Actually, she never dreamed of running anything longer than 10,000 meters. Stublic, who grew up in Waterbury, was a steeplechaser, a 10,000-meter runner, an All-American in cross country. A 26.2-mile run was not in her plans.
Things have changed a lot since then. On Sunday, Stublic hopes to be among the top 10 women finishers in the New York City Marathon. She ran a 2:25 personal best at the Zurich Marathon this spring. She became the first Croatian female marathoner to run in the Olympics in 2012.
"This will be my sixth marathon," she said last week on the phone from New York City. "I don't have expectations or a time goal because the field is so strong and the course is hard. My goal is to be as competitive as possible."
Stublic, 29, started running at Crosby High School in Waterbury. Her mother is American but her father, Ivan, was born in Sisak, Croatia. He still lives in Waterbury. Stublic has dual citizenship.
Originally, she thought that she might be a swimmer, not a runner, but that didn't work out too well, as she explained to Barbara Heubner of the Marathon News Service:
"For three years, my middle-school gym teacher urged me to do an endurance sport, so I finally tried swimming but quit after the first warmup. The coach told us to swim a few laps and I swam as hard as I could because I figured that way I would be able to go home sooner. When I started to get out of the pool, the coach explained that the training hadn't started yet, but I couldn't imagine swimming any more that day, so I quit."
Hardly an auspicious beginning for a long-distance-type athlete, but when Stublic started to run as a freshman in high school, she won her first race and kept improving. She was a Class MM runner-up in cross country and finished fourth at the State Open as a senior. She won the Class MM 3,200-meter title and was the State Open runner-up in outdoor track.
She ran for Columbia, where she helped her team win four Ivy League cross country championships and finished 10th in the NCAA steeplechase as a senior.
After graduating in 2006, she wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life. She ended up buying a one-way ticket to Croatia, because she wanted to get to know her father's homeland better. She ran there, still thinking that she was a steeplechaser, until she met her coach, Slavko Petrovic, who convinced her that she was a marathoner.
He was right. In her first marathon, in Berlin in 2010, she became the first Croatian woman to qualify for the Olympics, running a 2:33:42.
However, in London, she did not have a good race.
"The first half was great," she said this week. "My plan was to run a 2:26, 1:13 half-marathon pace. Everything was great until the 25K mark. I got a bad cramp in my lower back. It was harder and harder to lift my legs. I slowed down a lot. It was a painful finish."
She finished 52nd, in 2:34:03.
Different stretching and breathing exercises fixed the problem, and Stublic was able to shave five minutes off her personal best this April in Zurich, running a 2:25:44.
So how will she do in New York? Zurich was flat and New York is not. It's a tough field. But she feels good. She lives full-time in Croatia now and doesn't get home much, so she will spend three weeks after the marathon in Connecticut with her family. Both of her parents are coming to watch the race on Sunday.
"I think they're more excited about this than I am," she said.