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The Long and Winding Road – March 5, 2012


Mark Manz en route to an Umstead Trail Marathon victory

This past weekend, Stiner Massage had the pleasure and privilege of providing massage therapy at the Umstead Trail Marathon. If you've seen its elevation chart, you know that this marathon is no cakewalk. Many brutal hills and technical stretches of single track running make it tough enough on its own. This year's damp and drizzly weather made the footing even more unpredictable and generated a number of unexpected challenges along the way.

Mark Manz and Alicia Parr, two of my current clients, deserve a special shout out for finishing first overall and as first female, respectively.


With Bob Nelson at 2012 Umstead Trail Marathon

I'd also like to thank Race Director Bob Nelson for the opportunity to participate in this fun and inspiring event for the past three years. Besides meeting some great people (and, hopefully, helping them recover more quickly from their race), my day in the woods offered an opportunity to think about how things have changed since I first participated in the Umstead Trail Marathon in March 2010 – and, in particular, to reflect upon the long and winding road to establishing my massage therapy business over the past two years.

Starting Stiner Massage hasn't been easy. As a new owner of a small business that started during shaky economic times, I've had to make many tradeoffs. For instance, I'm not the runner I used to be. Putting it on the back burner has been both a loss and a relief. While I miss lacing up my racers, I don't miss the aches and pains or the personal sacrifices of training day in and day out. In many ways, however, Stiner Massage has replaced running as my primary passion (and some would say obsession). I feel incredibly lucky that so many of the area's top runners and endurance athletes have enlisted me as a vital partner in their training and recovery programs.

There have been times when I've exceeded my goals, and many times (especially in the first year) when I wanted to DNF. I've bonked, tripped over roots, skinned my knees, and encountered snakes and lightning storms. I've also had to learn new skills along the way – not just better and more varied massage therapy techniques, but all of the "back office stuff" that I used to take for granted, ranging from advertising and bookkeeping to business development, communication and conflict resolution. I've had to learn when I can improvise, and when I need to abide by the playbook; when to trust my gut, and when to analyze; when to be assertive, and when to chill out. Most of all, I've learned the value of collaboration. Each day over the past two years I have learned to listen more effectively and talk a little less (which is not very easy for me at times). To offer suggestions rather than edicts. And to ask for help instead of toughing it out alone.

It is in this spirit of collaboration that I'd like to acknowledge a few key people (of many!) who have been a critical part of this journey: Robin Bailey, Bull City Running Company, Myong and Darryl Dunn, Denise Hyman, George Linney, Debbie Morse, Bob Nelson, Tom Schwartz, Cathy Stiner and Sarah Strunk. Thank you for your friendship and support, for believing in me as your massage therapist and referring others, for dusting me off when I have fallen, for celebrating with me when I have succeeded, and for helping me become a better person.

Tim Surface winning the 2011 Wrightsville Beach Marathon

Finally, I'd like to dedicate this "debut blog," which corresponds with the launch of my new website, to Tim Surface, one of the most dedicated runners I have ever met, an all-around nice guy and stellar human being. By the way, he's also a first-rate web designer, and without Tim the launch of www.stinermassage.com 2.0 would not have been possible. Thank you.