Professional runner Stephanie Bruce has stated that the year 2022 has been all about "pleasure, but also incredibly lofty aspirations." After learning that she had a congenital heart disease in January, she decided that this year would be her last, her "GRIT finale," and she is currently training for that final marathon, New York City, which will take place on November 6.
Will it really be her last, though?
Bruce, 38, tells PEOPLE, "Right now, this is the last one." But I'll just say that everything is up for grabs.
After a challenging year, Bruce was diagnosed in October of last year. She was feeling weird after her mother passed away from breast cancer in June, which she now knows was probably "grief-induced stress." She sought medical attention as a result, and after undergoing a battery of testing, it was discovered that she had Bicuspid Aortic Valve disease, which is a congenital heart issue that was present at birth and unrelated to how she had been feeling (BAVD).
"Simply put, the appointment was strange since you were hearing from the doctor that you have a heart issue. Boy, I've been a professional athlete for at least 15 years, and at the age of 38, I'm just learning about something I've experienced my entire life. Just a tiny amount of jarring, "she claims. "It was perplexing. I was unsure of how to respond."
After a battery of tests, Bruce's doctors declared that they had no concerns about her continuing to run and compete. The mother of two was then faced with a choice.
She admits that it took her some time to understand what had truly happened, what it meant for her future and her history, after leaving the appointment. Bruce, however, made the decision to put her running shoes away after 2022 "quicker" than she anticipated.
She admits that she went back and forth a lot about the choice. "I don't know, I guess I had a lot of things to happen last year that really just — I wouldn't call it a midlife crisis, but I was sort of at a roadblock and I thought I had to make a decision and go one path," the speaker says.
Bruce started planning her race itinerary in January after announcing her retirement on her blog. She's completed the Boston Marathon, half marathons, and 10Ks, winning a national title in the distance in August. She intended to finish with the New York City Marathon as her capstone race.
Being a Long Island native, she claims, "it was kind of a no-brainer." "It's my preferred marathon worldwide. I've aspired to win this event since I was a young child. With I believe ninth, tenth, and eleventh place, I haven't even gotten close. However, I enjoy racing on New York's streets, so I simply instinctively knew that this was the best place for me to unwind."
As she trains with her colleague and 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials champion Aliphine Tuliamuk, who is also racing NYC, Bruce reports that her training block has been going well. And Bruce isn't going to hold back just because she might be on her retirement tour.
"Since I'm not 26 years old and am at this stage of my profession, there is no purpose for me to enter for experience or simply to place in the top 10. I'm attempting to place on the podium, and I believe I have the skills, the training, and the resources necessary to do so. Everything simply needs to work out on the day, though "she claims.
And Bruce might still have more to say after November 6.
"The really amazing thing about this year, in my opinion, is that I'm discovering that sometimes you don't have to come to these firm conclusions. That is why, in my opinion, this year has been so lovely and full of ups and downs, but significantly more ups, "she claims. I've been having a lot of fun just kind of going with the flow every day, every week, and every month of this year.