Running leads Laciignola to life of fitness, career change

May 28—At around Mile 8 of her fourth full marathon last month, Elizabeth Lacirignola began questioning her life choices.

More specifically, her choice to subject herself to the relentless pounding on the pavement that is synonymous with the 26.2-mile competition.

However, it was those choices that led the Owasso native to a life of fitness and health.

“I have been running since about 2017,” Laciignola said. “I was an elementary teacher and a mom of two young children, so the time spent running has always been very therapeutic for me. It clears my mind.”

The 32-year-old ran a personal best of 4 hours, 25 minutes and 16 seconds in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon on Sunday, April 24, placing 483rd of 1,108 runners as the top female finisher from the Rogers County area.

The nearly 12-minute improvement from her previous best of 4:37:06 also placed her 108th of 393 women and 23rd of 61 in the Female 30-34 age group.

“I knew I just wanted to beat 4:30, and I beat that,” said Lacirignola, who passed 23 runners through the final 3.2 miles. “That was my goal.”

It was a fitting location for the best performance of her running career, for Oklahoma City was where she began her long-distance racing journey. In 2018, she completed her first half marathon in 2:18:21.

“For my first half, it was meaningful in the sense that you were dedicating it to somebody; it wasn’t just for you,” Lacirignola said, referring to the impact of the event on her as not just a runner, but also as a sympathetic human. “I’ve kind of taken that mentality when I do my runs. Any big run I try to dedicate to someone. It’s something that keeps my mental head space in the right place.

“I just enjoy coming. I like the atmosphere; I like the purpose of it and how many people it brings together. It’s a good atmosphere for running.”

The euphoria of success from completing the 13.1-mile course fueled her desire to continue training, and it didn’t take her long to begin her swift progression to the full marathon.

“I ran the half with someone who was a full-marathon runner, and they told me, ‘Well now you’ve got your base,'” Lacirignola said. “And I thought to myself, ‘That’s not a base.’ I made it. I made it to that half. After my third half, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I could train with the fulls. I wanted to go that direction, but I obviously hadn’t trained at that point. After that point, I thought, ‘Maybe I am ready. Maybe I could train. Maybe let’s start.’ And it just progressed.

“If you can run a half, you can run a full.”

She was ready, and she proved it 19 months later in the 2019 Route 66 Marathon.

On November 24, 2019 in Tulsa, Lacirignola completed her first full marathon in 4:40:30. She was admittedly nervous, but she luckily didn’t have to traverse the treacherous miles alone.

“I didn’t have anyone who wanted to sign up for a full with me, so what I did was I found five people who were brave enough to run the relay,” Laciignola said. “So I had a fresh person every 5-6 miles who was my person, my friend, and they got me to the finish line.”

According to route66marathon.com, the marathon relay consists of three to five legs, with distances varying from 5 to 5.6 miles in length.

Her fitness exploits have developed beyond just running, though.

Lacirignola left her job as an elementary school teacher after becoming enveloped in a fitness-heavy lifestyle, and she is now a fitness instructor at multiple gyms in Owasso while also serving as a personal trainer for several individual clients.

Furthermore, she went back to school and recently graduated with an occupational therapy assistant degree.

“It came along with the running,” Laciignola said of the career change. “I was a runner, and I had a friend who said, ‘Hey, you should come to fitness class, and I thought, ‘Oh, I can do that. I’m about to run a half marathon; I’m fit .’ I went, and I literally couldn’t walk the next week, and I was running my first half. I was intrigued from that point, and I kept coming to classes. I just fell in love with it even more, and I started teaching friends or having friends come over and playing around with it. It just kind of progressed into me being the instructor .”

When Laciignola isn’t training for a race, she typically runs 5-6 miles three or four times a week, and she bumps those numbers up to 7-10 miles while within a training block. Her long runs can reach anywhere from 20-22 miles during that time.

With 5- and 7-year-old children at home, she wakes up around 4:30 — 5 o’clock every morning to get her runs in.

“I run in the early, early morning before they wake up so I’m not necessarily skipping a beat with everybody else’s plans,” Lacirignola said. “I get my stuff done, and then I’m in a much better mood when it comes to everything else.”

So, what’s next for this super mom?

Lacirignola said she doesn’t plan to upgrade to ultramarathons, which are described as footraces longer than the full marathon, but she would like to go on some “runcations” — vacations centered around races — to compete in marathons in surrounding states like Texas and Arkansas.

“I know it’s not stopping, I just don’t know the next step,” she said.

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