Boston profile #14: Soldiering on with Paula Davis

Paula Davis, of York, Pennsylvania, has run wearing a gas mask.

My guess is not many people can say they’ve done that.

When you’re a runner AND a soldier deployed overseas you often do what you must and that’s also how Paula Davis transformed herself into a Boston Marathon qualifier.

Paula Davis, far right, shown with her friends Cathy Butler and Sheri Bullock, at the Harrisburg Marathon in 2009.

“Being in the military changed my life,” explained Paula, a married 35-year-old mother of two with a PR of 3 hours 27 minutes.

Paula will run her first Boston Marathon in just a few more weeks. Her goal on the, where she and I met, is to crack a 3:25 marathon.

Paula joined the Army Reserves military when she was 20 years, hoping it would help her find herself.

“I had struggled with bad relationships in my life and an abusive childhood. I had no outlet growing up and was far from any sort of runner.  I did not have a lot of stability in my life,” she said. “And everything from my childhood drifted into my young adult life, I wasn’t finishing classes in college, never followed through on any thing and could never see myself successful in anything. Back then, I’d fall off the wagon.”

Paula was also 60 pounds heavier than she is now. She almost didn’t past basic training.

“I struggled with the running portion of the PT test, and the drill sergeant told me I wouldn’t pass, but I finally did, on the last day, by 3 seconds.”

The military changed her mindset, and, eventually, her body, too. It gave her focus and drive. That’s where Paula said she discovered her joy for running. She shed the unwanted pounds gradually over time.

“I found a sense of peace running and learned about that runner’s high,” she said. “It was time that helped me sort things out.”

She met her future husband, got married and had her first child, a little girl.

As a reservist, her time was almost up by four months when she received the phone call for deployment.

At that time, Paula’s daughter was five months old, but Paula still reported for Active Duty in January 2003 for Operation Iraq. It was difficult yet she persevered. She was deployed for a total of 15 months. 
By this time, in 2002, Paula was a dedicated runner. That’s how she ended up wearing a gas mask at times when she ran. 

“I would run the perimeter of the base in Kuwait,” she said. Paula had to fight with her superiors for permission to do it but won. The running became her escape while away from her home and family.
When she got back from her deployment she supported her husband as he finished graduate school. She also ran her first marathon, the Baltimore Marathon, in 2004.

She finished without a lot of formal training, thinking she’d never do another. Then the long-distance bug bit her again. She ran the Baltimore Marathon again the following year.

After that she also had a second child, her son.

Paula ran the Harrisburg Marathon in 2009 with one of her friends, Sheri Bullock, and it was an eye-opener in just how far Paula had come.

“I had agreed to hang with her for the first 20 miles. After mile 10, she looked at me and told me to save my energy because ‘I need you. You have to stay with me’ and I did. I had no idea I was about to qualify for Boston; Harrisburg was not a planned qualifier,” Paula said. That’s how she qualified for Boston for the first time, in 3 hours 36 minutes 47 seconds.

“I remember Sheri telling me at mile 20, we had time, we were going to make it, and my mouth hit the floor. … I didn’t know that we’d do that. I had never done that,” she said.

She got closed out from registering for Boston in 2010, which made her think of a spring marathon to try again. Paula ran her marathon PR, 3:27 at the Bob Potts Marathon, in her hometown in May 2010. That’s why she’s doing Boston for the first time this year.

Paula’s been training hard for Boston (about 60 miles a week) and formally — something she had never done before now.

“Going to the track with friends, they had to explain the terms to me. For example, I didn’t know about mile repeats,” she said.

Paula is a spinning instructor at Gold’s Gym in addition to being a runner and busy mom. Her children are now ages 8 and 4.

When she ran her PR at the Bob Potts race her friend Cathy  jumped in at mile 18 to pace her and wanted her to stay focused.

At that time their dear friend, Pam Rhoades, had been battling cancer. Cathy looked at Paula and said “if anything, run this race for Pam.”

At that point Paula said every step and every mile was exactly that  — her effort and run for a friend.  

Paula’s grandmother, whom she had been close to all her life, passed away recently. She said she hopes to dedicate her Boston Marathon to her grandmother.

Paula’s husband and her mom will be at Boston cheering for her, while her children will be cheering her from home.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Paula said. “I want to make them proud and do it for myself because I can.”

Where she stands today is a far cry from where she was at 20 when she joined the service.

Paula Davis and Sheri Bullock shown running the Harrisburg Marathon in 2009.


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Denver to Boston miles logged: 1531.5; Miles left to go: 238.5

Boston profile #13: Kim Royle — Military wife on the move

This Boston or Botox post jumps “the big pond” —  the Atlantic Ocean — to take us to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Boston Marathon qualifier Kim Royle.

Kim, 42, is a military wife who for now lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two children.

Kim and I met digitally on the She is living proof that military wives are often as Hummer-resilient as their spouses.

Kim also has the distinction of having qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time at the Boston Marathon. (That’s a picture of her at Boston 2010.)

How did she manage that?

Kim comes from a fit gene pool. Her father has completed 19 Ironman events, a sponsor for Boston. Her dad got Kim her first entry into the Boston last year. Then at Boston, Kim qualified with a time of 3:49:48.

Kim will fly over from Europe next month to run Boston again and hopes to do even better.

Due to our long-distance, online interview, Kim’s profile will be a slight departure from Boston or Botox style presented in Q&A  format (with editing for length and clarity). 

Kim, for example, did most of her training for her first marathon on a treadmill in her garage at night while her husband was deployed away from home — true spirit of a Ninja Mutant Runnergirl.

This is her story:

Boston or Botox: Where are you from originally and how did you come to live in Copenhagen?
I am not really from anywhere as I was an army brat. I went to high school,college and got my first job in North Carolina so I sort of call that home now. My husband is currently stationed here working with the Danish military.

I have been married for 11 years. My daughter, Maggie, is 6, and my son, Casey, is 4.

Do you work outside the home? 
I am not currently working (for pay) here in Denmark.  I volunteer at my daughter’s school library. I have an MLIS from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and an MA in Middle Grades Reading, but working as a expat in Denmark can be tricky.

When did you start running? What got you motivated? 
In high school, my cheerleading coach required us to run cross country. I am not sure if that hurt or helped inspire me as I did not run for awhile after high school. 

I tried to run here and there throughout my life, but nothing too consistent until I thought about doing a marathon. Unfortunately, thinking about and actually doing it are two entirely different things. 

I finally made a goal with myself when my husband deployed for a year. Luckily, he ended up only being gone 10 months … but still it was 10 months. 

With him gone, I took to running on the treadmill in my garage at night once the kids were in bed. I really did not have anything else to do from 7 p.m. on and felt like I finally wanted to pursue that marathon goal, so I brought the baby monitor to the garage and did most of my training there. 

Plus, I wanted the last five pounds gone and what better way to do it? 

I also had a single and double jogger.  Those were the best baby shower gifts ever.  I put some heavy miles on them.

Also, my father, brother and sister had all completed marathons.

Originally, when I was living in Hawaii (many years ago), I decided that I wanted to do the Honolulu Marathon. I started to become a more serious runner at that time and I actually completed distances of 10-13 miles. At the same time my husband and I wanted to start a family. When we did get pregnant, I knew that the marathon was placed on the back burner, and that was fine with me.

How many marathons have you run?
I have run two marathons … Kiawah Island in South Carolina was my first one. There are not a lot of spectators as it’s on a golf/beach community and in December, but it was a good experience. Several gals from my neighborhood community all got together and ran it.

Boston was my second. I was a ‘special’ entry as I did not qualify at Kiawah. In fact, I did not even know what the qualifying time was. I was not in that mindset yet. 

When I finished (at Kiawah) someone said to me that I may have qualified for Boston. I did not. I missed it by three minutes. 

With my father’s Ironman and business connections he could gain me entry into Boston. He sent me an email and asked if I wanted to do Boston, and I said, yes.

This time, I knew the time to qualify, but I really did not give it a lot of thought.  I wanted to finish (Boston 2010) in under 4 hours.  When I was on mile 20 (at Boston), I started calculating time left/needed, etc., to qualify and I felt that I could do it if I paid attention to my pace. 

My last miles were definitely faster … I think maybe three of them were sub-eights.

What were your impressions of running Boston the first time? How hard did you train?
I absolutely loved it. From the bus ride to the start to waiting for my dad at the end, I really thought the whole experience was perfect. (Well, except having to pee so badly when I was on the bus and darting straight to the woods when I got off.) 

I loved the crowd support. I think that is what is the key to a great marathon.

Training is a whole different aspect. For the first one (marathon), I trained a long time with a specific schedule (Hal Higdon’s novice).  I pretty much stuck to it. 

For Boston, I did not know I was even running it until February. In fact, I did not get my registration until March. I counted the weeks I had left and pulled up Hal Higdon again on the internet. I decided I wanted to do the intermediate plan and improve my time. I did not stick as closely to this one, but still got in three 20-milers. I also did more shorter, fast runs. 

Don’t get me wrong. I had done some running. I did two half marathons and a 10-mile trail run and I had been keeping up the running. But knowing you are doing a marathon three months out does not leave a lot of time if you have not been consistently running. 

I remember telling my husband, even though I was not training for anything, that I wanted to do one 10-miler a week, so I was in shape when my dad asked about Boston.

What made you want to qualify for Boston in the first place?
I think that because there was that (qualifying) time dangling out there … I thought it would be neat to qualify for Boston at Boston. Originally, I just wanted to break 4 hours. 

Early on I told my dad that we could just run together and enjoy ourselves. But my husband egged me on by putting in my mind: ‘How can you train for a marathon and then not run your best, try your hardest?’ 

Ultimately, he was right.

Your husband was gone when you trained for and ran your first marathon and you trained on the treadmill. How did you that? Did others watch your children? When did you get the time and chance to run?
I ran when I could while my husband was deployed. It’s very hard to find time for yourself when you have two small children and your husband is away. Deployments can cause stress in so many ways. 

I had a lot of family around me. Not many military wives have that support that I did. I have a hard time letting myself depend on anyone, so depending on someone during those long runs was unnerving. My mother-in-law was great for that. She always came on Sundays and let me do my long runs. I was rarely good for anything longer than 10 miles on the treadmill.

Most of my training was done at night. I remember ‘DVRing’ things I wanted to watch but needed to be on the treadmill. Then at 9-10 p.m. I would watch something to unwind from the run. 

Running at night did not keep me from being able to fall asleep. 

I also did quite a bit (before it got cold) with the BabyJogger. I would use the single when my daughter was in preschool.  When they were both small I ran with the double jogger. 

As they (the children) got heavier, I would find myself stopping a bit more (for being exhausted or to break up their spats).  I also found that there was a lot of maintenance to make sure they could be preoccupied for longer periods of time. I knew just how many snacks/drinks and toys to bring. 

Ultimately, I could not go for more than an hour with them. Also, when my son got older, he loved for me to stop and pick up sticks for him to hold. He soon found putting them in the spokes was entertaining.  More and more, the jogger was not a good training option. 

Recreational running was fine with the joggers, but if I needed a serious run, or it was raining, the treadmill became easier.

What is it like running in Denmark? Have a you found a support group? How do you like running there?
I like running here a lot. I have explored many streets through my running, but running in a city has its drawbacks. Stopping for stoplights or weaving around pedestrians can be a big hassle. 

There are a lot of parks and trails as well (shockingly a lot for a city). 

Plus, running the coastline (when the wind is not threatening to blow you to Sweden) is beautiful. 

There are some great places where the distances are already calculated well. One of my favorites is around a set of lakes. One store (Marathon Sport) has a map of the lakes on its exterior wall that shows the distance of each one. 

There are also some neat historical monuments and statues that you can run near. It makes for a nice view!

I run on Sundays with a group called Sparta ( They are doing marathon training and have pace groups set up. The first time I showed up expecting to jump right in with 8:15- to 8:30-milers.

Boy, was I thrown … it was all in kilometers! So I was clueless and had to do some fast calculations on my latest 5K. It was a little weird because all of the conversations around me were in Danish, but most all the Danes are bilingual. I find that fascinating.

(Scene from the Copenhagen Marathon, 2007.)

Nothing keeps the Danes from being outside. We run in pouring rain, blizzards, icy roads, etc. It is pretty cold here, too.  The other 6 days a week I have taken to the U.S. Embassy gym.

You will run Boston 2011 with your dad and brother. Any special goals?
My brother will probably smoke me, but he is a barefoot/minimalist runner. 

My dad does the Ironman races. He tries to pick exotic places to do them. … Canary Islands, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, etc.

I think the goal for us is just to spend some quality time together.

Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Today is a rest day; Denver to Boston miles logged: 1383; Miles left to go: 387.

Boston profile #12: Melodie Pullen, social networking star

The is like Facebook tailored for runners.
You can log your mileage, comment on your friends’ workouts, and send your virtual running partners motivation icons that say  things like “Great performance,” “Nice work,” or “You’re an inspiration!” 

I discovered DM a few weeks ago and that’s also how I digitally met Melodie Pullen.

Besides being a Boston qualifier, Pullen, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, is a DM dynamo and a motivational Energizer Bunny. 

Melodie has hundreds of DM friends from around the country and she’s a member of Team DailyMile (which apparently requires you to submit a video on yourself, is based on your online DM activity and stats, and requires a vote, too). 
When we spoke by phone the other day, Melodie, originally from Louisville, Kentucky, was equally gracious as she is photogenic. (Yes, that’s her pictured above.)  After our interview she “introduced me” to her DM pals. Within a day I was flooded with friend requests (very cool).

What’s also inspiring about this 35-year-old mother of three boys, ages 10, 9 and 5,  is how she got started as a runner several years ago.

“(Running) was the only way I could lose all the baby weight from my pregnancies,” she explained.

It’s hard to believe Melodie was once overweight based on how svelte and fit she is now, but Melodie said that’s what happened after her children.

“I gained 60 pounds while pregnant the first time, and then 60 pounds while pregnant the second time and then 40 with the last pregnancy,” she said. “And I wasn’t one of those people who had all the weight drop off right after I had my babies.”

Melodie began to run. Little by little, the weight came off; she got in better shape then before she had children; and she fell in love with running.

By August 2009 she was hooked on running. That’s when she did her first half marathon and she finished strong.

“I started looking at my times and the race-time predictors, and that’s what got me thinking about doing a marathon and hoping to qualify for Boston,” she said.

She ran the Columbus Marathon, her first marathon, in 2010 and finished in 3:41:28. It wasn’t until after the race she realized she had qualified for Boston because she was bumping up into the next age-bracket for qualifying this year. She was thrilled.

“It was a gift from God,” she said. “Really I look upon it and think it wasn’t me. It was a gift given to me,” she said of her Boston qualifying experience.

She will run Boston for the first time next month.

Melodie and her husband both work from home — she helps to manage rental properties and he works for Google. They both like to run, she said, although he’s a more casual runner. Her husband is very supportive of her running and Boston training.

Melodie’s workouts require dedication and juggling schedules. She often gets up early to run before her boys are up and before she has to work.

She’s been plagued by a nasty case of plantar fascitis and she’s had to see a podiatrist during her current marathon training. She’s also had to adjust to long runs in the colder weather and storms, which has been challenging.

It’s been tough, she said, but she’s not letting it stop her. She is excited to see how Boston goes and hopes to run well.

The motivation from the large Boston crowds, Melodie said, will probably be like one of her favorite Scriptures (Isaiah, 40:31): “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Through her participation in DM, Melodie, herself, helps and inspires others to “soar.” 

 “To be part of Team Daily Mile and to keep encouraging others through it,” she added, “It’s very cool to be part of that.”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 9; Denver to Boston miles logged: 1,358; 412 miles left to go.


Boston profile #11: Paying it forward — Michelle Somers

Lonnie and Michelle Somers, shown after finishing the Goofy Challenge in Disney World, in 2007.

A champion herself and a champion for others — that’s Michelle Somers, today’s Boston qualifier profile.

She and Lonnie, her husband, are both strong marathon runners (her PR is 3:24 and his is 3:15) but it’s what they’ve chosen to do with their talents that makes theirs a compelling story of triumph.

Not many woman can say they met their real-life Prince Charming at Disney World but Michelle can. She and Lonnie both worked there for one summer when they first started dating. They married a few years later.

Michelle said they both became more serious runners in 2000. “We wanted to get in better shape, just doing a few miles at first and it grew from there.”

She did her first marathon in January 2001 and then they started to do sprint triathlons. Running became a passion they shared.

A few more years passed and they came to the next phase in their married life — expecting their first baby.

In their case, it was double happiness — twin girls.

Then their dreams almost turned to tragedy.

Half way into the pregnancy, the Somers learned their babies were suffering from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) — a malformation of the placenta found only in identical twin pregnancies. Left untreated, the condition is almost always fatal for one or both babies.

In TTTS, one twin passes all its nutrients through shared blood vessels on the placenta to the other twin. The result is that the “donor” twin will stop growing and its amniotic sac will be much smaller while the “recipient” twin will get more nutrition than it can handle, causing pressure on the heart and organs.

The Somers did a lot of research and took a chance on an experimental treatment, fetal laser surgery, which they had done in Tampa, Florida. During the surgery a small laser was used to seal off the blood vessels between the fetuses and stop the transfer of nutrients between them.

Fourteen weeks after the surgery the Somers’ twin girls were both born healthy — a rarity with TTTS.

“We realized we were given a miracle and we are not the kind of people to sit back after something like that. We were super lucky and wanted to pay it forward,” Michelle explained.

That’s how she and Lonnie, who both have backgrounds in accounting and finance (he works in investment banking) first started the Race for Fetal Hope 5K  in Denver in 2004 (formerly the TTTS Race for Hope 5K) and Fetal Hope Foundation in 2006.

The race/fund-raiser also takes place in Charlotte, Jacksonville, and Seattle, and the Somers are growing it to more cities.

The foundation helps families not only with TTTS but other fetal distress syndromes. The Somers work with families across the country and in some cases, overseas, too. The foundation has no paid staff and operates through the help of volunteers.

The Somers also own and operate their own race-timing business, Hallucination Sports.

Michelle is a busy mom to their 7-year-old daughters, provides support to the foundation and works at their business each weekend.

She and Lonnie continue to train and run, even with the hectic life and schedule they keep. “We both make it a priority and work out our schedules together.” 

Michelle has qualified to run Boston more than once. She was even signed up to do it last year. She canceled after her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Michelle helped to care for her mother during the last year.

Michelle said she still hopes to run Boston in the future. She also wants to compete in an Ironman distance triathlon when her girls are older. 

“The foundation is very rewarding, to be able to talk to a family personally and get thanks from them. We are able to touch so many people through it. You can’t imagine how good it feels until you are there,” she said.

She is living from a place of no regrets, she said, and from a place of hope.


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 6; Denver to Boston miles logged: 1271; Miles left to go: 499.

Boston profile #10: Self-starter Kristy Skidmore

When it comes to balancing acts, gymnasts and tight-rope walkers have nothing on busy mom Kristy Skidmore, who lives in the Denver area.

Take my interview with her for this blog. She happened to be free when I called. “We better talk now because who knows when another time will come up,” she explained.

(Since the focus of this blog is “surviving marathons, motherhoods and midlife triumph,” I know what she means. We seized the moment.) 

Skidmore works in book keeping, has two children — a son, age 7, and a daughter, age 5, is married to a CPA, and runs a fall marathon each year.

She’s run 13 marathons total, including Boston, which she did in 2002. That was before marriage and children.

“Life happens and priorities do shift things,” she admitted.

Like many women, especially mothers, Skidmore has found that time managment and juggling comes with the turf.

“When I’m marathon training I will often hire a sitter to help my husband during the hours I’m gone. It just helps,” she said.

“Running is my time for me,” she said. “It’s my time to be alone and decompress; to not have responsibilities or errands to run and just be with myself.”

During tax season when her husband’s accounting work is at its busiest, for example it is almost impossible for her to train for a marathons. He also works part time as a ski instructor and they ski a lot, too.

Rather than fight it Skidmore makes the best of it. “I take the winter as some down time when my husband’s work is its busiest. I still work out but I just wait to train for a fall marathon instead when I can put the time in.”

Skidmore first qualified for Boston in 2001. She ran the Chicago Marathon with a time of 3 hours, 36 minutes, then ran Boston in 2002.

“Boston was a great experience,” she said. “The thing I didn’t expect was it’s a lot harder course than you think and no one tells you that, but I was in great shape and I ran well.”

Back then she was in her mid-30s and single.

‘It was different. I was able to train much harder, really get into sleeping right and eating right,” she said.

Skidmore, who grew up in the Midwest, had been a runner for fitness for many years. Gradually she began doing races once she got out of college. She moved to Denver in 1999. 

She ran her first marathon, Chicago, with her older sister in 1996. Her sister’s husband also happens to be the race director for the Chicaco Marathon.

After that she got hooked on running marathons, doing a couple each year until she got married and had her first child. That’s when she took a few years off.

The year her second child was born she returned to running them again.

That first marathon after her daughter was born was her toughest, she said, and she bonked.

It took time to adjust to being less rested after children and the changes to her body but she did it and got strong again.

For the last few years she’s run the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon each fall. The irony is, she’s come so close twice, literally within seconds of qualifying for Boston again.

Her finishing time for Denver two years in a row has been 3 hours, 51 minutes. To qualify for her age group, women 40-44, she needs to run in 3 hours, 50 minutes, 59 seconds.

I told her that she could possible still enter the race with that time and be accepted. A woman I met at the Portland Marathon in the same age group (which is mine, too) told me that the Boston Athletic Association allows an extra minute per year to your qualifying time the closer you get to the end of the age bracket. For example, a time of 3:53 minutes might be accepted for a 43-year-old woman.

I don’t know if it’s true or not and have never found any information on the B.A.A. site to confirm it.

Having come so close to re-qualifying might shake some people but not Skidmore. She’s determined to still do it. And Skidmore also admits she’s got a competitive side to her. “I do compete with myself, giving myself mini challenges.”

You make the most of where you are in life, she said, and she won’t let it stop her.

“Running is the perfect way for me to release and let go of worries,” she said. “And I see myself continuing to do marathons in the future.”

Her bucket list includes doing a marathon overseas, in Hawaii and maybe even the New York Marathon when her children are older and can enjoy the travel and experience, too.

“Boston is a common thread among runners. People are always trying to improve and qualify for Boston, and I definitely want to do it again,” she said. “It’s kind of cool and a common connection among runners. I think it will always a part of the conversation.”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 9: Denver to Boston miles logged: 1258; Miles left to go: 512.

Boston profile #9: Never too late — Ann Finley

For those of you who aspire to begin running but think you’re too old start, this profile is for you.

Boston qualifier Ann Finley, who turns 58 this year, didn’t take up running until she was in her mid-40s. 

“I always liked to go hiking and then one day a friend asked me to go trail running and I went,” she explained. “That’s what got me started.”

Finley is a petite, athletic woman, 5’4″ and 112 pounds, with short salt-and-pepper hair that she describes as “Meg Ryan wavy.”

Finley always kept in shape by swimming, bicycling and playing tennis with her family.

“I wasn’t looking to become a runner,” she said. “The trail running just became an extension of my life.”

Back when she started, she lived in Salt Lake City, was working full time as a nurse, and was raising children.

“I was lucky to live in a neighborhood back there we helped spot each other’s children and I had a great support system,” said Finley, a Minnesota native who went to nursing school in Utah and lived there afterwards.

“I was able to make it a priority and make time to do it,” she added.

Gradually she ran more and more.
“I’ve never been one to really go out and formally train. I would just go out and run the trails for a couple of hours at time, a couple of times a week,” she said.

She loved the solitude and strength she found in trail running.

“Mentally I love that quiet you get on the trails and going the distance,” Finley said. “I also like that physical feeling of having done something good for your body.”

Finley said she’s been lucky to be blessed with good genetics for running and being on the trails helps with aging. “I can tell and feel the difference when I’ve been on the roads a lot.”

Eventually she took to road racing and marathons. Just a few years ago she set her sights on some bigger races and that’s when she clocked some impressive times in her age group.

In 2009, for example, she ran the Salt Lake City Half Marathon. Her goal was to run a qualifying time there to get into the New York City Marathon. (One can qualify for the New York City Marathon by either running a competitive half marathon or full marathon time.)

Her time at the Salt Lake City Half Marathon, at age 55 was 1 hour 38 minutes.

Finley then ran the New York City Marathon in 2009 (medal shown above) in 3 hours 54 minutes. That’s where she qualified to run the Boston Marathon, which she will do this year, in just a few months.

Finley also has run the Pike’s Peak Marathon several times.

She and her husband recently moved to Estes Park, Colorado, where she continues to live and train. She’s training for the Boston Marathon with a group of new friends she met after she moved to Colorado. There are several people from that group who are running Boston and they plan to meet up and celebrate after the race.

“This is really the first time I’m formally training for a race, doing intervals each week, so we’ll see how that goes,” she said.

Her hope is to run Boston in 3 hours 45 minutes.

She recently left the nursing profession and her life is in transition. Her two daughters and two stepsons are grown. She said she and her husband are thoroughly enjoying “the winter wonderland Estes Park is.”

She’s recently taken up ice-skating, cross-country skis, and “enjoying my new found freedom.”

Finley said running the New York Marathon was a great experience and she’s looking forward to Boston.  

“I’m really lucky to be able to do this,” she said. Hitting her qualifying times, especially that fast half marathon at Salt Lake City “was a gift from somewhere.”

When Boston is over, she said she’ll head back to the trails where she hopes to keep going as long as she can, the rest of her life if possible.

If anyone can do that, chances are good she’ll be the one.


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Today is a rest day; Denver to Boston miles logged: 1,242.50; Miles left to go: 527.50

Boston profile #8: Sue Gallup — from ski racer to speed chaser

Powerful and billy-goat strong — that’s how Sue Gallup, 52, of Fort Collins, Colorado, is running these days.

That’s not too shabby considering Gallup only took up more mileage and marathoning about five years ago — starting in her mid-40s and into her 50s.

Above is a picture of Gallup crossing the finish line at the Big Sur International Marathon in 2009.

She completed Big Sur in 3:57 to qualify for Boston.

“I’m basically competitive with myself. I didn’t have it as a formal goal in my mind to qualify for Boston but I hoped for it,” Gallup admitted, “When I planned for Big Sur I thought about how to run it well, at a realistic pace, going up and down the hills, and it worked out. I was very happy.”

Big Sur, described as a “moderately difficult course” with a six-hour cutoff, according to its web site, was only her second marathon.

Her first was the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland — a breathtaking course in Alps that requires true billy-goat stamina.

Here’s a picture of runners from the Jungfrau race.

Gallup said she loves mountaineering and scenic courses. A native of Washington state she grew up competing in ski racing. She used to run for fitness as part of her dry-land training.

She’s lived in Colorado for several years, works for Hewlett-Packard as an engineer, and enjoys trail running and living in the Rocky Mountains.

“I used to run a couple of times a week for fitness, but I really got into more serious running about five and a half years ago,” she said. “My sister wanted to do the Nike Women’s Half Marathon (in San Francisco) and I wanted to do it, too, but I didn’t want to get injured so I hired a coach.”

Gallup trains with Kent Oglesby, the head track coach at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins and a himself seasoned national runner.

“He’s an awesome coach and so encouraging. He pushed me harder than I thought I could go and made me so much stronger,” she said.

Gallup planned to run the Boston Marathon in April 2010 but got side-lined by a case of plantar fascitis. She took three months off, but got her entry deferred. She will run the Boston Marathon instead this year.

“I’m really look forward to being there and being part of the tradition of the race,” she said. “I think it’s going to be fun.”

During her recovery time she cross-trained by rowing at a local reservoir. During the last several months she’s gradually returned to running.

“Dealing with the injury was a really humbling experience,” she explained.

Her goal is to finish Boston healthy. “I’m just thankful to be running again.”

She’s also planning to run the Steamboat Half Marathon in June.

As you get older you can succeed at staying fit, but it takes more vigilance, she said. You have to stretch more often, stay limber, listen to your body, get good sleep and eat better.

“When you are running well it feels so great and it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s a great way to keep in shape and a wonderful sport. It takes you places you would not normally go.”

Gallup said she’s also made many great friendships because of the sport.  “My hope is to be able to run the rest of my life. That would be really great and what it’s about for me.”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage yesterday: 7.5, mileage today: 6; Denver to Boston miles logged: 1,131.5; Miles left to go: 638.5.

Boston profile #7: Joanne Goodwin — The hometown runner

Boston profile #7: Joanne Goodwin — The hometown runner

The Boston Marathon — in the running world it’s a celebrated event that comes with much hoopla.

First off, there are standards. Runners must meet a qualifying time based on gender and age on a USATF-certified marathon course before they can sign up.

Then, there’s the race itself, which draws thousands of runners, from world-class, elite athletes, to the “every man” who’s achieved a BQ. 

Thousands of spectators line the streets from Hopkinton to Boston to cheer them all on like rock stars, and it is the oldest marathon race in the country.

Those are the common notions about the Boston Marathon.

When you grow up with “the marathon” as part of your hometown, like Joanne Goodwin, originally from Brookline, Mass., you get a whole different perspective on those 26.2 miles of coveted terrain. 

“When I was growing up and going out to watch it with my family it was just ‘the marathon’ to us,” Goodwin explained. “It was a holiday (Patriots’ Day) and we got the day off and looked forward to it, but it wasn’t until I was older and moved away that I realized what it meant to the outside world and amongst runners.”

Goodwin’s view also reflects how the Boston Marathon itself has matured over time. It began as a local foot race held on Patriots’ Day (now the third Monday of April) in New England more than a century ago. 

The Boston Marathon’s popularity and fame exploded over the last few decades, reflecting the larger running boom that started in the 1980s and the incarnations since then. 

Although the route hasn’t changed too much in its 115-year history, other aspects have such as women being allowed officially into the race (1972), the current qualifying time standards and the race’s field size (about 25,000). 

Goodwin has lived in Washington, D.C., for the last 15 years and works for the city’s department of environment.

When she was a Brookline native she often watched the race each year at about mile 20 (where the course passes through the town of Newton), near the infamous Heartbreak Hill.
The course also goes through Brookline at about mile 23.

“Heartbreak Hill doesn’t seem like much (of a hill) in an everyday context,” she explained, “but I got a whole new appreciation of it when I ran Boston myself. You realize it’s a big deal, considering where the runners come upon it during the race.”

Goodwin is a competitive rower. She participated in track in high school, but otherwise only ran for fitness until about 10 years ago when she found a local running group near her home and made many friends. That’s how Goodwin got started in training for longer races and eventually a marathon.

Before 2003 she had never run longer than 10 miles. Goodwin said she remembered feeling beat up just doing that much, but with the group’s help on the longer run she kept going.

The first marathon she was supposed to do got canceled. Since she was already well trained Goodwin signed up for another race, the Jersey Shores Marathon, which was six weeks later.

Then she did something may people hope for and dream of but even fewer achieve: She ran the Jersey Shores race, her first marathon, in 3:43 and qualified for Boston.

Goodwin credits her strength to her years of rowing and weight lifting, which she still does regularly.

She ran her first Boston Marathon in 2004.

Since then Goodwin has qualified for Boston two more times, but in different age groups. In 2004, she was in the women’s 35-39 age group. She ran Boston a second time in 2008 after she qualified in the women’s 40-44 age group.

In 2011, Goodwin, age 45, will run Boston a third time after qualifying in the women’s 45-49 age group. 

She’s run several marathons, including the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, New Orleans and Philadelphia.

Goodwin said the most exciting part of qualifying for Boston for her has been coming home to run “the marathon” with her family and friends there to support her.

Rowing is her first passion, she admitted, but running is also a part of her life.

“There is something about that feeling of accomplishment and it’s such an energy release when I’ve had a bad day,” she said.

Goodwin said she was always inspired by the runners she saw at the Boston Marathon.

Now she’s among them.

“I’m really glad I got to go home and run it, too. That’s been very special.”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go!

Mileage today: 6.3; Denver to Boston miles logged: 1015.5; Miles left to go: 754.5

Profile #6: Hitting full stride with Roxane Geisler

Roxane Geisler, second from the left in red jersey, pictured with members of the Highlands Ranch Running Club, a group she coaches and helped to start. HRRC’s women’s and men’s teams won the relays at the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon 2010.

Roxane Geisler at the Evergreen Town Race 5K, August 1, 2010.

Profile #6: Roxane Geisler

Roxane Geisler couldn’t be more in the trenches of a full life then where she is now.

The mother of four boys, ages 15, 11, 6 and,2, she’s up daily from son up to son down.

If it’s possible to diaper, and help with math homework, and run a household, and work, and run, she’s done it, although obviously not at the exact same time.
One day last summer I ran into Roxane at one of our local pools. She bicycled there with one of her older sons and pulled her youngest son in an attached carrier. They were there for swim lessons for the older child.

Even earlier that morning I saw her at the track. She zipped around in a flash as we did intervals with the “Quick Chicks,” a women’s group we both run speed workouts with year-round.

Later that day she met up with the Highlands Ranch Running Club , a group she started a few years ago in our community, for another helping of track.

No wonder she clocked a 3:38 at the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins last May. Roxane’s life is a full-stride sprint, which she loves to do. (Check out the great picture of her above.)

Roxane, who’s a music teacher and whose husband writes arrangements for a publishing company, seems to draws stamina from her busy load. 

“I started running for stress relief and to enjoy creation. It brings me closer to my faith in God and I love being out on the beautiful trails in Colorado. I don’t know what I would do without it,” she explained.
A native of northern Colorado, Roxane joined her high-school cross-country team after a friend asked to do it with her. She’d never participated in sports before then and struggled to complete the distances at first.

Eventually she grew stronger and by senior year became captain of the team.

In college at the University of Northern Colorado she met Doug Bell, owner of a local running store in Greeley. Bell encouraged her to join a group he organized. She began to run 5Ks and 10Ks regularly and participated in the Colorado Relay, a 100-mile race.

It solidified her love of running. 

Roxane also met Dan, her husband, while at UNC. They both got their master’s degrees in music from the University of Miami. She ran her first marathon (3:43) in Miami, before they had children. She did it with minimal training, following a Galloway plan.

Today Doug Bell remains a friend and mentor to her. A few years ago when she was asked to help form a new running community in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, where she lives, Roxane drew upon her experience from being in his group.

At first it was often just Roxane and her husband and a few other participants at the group’s weekly runs.

Today HRRC draws around 30 people and “feels like family,” she said. 

Roxane organizes the group with another local coach and friend, Phillip Buckley. They recently ran a men’s and women’s relay team in the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon and both teams won their divisions.

The success of HRRC seems to reflect Roxane’s own full life, heart and spirit. A 5K racer with a 19:03 PR, Roxane always has positive, encouraging words for others at the track or at local races.   

Running 5Ks and 10Ks are her favorites, she admitted, but she hoped to run strong at the Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins, too. She wanted to run that particular race because the area brings back good memories of her parents and childhood.

She managed a great finishing time, although she said she felt exhausted and dehydrated by mile 18 and was having tunnel vision.

Luckily HRRC friends came to her aid and ran with her. “I don’t think there is anything like a ‘comfortable’ marathon,” she joked.

She will not run Boston in 2011 given the craziness of the entries this year, but might try again to qualify and run it in the future.

Her focus remains on HRRC and growing that community even more.

“It’s exciting to see all the connections and the ways it’s helped people here,” she said. “Running is so much a bigger part of my life now and it’s miraculous. I am so grateful for it.”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage today: 6; Denver to Boston miles logged: 839.5; Miles left to go: 930.5.

Boston profile #5: Mastering heart and sole — Pamela Monaghan-Geernaert

Writer’s note: This profile is’s 50th post and it’s also about my dear friend Pamela Monaghan-Geernaert. Without Pamela’s encouragement I might not have run a BQ, and this blog may never have existed so she’s sort of like’s fairy blogmother.

The following is her story.


Pamela Monaghan-Geernaert is like the bionic woman of goal-setting. Few things keep her down and she’s always reaching higher, faster, stronger. 

Pamela is quite inspiring and doesn’t see herself that way. 

“I’m just very dogged when I do something,” she said, but her accomplishments speak for themselves: 

  • Pamela holds a Ph.D in medical sociology of gerontology from Case Western University and is married to another Ph.D. who is an expert in his field.
  • She’s a certified personal trainer and aerobics instructor.
  • She ran the Boston Marathon in 2009 and will do it again in 2011 (with yours truly). 
  • Her marathon PR is a 3:28, which she set at the California International Marathon in 2009 on her birthday. (She ran 42 kilometers on her 42nd birthday.)
  • She’s a dedicated mother. 
  • She scrapbooks, knits, makes and sends out her own Christmas cards each year. She attends PTA meetings and volunteers at her daughter’s school.

Pamela’s family recently moved from Santa Fe to Washington, D.C., and her latest project is their 100-year-old house, which needs some TLC. If anyone can make it sparkle again it will be Pamela.

After all, “lively” is her middle name. That is not an exaggeration. It’s a direct translation as her the middle name is “Gay.”

“My parents gave me the middle name Gay because they said I was such a happy baby,” she told me.

The first definition of “gay” in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary isn’t the slang term for homosexual but rather a state of being “keenly alive and exuberant.”

That suits Pamela. She is equal parts exuberant and focused when you meet her.

People who master a skill make it look easy when in fact mastery often takes years of hard work. That also is part of Pamela’s story.

The youngest of four daughters, Pamela grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She dedicated years to her education, which she paid for herself and she became the first in her family to complete a Ph.D.

During her years as a starving student she became an aerobics instructor to help make money. She ran, too, just for fitness.

She didn’t think of herself back then as a runner and she also had a horrible experience as a teen in high-school cross country.  

During her sophomore year a girl from an opposing high school team pushed her down while they were running in the middle of a race.

Stunned and confused, Pamela hesitated before she got up. Her coach came over and yelled at her for not getting up sooner. Traumatized by what happened Pamela quit cross country.

“I never understood what happened. I was a middle-of-the-pack runner, not someone who was going to win, and I thought the girl who did it was my friend,” she explained.

Years later, she took up running again for fitness. Then a friend asked Pamela to do a marathon with her. Pamela’s father had died earlier that year. This time she found camaraderie, not competition, in a friend.

The marathon took place on the first anniversary of her father’s death. Pamela’s mother met her at the 20-mile mark and at the end. It was moving experience for them both.

“After training for that marathon it was the first time I saw myself as a runner,” she said.

From that point forward running became a focal point in her life along side the other milestones.

She celebrated her bacholerette party by running a half marathon in Las Vegas. She ran with her maid of honor the morning of her wedding. She ran a slow race a few days before her daughter was born. She ran with her daughter in a jogger until “she was clamoring to get out,” Pamela joked.

She also ran a few more marathons in hopes of qualifying for Boston. Each time she set her expectations high she fell a little short.

Finally in 2008 she trained for the New Mexico Marathon “on the fly,” no attachment to the outcome, and she qualified. It was liberating and exciting.

She ran several marathons after that, including Boston, and got stronger and faster. Then she set her PR in 2009, the day of her birthday, surrounded by friends, love and support — miles and worlds away from that hurtful experience as a teenager.

“Yes, I’m glad I’ve met my goals, but what I really enjoy is running with people and especially with my friends and being able to chat and connect,” she said. 

The bonding experiences are what she cherishes, Pamela stressed, and that’s where her goals and heart are today.

“I picture myself still running as I get older, but what I really hope for is to continue to do it with friends (like we did at my birthday); doing girls’ weekends where we get away and meet up somewhere once a year,” she said. “Running is a part of my life now and I love it.”


Aging is inevitable, but growing old is a choice. Lace up your shoes, and let’s go.

Mileage yesterday: 5 and today: 5; Denver to Boston miles logged: 795; Miles left to go: 975.