Cancer Doesn’t Stop Marymount’s Sprinkel from Triathlons and Boston Marathon

With temperatures in the high 30s, gusting winds and heavy rain, Katie Sprinkel didn’t feel like finishing this year’s Boston Marathon. But her husband and their three children were out in the foul weather, cheering her on. So were her parents. So were hundreds of thousands of spectators.    

“It was pretty bad out there,” recalled Sprinkel, lab coordinator for Marymount University’s Department of Biology and Physical sciences and adjunct professor. Because of foot and knee injuries, her training had been limited prior to the April 16 running of the world’s oldest annual marathon

“Honestly, I just kept thinking that I don’t ever want to run it again,” the 37-year-old said. “I figured if I didn’t finish, I’d have to do it again. I wasn’t feeling fantastic but I was determined to finish. I’m not always the best but I’m pretty stubborn once I put my mind to something.”

The previous 13 months proved that.

Sprinkel, who had run Division I cross-county at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, had signed up for her first half ironman triathlon in Spring 2016. She had lost a lot of weight during training, and three weeks before the event, noticed a lump in her breast.

She was diagnosed with an invasive lobular carcinoma. Her doctors at The George Washington University Hospital gave her clearance to complete the race, which she did that April, placing fourth in her age group.

She had a double mastectomy in May 2016. Four weeks after her surgery she ran five miles.

“It felt terrible but getting back into it, you’re not going to feel great,” she said. “You’re not supposed to feel like you’re on top of the world when you get back in shape. Progress is made slowly and you have to stay at it to reach your goal.”

She decided that 2017 would be the year of her first full marathon, followed by her first full ironman. She ran the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March 2017. Her time of 3:35:32 qualified for Boston.

Then her training began in earnest for Ironman Louisville. Her typical week meant getting up at 3:30 a.m. to work out. In October she completed that competition, which consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. She finished the grueling competition in 12:11:23.

“ ‘Determined’ is a good way to describe me,” Sprinkel said.

That’s why she never doubted she would finish Boston. Slower than her first marathon, Sprinkel finished in 4:29:22. That afternoon, she put on compression socks, took an aspirin, and got in the car with her family for the seven-hour drive back to Arlington. She was at Marymount for work the next morning.

“I am pretty proud of myself,” she said. “I set goals and I stuck to them. I needed something to get my mind off having gone through cancer treatment.”

A side effect from her type of breast cancer and the medication she is on is low estrogen levels that reduce bone density.

“One of the most-effective things you can do to combat it is the maintenance of muscle mass,” she said. “So I’ll stay active for as long as I can.”

Sprinkel said she’ll take it “easier” in the future by sticking to half ironman races, which involve a 1.2 mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile half-marathon.

“Honestly, I feel like the ironman was easier than the marathon,” she said. “The marathon is just a brutal, brutal race.”

Photo captions
Photo 1
Marymount University’s Katie Sprinkel poses at the finish line the day before the 2018 Boston Marathon.

Photo 2
Katie Sprinkel was in good spirits at the start of the race in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. 

Photo 3
At the Boston finish line after gusting wind, heavy rains, and temperatures in the high 30s. 

Photo 4
Ironman Louisville consisted of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.

Photo 5
Katie Sprinkel completed Ironman Louisville. She finished the grueling competition in 12:11:23.