Marathon Sports, at 671 Boylston St., and its employees have a long and entangled history with the Boston Marathon. With the finish line located right outside the door, the running specialty store has been a hub of celebration on Marathon Monday since it opened in 2001, and was at the front line of the bombings in 2013.
This year during the 119th Boston Marathon, five Marathon Sports employees will be running. Two of them are Emerson students.
Morgan Kennedy, a junior communication studies major and an assistant manager at Marathon Sports, said she grew up watching her dad run in the Boston Marathon, but didn’t start running regularly herself until her senior year in high school. She will be running the Boston Marathon for her second time this year, her third marathon overall.
In 2013, she and her father ran the annual half marathon organized by the Boston Athletic Association.
“After that, I knew I wanted to run a full,” said Kennedy. “My dad told me that Boston 2014 would be his last marathon, which I’ve since learned was a big lie, so I decided to train [while I was] abroad and run Boston with him right after coming home from my semester at the castle.”
Kennedy, 21, said that although the 2014 race didn’t go exactly as she had hoped, it was an important learning experience.
“It was really hot that day, and I had a lot of trouble with dehydration in the second half of the race,” she said. “But I finished, which is really all I could ask for from my first marathon.”
For Cristina Ashbaugh, a freshman political communication major and part-time employee at Marathon Sports, this year’s marathon will be her first. Ashbaugh, 18, said her cross country coach at Emerson was the one who motivated her to consider running in the race.
“[My coach] asked if I had ever considered the marathon, but I didn’t think I would be able to qualify,” said Ashbaugh.
The marathon qualifications for individual runners are strict, with runners between the ages of 18 and 32 required to have a recorded time of 3 hours and 35 minutes in a previous marathon within the past year. The requirement is waived when running for a charity team, so those spots can be more difficult to acquire.
Ashbaugh said the furthest she had run before beginning training was 13.1 miles, during the two half marathons she participated in last summer. When her cross country coach, John Furey, offered her a spot in his marathon training program, Furey 26.2, she jumped at the chance.
Running for a cause
Furey 26.2 helps train runners for charity programs, including Tedy’s Team, a group raising money for the American Stroke Association. Ashbaugh will be running on the Brigham and Women’s Hospital team along with 70 others.
Ashbaugh said that since beginning training with Furey 26.2 in December, she has clocked about nine hours of running every week, along with hill workouts, since the Boston Marathon course is known for its inclines. The race begins in Hopkinton, with the first mile being the steepest downhill of the course, and moves through the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Natick, and Wellesley, before reaching the infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 21 in Newton. Heartbreak Hill—the last of seven hills in between miles 16 and 21, according to Boston.com—is known for being a make-or-break section for many runners.
“[Furey] gives a training plan, and every Saturday we meet at Kenmore Square at 7 a.m.,” said Ashbaugh. “We started with 6 miles and would go up 2 miles every other week. During the week, I ran 3 to 6 miles whenever I didn’t have class, and I rest on Fridays and Sundays.”
The Boston Athletic Association requires runners for officially-recognized charity teams to raise a minimum of $5,000, and to be considered more highly for a spot on the Brigham and Women’s group, Ashbaugh committed to raising $8,000. As of April 15, with donations from family and friends on her online fundraising page, she has a total of $5,165.
Similarly, Kennedy will be running this year for Back on My Feet, a nonprofit organization that aims to use running as a way to empower people experiencing homelessness, according to its website. Kennedy, who runs with a group at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans three days a week, said she used this volunteer time as extra preparation for the marathon. She has raised $1,000 so far, also through donations from family and friends.
“My typical training schedule involves three low-to mid-distance runs during the week, one or two yoga classes a week, and a long run on the weekends that ultimately builds up to 20 or 21 miles,” said Kennedy. “A lot of my training during this cycle has been logged during my runs with Back on My Feet.”
Marking a milestone
Last Saturday, Ashbaugh and the runners of Furey 26.2, ran 21 miles, the longest and final distance of their training before this year’s race on Monday, April 20. Since that workout, though, Ashbaugh said she has had shooting hip and knee pain and was put on crutches by Emerson trainers. With an original goal to run the marathon in four hours, Ashbaugh said with her injury, she is now just focused on finishing.
“Being on crutches has been really distracting,” said Ashbaugh. “I am still excited but just nervous now for how much it will hurt. I just want to run and finish and enjoy my experience.”
Even with the pain and hard work, Ashbaugh said the training itself has been her biggest running accomplishment.
“Twenty-one miles was my longest run, and I would never have done something like that voluntarily,” she said. “Getting through my first winter, Boston’s worst winter, and still getting up to train made me prove myself.”
Kennedy also said her objective with any marathon is just to finish and have fun.
“I would love to be able to finish under four hours for the first time, but I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t,” said Kennedy. “It would be a huge personal record since my fastest marathon time is 4:31 at the New York City Marathon, but it’s been a tough winter, so I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself.”
Much more than just a marathon
Kennedy said that since she grew up watching her dad race, the Boston Marathon represents community and family to her.
“I never imagined I would be able to run it too, so I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to do it a second time,” said Kennedy. “You can really see and feel the pride that the runners, volunteers, and spectators have for the city on the day of the marathon. I think it’s the best representation you can get of the city of Boston.”
Ashbaugh said she is overwhelmed by the encouragement she has received from her friends in Boston and her family, who plan to track her on the Boston Marathon app from their home in San Francisco.
“I am so grateful to even have the opportunity to run in an event that has become so important,” said Ashbaugh. “People drop everything for this. The marathon means so much to the whole city.”
Marathon Sports on Boylston will be open its usual hours this Monday for the 119th Boston Marathon, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., but Kennedy and Ashbaugh, along with three other employees, will be on the course.
“Running a marathon is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, things I have ever done,” said Kennedy. “It hurts you physically, mentally, and emotionally, but all of the training and the sore muscles and exhaustion are nothing compared to the feeling of crossing the finish line.”