SALT LAKE CITY — Marti Davis only stood on the sideline watching her husband, Stan, compete in triathlons a few times before she decided standing from behind the fence just wasn’t for her.
“She said, ‘This is kind of boring,’ and so she joined him,” said one of the couple’s three daughters, Stephanie Anderson. “When she started racing, there were only about eight women in the sport. I consider her a pioneer in the sport.”
Anderson said it was her mom who coined a phrase that became the framework for how she would view her own accomplishments.
“She said, ‘You must be present to win,’” Anderson said.
In other words, you can’t win a race that you don’t run.
Davis’ philosophy was that even if you’re the only one in the race, competing is the reward for all of that training, so any recognition is rightfully earned.
Anderson said her parents’ passion for triathlons was contagious. Not only did all three of their children compete with them in dozens of races over the last 29 years, but in-laws, extended family and now grandchildren all joined in the fun. Stan Davis retired in December and Marti retired in June.
They bought a retirement home in Toquerville, Utah, but so far they've spent nearly all of their time on the road training for and competing in triathlons.
“I loved having active parents,” Anderson said. “They gave me so much. I’ve needed exercise my whole life. I was shy in high school, and running the races always gave me something to look forward to. Exercise makes me happier, and I absolutely love racing.”
The 46-year-old Murray native always dreamed about starting her own race company, but it took a near-death experience to transform that desire into a reality.
Anderson underwent an operation in December of 2007, and a mistake led to two other operations and nearly 88 days in the hospital.
“I honestly didn’t know if I would live,” Anderson said. Various infections and complications made it so difficult to eat that she left just under 90 pounds when she was finally released from the hospital.
“Before this, I thought I was invincible,” she said. “I exercised everyday, and now I didn’t know if I would ever race again.”
She had paid for a triathlon before she entered the hospital, so she decided that with a little help on the swim section, she could complete it.
“I wanted that finisher’s medal,” she said laughing. “First it was, ‘Will I live?’ Then it was, ‘Will I race again?’ And then it was, ‘Will I ever eat 10 tacos again?’”
Anderson ran, swam and biked her way back to health and in April of 2012, she decided life was too short not to pursue her dream.
“I put on my first race in April of 2012, the Racing with Passion 5K at This is the Place State Park,” she said. “I knew race directors did a lot of work, but I found out so much I didn’t know.”
Her goal was to stage the kind of race that she might enjoy running.
“What I really wanted was to put on the best 5K in Salt Lake,” she said. “I wanted to cater not only to a charity, but to the runner.”
The best compliment she received after that first 5K was from a woman who said she could tell the event was staged by a runner. From the food to the T-shirts, she knows runners want a reward for those weeks and months of dedicated training.
This Saturday, Racing with Passion will put on the Gravity Hill 5K. It’s a unique run on a storied section of hillside near the state’s capitol building.
“I wanted the younger generations to know about it,” she said of the hill that feels like an uphill grade on the downslope, and like one is running downhill on the incline.
“It’s a cool thing that we have in our state, and it’s a great course,” she said.
Anderson said the sponsor support allows her to offer a lot of prizes through a drawing, as well as recognizing the top-three finishers in each age division. She prides herself on an impressive post-race feast, and this year, finishers will get a keychain featuring the state capitol building instead of another T-shirt.
Maybe the most exciting prize is that all the participants will be entered into a drawing for two race entries into the St. George Marathon — one male and one female. Registration is available online at racingwithpassion.com until Friday at 6 p.m. or on the east side of the Capitol Building Saturday morning at 7 a.m.
Anderson, who now lives in Henderson, Nev., with her husband, Todd Anderson, is most proud of the fact that her races help the charity One Hour for Life — an organization that allows volunteers to help teach preventive, even life-saving medical instruction in poor countries and communities.
With another 5K scheduled for Sept. 7, 2013, Anderson is relishing the reality of living a dream. She knows, however, that it likely would never have happened if she hadn’t had parents who saw the value of a sport many hadn’t heard of 30 years ago.
“Racing with Passion is possible because of my parents,” she said of their influence. “I get to race with my parents — how cool is that? It’s been so fun and so helpful to me. I am really enjoying sharing it with others. I’ve had some really, really hard times in my life, and it’s just kept me happy.”
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