Thousands of runners will return to the Roanoke Valley this weekend to give the Blue Ridge Marathon another shot.

For some of them, the marathon means more than just pounding the pavement.

We’ll introduce you to two runners who consider the race a reminder of some obstacles they've overcome in their lives.

"Oh, the mountain doesn't look that big until you start running up it and you're like oh God this is never going to end,” Fitzgerald said.

Michael Fitzgerald says once just wasn't enough.

That's why he's coming back to battle the Blue Ridge Marathon yet again.

But this year, he's going for the full.

"Time’s always going to be an issue. A lot of uphill and downhill. Just going to have to work on the pace,” he said.

Fitzgerald says he was never a runner.
But major knee surgery left him looking for a way to shed some pounds.

He ran his first half marathon last year and fell for the sporting event fast.

"We're all runners. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, some of us are turtles. It doesn't matter though. All of us are on the same page and then you have all the local community coming out and supporting us,” Fitzgerald said.

Pam Rickard says she knows the feeling all too well.

"I entered a race in college kind of as a joke one night after a night of partying. We all decided to run the Homecoming 5k the next morning and barely made it. Walked quite a bit of it but there was something about it that I didn't hate,” Rickard said.

30 years later, the recovering alcoholic is traveling the world and inspiring others to let go of their addictions and go running.

"I run because I can and because I am so grateful to,” Rickard said.

Like Fitzgerald, she's running the full marathon.

But the catch is she's doing it twice.

Yes, twice.

"If I'm healthy enough to do it I can't imagine not doing it," she said.

Rickard and a handful of others had their first encounter with what she calls the Official Unofficial Blue Ridge Double Marathon last year.

That's when they started at 2:30 in the morning, ran a full marathon and then took off for a second full just as the official race was starting.

No matter what race you're running, these two say athletes should feel lucky enough to be healthy enough to do it.