Alliance native qualifies for Boston Marathon after car accident – Canton Repository

Alliance native qualifies for Boston Marathon after car accident  Canton Repository



FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Anna McClaugherty was crossing the street during her typical morning run on April 30, 2020, when a driver heading up the road failed to see her coming. 

“I suffered a (traumatic brain injury) and some other small injuries,” the 36-year-old Alliance native said. “Broken wrist, broken clavicle and had to be hospitalized for quite a while.”

Spending the summer in a hospital bed wasn’t what McClaugherty imagined when she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, earlier that year. The mountainous city is known for its impressive trail system. Many avid runners like McClaugherty come to the area for the running opportunities. 

But the injuries McClaugherty had sustained left her future uncertain. 

“My accident was extreme enough (that) at first they were like ‘Is she going to die?’ And then it was like ‘Is she ever going to be able to work again?'” she said.  

Two years after the incident, McClaugherty will fulfill her lifelong dream of racing in the Boston Marathon.

Finding her fit   

McClaugherty developed a passion for running while she was a student at Alliance Middle School. 

“I really wanted to be involved in a team sport, so I tried volleyball camp, and I was terrible at it,” she said with a laugh. “The volleyball coach was like ‘There’s this other sport you could try.’ So I tried out for cross country, and it was just, like, automatically – this is for me.”  

Her father, Chuck McClaugherty, said she started training with her older sister, who would ride her bike alongside McClaugherty as she ran around their neighborhood, offering words of encouragement. 


For McClaugherty, who now works as a mental health therapist, running is the “ultimate expression of mindfulness,” requiring a person to be present and deliberate in their actions.

“You can kind of get into what you hear referred to in psychological speak as a flow state, where it’s still really challenging but it’s deeply enjoying,” she said. 

She participated in cross country throughout middle school and high school and later ran both cross country and track when she attended the University of Mount Union. In 2007, while she was still a student at Mount, she entered her first marathon, viewing it as the logical next step for a distance runner. 

To prepare, she pulled a Hal Higdon marathon training plan off the internet and tried to follow it as closely as possible. She ran about six days per week and focused on running a specific amount of time each day instead of a certain number of miles. 

“I think that really worked for me,” McClaugherty said. “I didn’t even necessarily know how far I was going. I just knew I had a three-hour run.” 

Stepping back 

Although McClaugherty loved running, her mental health struggles affected her relationship with the sport. Throughout college, she dealt with anxiety and an eating disorder, a common occurrence for many female athletes. According to a study of Division I NCAA athletes conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association, more than one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms that placed them at risk for anorexia nervosa.

McClaugherty took six or seven years off from running after college to focus on her mental well-being.

“I didn’t really feel like I could do it,” she said. 

She spent a lot of time in therapy as she recovered from her eating disorder. Then, she decided to go to graduate school to become a therapist herself. It was at that point when McClaugherty realized she was ready to get back into running. 

“In some ways it was like riding a bike because my body was like ‘You know I can do this. You’ve done this for a really long time,'” she said. “And in other ways I had to build up some confidence that I actually could do it.” 

She started out slowly. Over time, she eventually started running marathons again. 

McClaugherty credits the work she did in graduate school for helping her understand her own strengths and weakness and getting her to a place where she felt healthy enough to run. 

But her mental health struggles wouldn’t be the only obstacle for her to overcome. 

The accident 

In January 2020, McClaugherty moved across the country to start a new job in Flagstaff. 

“I literally moved here because it’s kind of a runners’ hub,” she said. “There are so many trails, both trail-y trails and paved ones. There are just endless different places to go.” 

Only a few months after her move, McClaugherty was hit by a car. The accident left her with multiple injuries and prevented her from running and working as she remained hospitalized. Combined with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, McClaugherty’s injuries made for a lonely few months, she said. 

McClaugherty spent most of the summer of 2020 recovering. The first time she was able to run after the accident was in July. “But even then, it was sort of a walk-run situation,” she said. In November that same year, she ran her first race, with a goal of simply finishing it. 

From there, McClaugherty has continued to heal. She runs six days a week, an estimated 65 to 80 miles, and enjoys exploring different trails in Flagstaff. 

She still deals with balance and spatial awareness issues stemming from the accident and needs more sleep than she used to. But she feels “elated” to be doing what she loves once again. 


Chuck McClaugherty said his daughter’s ability to overcome obstacles demonstrates her resiliency. During a race several years ago, McClaugherty developed a new mindset when it came to running, and her father believes it has also played a role in her success. 

“She decided that instead of worrying about how fast she was going, she was going to put a piece of duct tape on her watch (…) she said ‘I’m not going to worry about my time. I’m just going to go enjoy it,'” Chuck McClaugherty said. 

Afterward, McClaugherty told her father about the dogs she had pet and the people she had spoken to during the race. Her change in attitude, Chuck McClaugherty said, showed that she was running for the pure enjoyment of it, not because she wanted to prove anything to herself or anyone else. 

Qualifying for Boston

Running in the Boston Marathon has been a goal of McClaugherty’s for many years.

“My very first marathon that I did in Cleveland, I actually did qualify Boston,” she said. “I think for most regular, everyday runners who aren’t going to the Olympics, getting to qualify for Boston, that’s the gold medal we’re going for.” 

To qualify for Boston, runners must finish within a certain timeframe based on their age and gender. McClaugherty ran her qualifying time in the Wineglass Marathon, finishing with a time of three hours, 27 minutes and 51 seconds 

She will compete in the world’s oldest annual marathon on April 18. 

“When I got the email that verified they had charged my credit card and everything, that’s when it sunk in,” she said. “I was just elated because that’s been up to this point a 15-year goal that’s been at work.” 

McClaugherty hopes her story helps encourage other runners to follow their passions and focus on enjoying themselves. 

“I think what’s been really helpful for me is (remembering) that it’s supposed to be a challenge, it’s supposed to be fun and just not to take myself too seriously,” she said. 

Reach Paige at 330-580-8577 or pmbennett@gannett.com, or on Twitter at @paigembenn.