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Volume xviii, Issue 15 ~ Apri 15 to April 21, 2010

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Running in a Pack of 25,000

First-time marathon runner Jennifer Quinlan heads to Boston for Saturday’s big race

by Katie Dodd

Five years ago, Annapolitan Jennifer Quinlan vowed she’d run the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon. She read books on America’s oldest annual marathon, researching what it’s like and how to train for a race of such size and esteem.

This is her year.

“Nothing in my life lends itself to marathon training,” says Quinlan, who is the mother of two young boys and commutes 30 miles from her home in downtown Annapolis to Columbia five days a week for her job at a marketing agency. “But I’m very goal-oriented. I decided this is the year.”

For the last five months, much of Quinlan’s free time has been consumed by running. Training — at least four runs a week — requires dedication to fit into her already hectic schedule.

“I knew this would be challenging for me not only physically, but also mentally,” says Quinlan.

She has never run an organized race of any distance. Quinlan started running 10 years ago to get in shape. But before beginning her marathon training last November, she hadn’t run more than six miles. That’s nothing compared to the three-and-a-half hour, 20-mile stretch Quinlan ran on a recent Saturday morning.

“People think I’m insane,” Quinlan says. “They ask me how I’m running the Boston Marathon without ever running a marathon before, or having to qualify for it.”

One answer is easy. Quinlan bought her way in.

“The Boston Marathon is the hardest race to get into. People want to run it but can’t qualify, so they look for charity teams,” explains Mimi Golub of the American Liver Foundation.

Quinlan will run as one of 248 people on the Foundation’s Run For Research team. The charity requires each runner to raise $3,250. Quinlan has raised $4,000 and hopes to reach $5,000 by race time.

American Liver Foundation is the oldest and second largest charity to run the race. It has fielded a team in the race since 1988. The original team formed to raise money for the then-Boston Bruins Coach Terry O’Reilly’s son, born with liver disease.

Quinlan, who lost her grandfather to liver cancer, learned about the American Liver Foundation’s team from a friend who’s been running on it for eight years.

Quinlan also has ties to Boston, where she earned a journalism degree from Northeastern University in 1992.

“I have a huge passion for the city,” Quinlan says of Boston. “Patriots Day [marathon day] is a huge deal. The city comes alive. I have great memories of watching the race, and now I get to take part in it.”

More difficult than raising thousands of dollars has been getting in shape to run the marathon. Quad tendinitis flared up on a 16-mile run over Valentine’s Day.

After the injury, Quinlan says, “My physical therapist, my massage therapist told me I couldn’t do it. I had to say, I’m doing this. You’re going to have to figure out a way to make it work.”

Determination — and three sessions of physical therapy each week — have brought Quinlan to where she is today, running on average a nine-minute-30-second mile.

Quinlan’s training has been happy, if not pain-free.

“I enjoy the time to think, to free myself of all the stress of the day,” she says. “I have a sense of accomplishment once I’m done. I now understand how people get addicted to running marathons.”

As race day looms, Quinlan knows this Marathon Monday will be unlike any she has experienced.

“I imagine running into town, seeing all the familiar sites,” Quinlan says.

This April 19, she runs alongside 25,000 other marathoners, cheered on by one million spectators.

Boston College graduate Katie Dodd first appeared in Bay Weekly’s pages as a high-schooler with Farewell to Market House. After a year’s internship in London, she is job hunting while becoming a Bay Weekly regular.

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