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Woman on the Run



Long before the sunrise, Karoliina Slack starts her day on the right track.

Lacing up her running shoes with a bright orange Sanford Women’s logo, she heads out on gravel roads, putting in the miles she needs to train for the Boston marathon.

“If I don’t go out in the morning for my run, the day just doesn’t go the way it should,” says the director of Sanford Clinic Women’s Health. “I’m happier and I’m just in a better place.

A healthy start

Her alarm clock rings before 4:30 a.m. almost every day. She uses a spreadsheet to track her distance, putting in between seven and 24 miles five to six days a week as part of her training schedule.

The 37-year-old balances a busy work schedule with her personal life, two young children and a husband who farms near Harrisburg. She’s found that the time she takes to run both improves and centers her busy lifestyle.

She came from a family that stressed the importance of exercise and life balance. She remembers her parents swimming with her in the mornings before school and work. Competing at the national level in cross country skiing in her home country of Finland, she trained regularly with her father.

As former aerobics instructor, she’s always worked to stay fit. But young children at home made it harder to go some place at a certain time to exercise. She gravitated toward running because she could do it early in the morning before everyone else got up.

“It’s really my favorite part of the day,” Karoliina said. “I clear my head, think and reflect. It’s that one part of the day I can be all alone.”

Making it work

When her children were babies, finding the time to even just run could be challenging. Many times she’d go out with a running stroller. Other times her in-laws would watch the children if her husband was busy planting or harvesting crops.

The demands on her time have not gone away now that her children are a little older, ages 11 and 7. Instead, they have their own activities and Karoliina reserves her after-work hours driving them to practices for figure skating, dance, basketball and wrestling.

“Spending time with my family is always a priority,” she said. “I try to find a time to train that doesn’t take away from that.”

Karoliina ran her first official marathon in Sioux Falls in September 2010. She didn’t even realize, until a co-worker told her, that her finish time of three hours and 40 minutes was a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. She tried to register online, but had just missed the deadline by a few days.

With a new goal in mind, she trained for and ran the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June of 2011. She beat her previous time with a finish time of three hours and 27 minutes. This time she was determined to register as soon as possible for the April 16 race in Boston.

Motivation to run

“I’m a bit of a competitive person, so I’m always glad to have a goal,” Karoliina said. “I always want to eat healthy and stay in shape, but this is a little extra motivation.”

Karoliina says she loves working in women’s health at Sanford and seeing people make lifestyle choices that improve their lives. Several of her Sanford co-workers have come to her, seeking advice about starting to run or improving their performance.

“It’s so exciting to see people get started and get better and better,” Karoliina said. “Anybody can do it. “

The amateur athlete hopes her story will inspire other women to take the time to do something good for themselves and their body. She’ll be running in Boston with official bright orange Sanford Women’s gear to help raise awareness of the way that exercise is part of women’s health.

“Women have so many things we need to take care of,” Karoliina said. “If you take the time to exercise, you have a better attitude and you’re stronger. Taking care of ourselves makes us so much better in all aspects of our lives.”

Posted Date: April 2012

Woman on the Run

How do you train for a marathon with a busy job and family life? It’s no problem for Karoliina Slack. This busy mom and Sanford Clinic director knows that exercise is an essential part of women’s health.