell and Greenfield Intermediate Schools. She finished her fifth Ironman competition this past spring and clearly has figured out the running aspect of the race.
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While Fletcher has always been an athlete, swimming and water skiing as a kid and for fun in high school and college, in 2005 she decided to really test herself and ran in her first 5K race.
The event helped her progress to Ironman competition where swimming, biking and running are all incorporated into one long race.
“I thought, ‘I can swim and I can run, and I used to ride a bike,’ so I tried a triathlon,” she said.
The race was in 2006, and Fletcher found it was the hardest thing she had ever attempted, but she was hooked. As a trained educator, she became intrigued and was determined to figure out how to successfully compete in an Ironman event.
“I researched it and read up on it, and then I really trained for it,” she said.
Fletcher competed in the same triathlon race, a year later, and performed significantly better and has since dedicated her spare time to training and competing.
In an Ironman race, athletes must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a full marathon (26.2 miles) for a total of 140.6 miles, all without a break. The athletes are encouraged to finish the competitions in under 17 hours, according to ironman.com
Fletcher has completed two Ironman events in Louisville, two in Chattanooga and one in Texas, where she set a personal-best time of 14 hours, 4 minutes.
“My last two, I’ve made personal records, but no one is ever happy with their times,” she said with a laugh. “You’re always picking at stuff to make it better, to push forward.”
Fletcher has actually trained for six Ironman events, but she had a serious cycling crash in 2014 during training and severely injured her head. The accident took her out of competitive racing for about a year.
She has since bounced back and competed in her fifth Ironman in April. While she hasn’t signed up to take part in another one just yet, she’s thinking about doing a few half Ironman races for now. She has also joined a cycling club and just competed in a 5K running event last week.
“When I’m not training, I’m kind of lost,” she said.
Her husband of 24 years, Doug Fletcher, is her No. 1 fan. Calling his wife a driven person, he’s enjoyed watching her compete and thinks her background in the marching band while she was at Greenfield-Central High School (a 1986 graduate) played a big part in her wanting to remain active.
“Her background in the drum and bugle corps., marching for many years, really instilled a good work ethic in her,” he said.
His wife is the type of person who when she does something, she does it right, he said. He also respects her dedication and loyalty to training.
“It’s really a year round process,” he said. “She can’t just train for a couple of weeks and then show up and expect to compete.”
Swimming is her strongest area during the Ironman competition, Fletcher said, while the longest part of the event, the 112 miles on the bike, is her weakest.
“Unfortunately, you can’t win an Ironman with the swimming time, so I keep trying to improve in the other areas,” she said.
When Fletcher finished her last Ironman competition, both her husband and father, Charlie Shelby, of Greenfield, were there to encourage her at the finish line. They both asked Fletcher if she had gotten her fill of the competition.
Her answer, didn’t really surprise them, she said.
“I was like, ‘oh, gosh no, I’m just now getting to where I’ve finally figured out how to do this,’” she said. “This has all been like the introduction.”