Some families follow the Red Sox. My family followed the Boston Marathon. The day before the big race, we would all read the Boston Globe special “marathon” section front-to-back, and I would see the list of former winners that included my great uncle, Fred Cameron. When I was 16, my mother and I drove down to watch my brother Peter compete in the race. That year, an old family friend, a senior at Bowdoin College named Joan Benoit, won the women’s division, breaking the course record by 8 minutes. Peter also did pretty well, finishing 29th with a time that qualified him for the Olympic trials. Being there on that Patriot’s Day in 1979 set me on a path that I’ve followed ever since: it inspired me to become a distance runner.
After competing in cross country and track in college, I increased my distance in graduate school. I was stunned during my first marathon when someone told me that I was on pace to qualify for Boston, which I ended up running in 1987, less than a decade after watching it in awe as a teenager. It was everything that I imagined it to be, and I ran it twice more before coming to Colby in 1991. At that time, I was in my late twenties, which is pretty much when female distance runners are thought to peak. My best time, 3:06:36, corresponds to a VO2max of 51 mL/kg/min, a pretty respectable number.
Unlike most of my teammates from college, I’ve continued to run, though I get slower every year. Along the way, I’ve kept it interesting by setting goals, like running Boston one last time to honor the 100th anniversary of Uncle Fred’s victory in 2010. My most recent race was the Polar Bear Dip and Dash on New Year’s Eve, for which my time of 24:53 corresponds to a VO2max of 39 mL/kg/min. Although this decline is depressing, the average decrease is thought to be about 10% per decade after age 25, which is right in line with my numbers. One reason to keep optimistic is that I move into a new age group in April…and I’ll be coming hard at all those gals in their 50’s!