Well, we’re down to two weeks before the Boston Marathon and we here at RunnerPub are in full-on preparation mode. We’re cutting down our mileage, resting up our legs and doing our homework about the race course.
Last week, we consulted my Uncle Mike for tips. Today, we’re turning to my Aunt Beth, another Boston vet, for more insight.
Beth, it’s worth noting, is something like RunnerPub royalty. Back in 2008, she flew to Paris to visit her daughter Kristin, who was studying there. I was living in Berlin. We all partook in the Paris Marathon that April (it’s still my personal best; more about that race here) and celebrated our achievements with some fine French food and wine (err, in my case beer).
In addition to seeking last-minute Boston advice, I was also curious to hear about Beth’s running career.
What follows is our conversation:
RunnerPub: Growing up, I recall seeing race pictures and trophies displayed on your family-room bookshelves. When did you get into running? And what got you started?
Beth: I would say my brother Michael got me into running. I was living in Boston at the time and my roommate was training for the Bonnie Bell (now the Tufts 10K). I trained with her and ran it for my first race on the streets of Boston, finishing in Boston Common. After that, I was hooked. It was October 1983.
RunnerPub: What was your first marathon?
Beth: It was the Stamford Marathon in Connecticut in April 1986. It was a great race. I ran a 3:20.
RunnerPub: Nice time! I had no idea Stamford had a marathon. Did anything surprise you about the distance?
Beth: I was shocked — I finished 10th in the women’s division and won $100. The marathon started down by the water — cobblestones on the road (horrible) — and went up to the Merritt Parkway. Then it turned around and headed back to the water. It was a lonely race because there weren’t many people watching. The last three miles were a nightmare. I cried all the way to the finish.
RunnerPub: And yet, you took home 100 bones! That makes you a professional, I should think. Back then, did you look up to any fellow pros?
Beth: I admired Joan Benoit. She was a tough competitor. Her will and determination were amazing. Just 17 days after knee surgery, she ran the first women’s Olympic Marathon trials — and won.
RunnerPub: That was right as you were getting into the sport. Did you see her win the gold medal in Los Angeles?
Beth: Yes, we watched the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon on TV. It was amazing. When Joanie came through that tunnel and did that lap on the track to the finish, I got very emotional.
RunnerPub: Growing up, you spent a lot of time in the Boston area — do you have any memories of the marathon from those days, from before you and Mike became runners yourselves?
Beth: I lived in Boston for a few years after college. I watched the marathon near Boston College with friends. That was in 1982, 1983 and 1984.
RunnerPub: So when did you first race Boston yourself?
Beth: My first Boston was the 100th running of it, on April 15, 1996. I had run Hartford to qualify. My husband John, who had run a few marathons himself, put together a great training schedule for me. I was so excited to participate. Boston, in my opinion, is one of the must-do marathons before you hang up your sneakers.
RunnerPub: So marathoning’s been a family affair — we can get behind that. Can you tell me a little about the training?
Beth: I have fond memories of Sunday morning long runs. During my training for Stamford, John would follow me around town with water. My daughter Sheila, who wasn’t even a year old yet, was in the car seat in the back alongside the Sunday paper. We were living in Cromwell, Connecticut at the time, which was pretty flat. So when it came to the Stamford race, I think the hills nearly killed me.
RunnerPub: Boston’s got some famous hills, too. How’d you mix up your training before the 1996 one?
Beth: In training for Boston I did some track work with Mike in Farmington, Connecticut. I hated it. I also did hills.
RunnerPub: How was the weather on race day?
Beth: I don’t remember it being bad.
RunnerPub: And how was Heartbreak Hill?
Beth: I feared the hill. I had heard so much about it. I had been running with this woman for a few miles, who was wearing new sneakers (big mistake) and as we started up the hill she developed blisters. She was in so much pain. I remember staying with her and telling her we were going to get up this hill together. We did. We finished the race together and I never saw her again. Only in a marathon.
Somewhere in here is Aunt Beth!
RunnerPub: How’d you feel after? And equally important, how’d you celebrate?
Beth: Afterwards, I remember wishing I had run a bit faster (doesn’t everyone feel that way?). Then we ate and drank a few beers 🙂
RunnerPub: Right on — RunnerPub’s recovery drink of choice! Have you done Boston since?
Beth: I ran it again in 2009. That was special because I ran that day with my daughter Kristin. (I finished first, haha). We ran much of the race together. I don’t remember giving her any grand advice beforehand. Just: “Take it all in. The crowds will carry you. They are amazing.” And, most importantly: “Don’t go out too fast!”
RunnerPub: What’s your favorite aspect of Boston? And what, in your eyes, makes it so unique?
Beth: What makes Boston so special is all the history — the greats that have run it before you. The fact that it starts in Hopkinton (such a small New England town) and ends in such a great city. The people watching and cheering you on are terrific.
RunnerPub: Can you share a particularly fond marathon-related memory?
Beth: Stamford in 1986 was great because it was my first and my personal best. Everyone came to cheer me on. My sister Diane was living in this little red house in Fairfield at the time, about a half hour from the finish line, with a couple of girlfriends. She hosted a huge post-race party. I remember my dad, Fred, pulling me aside and telling me that he was so proud of me, that he didn’t think I could do it. Priceless.
RunnerPub: Got any more marathons on your radar?
Beth: Well, the big 6-0 is looming. I’m looking at running another one in 2017, just to celebrate life and that I still can do it.