Its been 20 years since Stephanie Herbst abruptly ended her career as a runner.
After winning three national championships and seven Big Ten Conference titles as a member of the Wisconsin womens track and field team, Herbst hung up her running shoes after graduation in 1988.
Almost 15 years later, as quickly as she had faded from the spotlight, she re-emerged as an elite distance runner. Since picking up her craft again in 2003, Herbst (now Herbst-Lucke) has become one of the top masters runners in the U.S.
She is featured on the cover of the March edition of Running Times, which ranked her the nations third-best female runner in the 40-44 age group for 2008.
In a cover story titled ArticleID=15741&PageNum=1"> --> Shattering the Silence by the magazines John A. Kissane, Herbst-Lucke recounts her decision to temporarily leave running behind after her junior season at UW and eventually step away from the sport altogether.
Herbst-Lucke also spoke to Running Times Scott Douglas for an extensive ArticleID=15303"> --> audio interview .
After leaving Madison with an MBA in 1989, she went on to pursue a business career, marry Jim Lucke, start a family and eventually settle in Atlanta.
Her return to racing began with a win in 10-kilometer race in 2003 and then scored a 15th-place finish at the 2006 Chicago Marathon, the second-highest finish by a masters runner.
At 42 years old, Herbst-Lucke finished 59th overall at the 2008 USA Olympic Marathon Trials, one of only four 40-plus athletes to finish among the top 75. Her comeback hit its high point a few weeks later at the Heart of the Summer 10K in Minneapolis, Minn., where she finished third in 32 minutes, 55 seconds a time that missed the American masters 10K record by just five seconds.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Herbst-Luckes time came within 23 seconds of her best mark, the then-collegiate record of 32:32.75 she recorded 22 years earlier on her way to the 10,000 meters title at the 1986 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Herbst-Lucke also won the NCAA title in the 5,000 meters at that meet, just months after winning the NCAA indoor title at 3,000 meters and setting a collegiate record in that event, as well.
She left the UW team before the start of the 1987 outdoor season but returned in 1988 and earned a runner-up finish in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA outdoor championships to finish her collegiate career.
Most recently, Herbst-Lucke finished 27th at last Octobers IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, helping the U.S. national team to a fourth-place finish.
Now 43, Herbst-Lucke is taking aim at the 10K masters record she narrowly missed last summer and is training to resume competition this year after sustaining a stress fracture.