Her blond ponytail bounces along the trail around White Rock Lake, doing a cruise of the lake with friends. She’s wearing her favorite shoes, the Asics Nimbus, and a dash of pink. “I do like pink.” Today she’s running two loops, or 18 miles. WENDY RAGLE talks about business as a rep with Auto Zone, her boyfriend, family, training, and past runs and races. She’s very even in her breathing, pace, and conversation; dependable and consistent; traits not common to other runners.
Although only mildly fashion conscious when she works out, she says she just likes to be comfortable. “I like all the local running stores, but it’s also fun to pick up some goodies at TJMaxx or Marshalls as well.”
This past spring was her debut to Dallas running, where she won several races on her way to winning the Crosson Dannis Overall Female title. Not bad for just moving to town.
Originally born in Dallas (June 23, 1980) and graduating from 5A Duncanville High School, she lettered in four sports at the (soccer, cross country, track, and basketball) in a class of 800. “It was a lot of hard work playing so many sports,” said Ragle to reporter Ryan Rogers. “The seasons overlapped and schoolwork was always important to me too. But I learned a lot from doing that. It prepared me for life and taught the value of working well with a team. But most importantly, by playing sports, I made a lot of memories and friends that I still have to this day.” Every team she was a part of in high school won a district championship. “I would always go faster and last longer than my soccer and basketball teammates. I just seemed kind of good at it, plus I just didn’t mind running. In basketball, when we would have to line up on the court and do yo yo’s [back and forth running drills] at the end of practice, everyone else hated them. I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”
The cross-country coach first begged, then convinced her to stay in shape in the off-season by joining the school’s running team her freshman year. It was a great turning point, Wendy remembers. It was how she started running. “He must have asked me about a dozen times and I kept telling him, ‘No.’ But he was very persistent and eventually my sophomore year, not thinking much of it, I agreed to run cross country.” She had ambition, goals, dreams, and loved athletics.
Years later, she says of running, “I love to run and I love the feeling you get after an exhausting long run or a super-fast race performance. Not much can beat that feeling. It also means great friendships. I’ve met and have the best friends because of running.” Why does she run? “Friends, health, competition, and because I can eat desert after dinner if I already had a run.”
Noted for her endurance and already sought after as a soccer player, she began receiving scholarship offers to several universities for both soccer and running. After graduating high school, she had many options. She chose the University of Memphis on her gut feelings. Those feelings panned out to becoming the school’s top runner before the end of her freshman year and eventually becoming highly decorated, setting four school records: the 800m (2:19), mile, 3000m steeplechase, and 5000m run. But she raced in even more events at meets. Not unusual for her at a single meet, Wendy would run in the 800m, 1500m, Mile Run, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase, and the 5000m, making her the best distance runner in school history. But that freshman year had its times. Rogers: “As a bewildered freshman, she set a piece of bread on fire in her toaster setting the dormitory fire alarm off at 1:00 a.m!”
“The 800m was never her race,” said Rogers. “More acclimated with longer distances, she ran the 800m simply because her coach asked her to.” She graduated magna cum laude (4.0), with a degree in manufacturing engineering, was on the University’s athletic advisory committee, and earned numerous academic and athletic awards. She is most proud of being named C-USA Athlete of the Week for having three Top 10 finishes in October 2000. She was even a marathon pacer a few times.
Another talent surfaced during the bus trips to meets. She’d make balloon animals for the coach’s two young daughters to entertain them. “I had a job in college where I did that for little kids.” They often came along to the meets.
During her time at school, she did an internship with NASA in 2001.
She went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Engineering in 2003.
“Those were the times…” she wistfully says with a smile. “Taking naps during the day, studying all night… I was so focused on school then and didn’t realize it. Although I guess it has paid off with my career. I’ve accomplished so much since college running… I’ve bettered almost all my times at every event. I guess I just have more time to run now.” She lowered her 800m time to 2:12.
After 10 years in Memphis, she moved back to the area November 2008 and has bought a house in Ft. Worth. She splits up her running between the two cities. Her dad is an electrician while her mom “handles ‘lemon law’ cases/disputes for the big automakers.” She has two older brothers, and one younger. Her mom, Tammy Ragle, has influenced Wendy a lot, she says, “How she treats people and how she cares for people. She never talks bad about others and she always sees the best in others. She has the most generous heart and will always be the first to do without so others can have what they need or want.”
Growing up, Wendy says she was, “Probably like most kids. I was outgoing and a ‘go with the flow’ kind of kid. I had a very energetic personality. Sports, doing anything outdoors, church groups, school activities – I was just a busy kid.” But she was also very caring for others. “When my brother would get in trouble and have to go ‘stand in the corner,’ I would go stand in the corner with him. I was upset that he was in trouble, even when he was in trouble for hitting or doing something to me.” She wanted to do all the sports her brother did, especially soccer and basketball. “I also remember being really involved in church. We would go to all the summer camps and attend the Wednesday night church activities like Girl’s in Action.”
Naming her heros, she sites her mom, dad, and her brothers, “of course.” “My family is really important to me. I have never had that celebrity type hero. I like the more ‘real’ humans. People that are my friends or family tend to be my heros rather than some super star.”
But she does have a list of those she admires. There’s her best friend AMANDA HUNTZINGER, who she’s known since high school and came to watch Wendy run and set a school record in her last meet with the Univ. of Memphis. “I strive to be as close to perfect as she is.” Second, she lists her boss. “Dave has accomplished a lot and did it by working really hard. He’s been there, done that in terms of career success. He’s had positions like Executive Vice President of a great company and he is still very genuine. I find that hard to find many times once people have made it to the top.”
Wendy’s goals include running a 4:45 mile, sub 18:00 in the 5K, and a sub 3 hour marathon. She’s come close to the marathon goal with her only real try, a 3:02 in Chicago, 2006. “I was just going to run 3:15 and get a feel for what racing a marathon was like and, well, I guess I got a feel for it.”
She doesn’t have a favorite race, but really likes the mile distance, and the marathon. “I like to plan a big race and make it a vacation. I love destination races. The Chicago marathon was pretty awesome.”
As for Dallas, she says there’s good competition here. “I see a pretty decent crowd and the competition is certainly better than Memphis. I did the Dash Down Greenville 5K this year, kind of as my debut back to town and back to getting serious again with running. I ran an 18:16 and got 5th place, I think, which would have won most any 5K back in Memphis and probably won it by a lot. I think it is awesome to see the great runners around the city and the amazing runners like MELISA CHRISTIAN and MELISSA COOK. I love competition and always wish there was more of it. I do think however, that there are sometimes too many races offered. Recently I saw over 20 races on the calendar for just one Saturday and that is just too many. The races get watered down in terms of competition, and well, how do you choose?”
When asked about runners’ support from the area, Wendy replied, “It’s too soon for me to answer that. I’ve only been back for six months and I’m still adapting to my new home, the running scene and learning who’s who.”
Wendy keeps herself healthy, with few injuries. Nutritionally, she says, “I eat what I want but try to eat fairly healthy and balanced. Those deserts and snacks just call my name.” The worst injury she’s had to date is a strained hamstring. “I’ve had the typical aches and pains that sometimes stay around longer than you like, but for the most part have been injury free. I really believe nearly all injuries are preventable except those freak accidents where you miss a step or something and end up breaking a leg or whatever. But many injuries like tendonitis, where maybe you increased your mileage too quickly or don’t run in good shoes or on better surfaces, etc… that stuff can be avoided.” Her highest mileage has been about 50 miles per week, but only once.
A Typical Training Week
Monday – easy run
Tuesday – speed work
Wednesday – easy run
Thursday – tempo run
Friday – off
Saturday – easy run
Sunday – long run
She plans on racing a lot of 5Ks this year, and shooting for her mile time goal of sub 5:00. “When it’s so hot in the summer, marathon training and longer distance training is tough but mile training seems to be a little more manageable just because you’re usually not out in the heat as long. Maybe by the fall, early winter I’m gearing more towards, 10k and half marathon.”
Beyond that, “It’s just too far off right now to think about,” she says. Ideally, she’d like to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. With her first effort of 3:02 done on 40 miles a week, she feels with more mileage and “good coaching/planning I can work towards a 2nd marathon well below that.”
Outside of running and work, Wendy loves to do handy work and fix up houses. She is currently working on one in Ft. Worth. “I love to see the before and after of a project. I also like to bike and just be outdoors. I like spending time on the lake or river, camping and fishing, you name it. I also like to listen to live music on an outdoor patio with some friends. Those pastimes are the best!”
She’s not sure what drives her to excel, but points to her family and friends. “Something from inside that I’m just not sure what it is but it certainly drives me. I think about how great it feels to run a PR. It is truly an amazing feeling for me and if I don’t feel like running, I tell myself how I won’t accomplish that PR if I don’t get out there and do the work.”
While running, sometimes she thinks of a project, a customer, a friend, or a family member. “It’s never really the same things that I’m thinking about.” When she’s doing more intense work such as a race or speed work, she focuses on running technique, form, or race strategy.
Her regular training partners are GARY ANDERSON of Ft. Worth, and people from the TNT-Tuesday Night Track group. “I plan to start meeting up with more Fort Worth runners as well, as I learn who they are. I would like to run more often with some girls as well.”
She works as a National Account Manager for AutoZone. Before that she was a buyer. In her career, she’s held the role of Vice President of Programs for the Memphis chapter of APICS (The Association of Operations and Inventory Management), and on the Herff College of Engineering Advisory committee for the University of Memphis. She says, “I’ve had a great career so far. I earned both my bachelors and masters in engineering and have done pretty well with a Fortune 500 company [AutoZone]. It’s just about working at least a little harder and smarter than the other person(s). Entrepreneur is in my blood. I plan to keep working for a great company for now. But at some point I’ll be doing my own thing. I can’t wait!”
She enjoys Mexican food and live music. “Add a good margarita to it and I’m good to go. Joe T’s here I come.”
Other than making balloon animals, other secrets are she loves to mow her yard and vacuum. “I like seeing the lines on the carpet or the grass.”
Her pony tail bounces down the trail behind her as she takes the lead.
800 meters – 2:12 outdoor, 2:19 indoor
One mile – 5:01 outdoor, 5:06 indoor
5K – 18:08