Nova Stickley has been running since she was six.
“She always wanted to go running with me,” said her father, Cris Stickley. “She participated in a few kids’ events, and then when she was seven, she ran the 5K at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Kualoa Ranch while I ran the half marathon.”
Nova remembers the day well.
“I did the 5K at XTERRA with one of my friends,” she said. “I was watching Daddy come over the finish line and I saw a boy who was 11 or 12 finishing just behind him. So I asked my dad if I could do that race next year instead of the 5K.”
Her father hesitated. An athletic trainer and professor and graduate chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Hawaii, Cris Stickley knew all too well what it took for a human body to run a half marathon.
“I wasn’t sure how much her little body would be able to handle,” he said. “But Nova is the most mentally tough and dedicated kid I’ve ever seen. She kept bugging me to run the XTERRA half marathon at Kualoa Ranch until finally, I said OK.”
Cris knew that Nova needed to cross train so he set her bike on his bike trainer a few days a week.
“We ran three times a week and gradually increased the distance,” he said. “I never trained a kid before so it was trial and error to see how her growing body could handle the running. I didn’t want to be one of those parents. Instead, I let Nova make the decisions and I was just there to help.”
When December came around and Nova and her dad did the race, the toughness of the course ironically provided some natural breaks. The first year Nova did the race, it took her and her dad over four hours to complete the course.
“We walked up the big hills,” said Cris. “And at some parts of the course, we would hit some traffic jams behind crowds and be forced to walk so that allowed Nova to rest.”
The Stickley family had been donating money to Compassion International for a few years, which focuses on providing medical care to poverty-stricken children in third world countries.
“Compassion International has a ‘Sponsor a Child Day,’” said Nova. “One year we bought a girl a jump rope and bubbles and that made her really happy. I was thinking that if I could raise more money, it would help a lot.”
In 2017, during Nova’s second year training for the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, she asked her father if she could use the race to raise money to help more children.
“The best thing about training that year was to see Nova get behind the idea of helping people,” said Christopher. “We raised $1,000 dollars before it was over, which shocked us. But whenever we saw what good was being done, it was so rewarding.”
Through Nova’s efforts, she was able to provide mattresses, cooking utensils, milk powder, and chocolate to families in need.
“Many families have to walk a long way to get water,” said Nova, “So now they are getting bicycles and closer sources of water.”
This year, Nova and her dad are doing the race again, and once again, they are donating their efforts to others. This year, Nova is running to support Steven, an 11-year old boy from Ecuador, who was attacked and badly burned.
This year, Nova – whose goal is to do an Ironman when she is old enough – is moving up an age group. In this year’s race, she will be competing in the 10-14 age group.
“I keep telling her she doesn’t have to win,” said her dad, “But she’s excited to see how well she can do against the older kids. Her goal is to raise money, but she’s also pretty competitive.”