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Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series of guest columns about the Southlake YMCA and its upcoming $35 million transformation to the Crown Point facility.

Thousands of YMCA members walk through the doors of the Southlake Y in pursuit of health and fitness goals. Others took it a step further by competing in the 40th annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October.

The Y played a supporting role in helping member Susan Lynk and employees Stephanie McKee and Courtney Olavarria cross the finish line Oct. 8.

Lynk’s participation in the marathon (her third) was jeopardized by an injury. Two months before the marathon, she was diagnosed with a stress reaction in her left leg, which put her at risk for a stress fracture if she continued running.

Instead of being defeated, Lynk cross-trained with cardio and core workouts at the Southlake Y. Her six-day-a-week regimen of elliptical, indoor cycling, swimming, RIPPED and kettlebell classes were enough to propel her over the finish line on race day, with a time of about five hours.

Lynk was not only running for herself but also for the Susan F. Lasky Cancer Foundation, in honor of her mother.

“It was very emotional,” Lynk said of pushing herself mentally and physically through 26.2 miles. “I felt I had my mom with me the whole time.”

She also had the support of Southlake Y members and classmates who were eager to hear about her experience the following week.

“I’ve made friends here,” Lynk said. “It’s definitely a family.”

McKee, who teaches swim lessons and group aquatics classes, felt the support of Y members. When she came in to teach a class following the marathon, McKee said participants were excited to hear about her race and let her know, “We are proud of you!”

McKee started running four years ago to relieve stress.

“It was me time. It became fun. Then it was just addictive," she said.

Chicago was her first marathon and was followed two weeks later with the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

McKee hopes her accomplishments will inspire others to tackle big goals.

“A lot of people are afraid to just start,” she said. “But whatever the challenge, pushing yourself across the finishing line is life changing.”

Olavarria, YMCA wellness coordinator, ran in memory of her mother, designating the American Liver Foundation as her cause.

“It was an emotional 26 miles,” she said of her third marathon.

Olivarra believes teaching Y classes in Pilates and barre have improved her running.

“You can’t be a strong runner without a strong core,” she said.

Olavarria finished the race with a time of four hours, 51 minutes.

Like the others, Olavarria hopes her running will lead others to active lifestyles. Olavarria is excited about taking over the Southlake Y’s annual Hub Run training program.

“I’m going to show them that you just come in and you just run, whatever level, whatever pace,” she said.

For more information on the Southlake YMCA, go to

Laurie Halaska is the CEO of the Crossroads YMCA Association. The opinions are the writer's.