Daniel Zampogna /PennLive.com/AP

Leroy Stolzfus says he started distracting himself with running after getting 'involved with some stuff' he shouldn't have

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November 21, 2015 06:05 PM

For Leroy Stolzfus, pursuing his passion for running and upholding his religious beliefs aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, they’re undeniably intertwined.

Earlier this month, Stolzfus, who lives in Gordonville, Pennsylvania, ran the Harrisburg Marathon while wearing his traditional Amish clothing, PennLive reports. He crossed the finish line after three hours, five minutes and 45 seconds, and wore a long-sleeved button-down shirt, slacks and suspenders for all 26.2 miles.

Although his timing is extremely impressive (even for someone not running in traditional Amish clothes), Stolzfus, 22, came less than a minute short of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. But he doesn’t blame his outfit for his “not running faster.”

“I was feeling good, but I kind of almost crashed at mile 15,” he tells PennLive, saying that he started at too fast of a pace. “I had no pain whatsoever. It was more mental anguish than in my legs. You have to train yourself not to think about it. It will just slow you down. I was once told by someone that it’s 20 percent training and 80 percent mental. I do believe that.”

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Stolzfus began running a few years ago, when he got “involved with some stuff” he shouldn’t have, he says. His brother-in-law suggested he start running whenever he felt tempted to sin.

“I ran between two and three miles, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is hard,’ ” Stolzfus recalls. But he kept training, and eventually started running half marathons in 2011 and his first full marathon in 2012.

His Harrisburg Marathon finishing time is almost five minutes faster than his previous personal best, but Stolzfus says he wants to continue to improve, and eventually qualify for the Boston Marathon.

“I’ll get there,” he says. “I just got to train a little harder, learn how to not go out too quickly and negative split more.”

It’s not all about breaking records and qualifying for races, though. Running in general has greatly improved his life since that first run, he says.

“Life is a whole lot better for me now.”

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