A few weeks ago, I had the chance to hop on the phone with 2014 Boston Finisher Maureen Kiesewetter. Not only did we jam about what it’s like to run that particular race, but she shared some of the wisdom she’s gleaned after 6 marathons and a 20 year on-again-off-again love affair with the sport. Here is her story.
In the spring of 1994, Maureen began her running journey like so many of us do… jogging driveway to driveway, light pole to light pole and city block to city block. Within a few a months’ time, she was up to 5 – 6 miles consistently; within a year she crossed the finish line of her first marathon in Chicago. (5:01)
After Chicago, she grew more serious about the sport. She joined one training group. Then added another. Culling helpful insights and know-how from other road veterans, she headed to Chicago one year later hoping to improve her time. She shaved a mind-blowing one hour and six minutes. (3:55)
She loved the marathon distance so much that she ran her third 26.2 in the spring of 1997 — Lake Geneva on her 30th birthday. (4:24)
With 3 marathons in fewer than 3 years, you can’t help but wonder, “What will she do next?”
Turns out… she took a 16 year hiatus from all things marathon.
When I asked why she STOPPED chasing 26.2 she explained,
“Basically, I let life get in the way. Things happen. Jobs, new missions, goals… my fitness took a back seat. Then I got married and had my daughter. My miles dwindled over time, and there was probably about 5-6 years during which I did not run, but walked.”
That said, Maureen never let her inner identity as a runner lapse. “Even though I let life get in the way for a while, THAT is the power of the marathon. Once you’ve done it, your life is forever changed for the better. You can’t ever go back.” She adds, “If there is anything redeeming about my 16 year break it’s the fact that you CAN come back.”
Fast forward to 2010 and she’s ready to reclaim her inner athlete. So again she finds herself running to the end of the block and then walking… running to the end of the block and then walking. Within a few months, she was back to 5-6 miles consistently. In December 2012, she got up the courage to start training for Marathon No. 4… and crossed that finish line in May of 2013 in Peoria, Illinois. (4:58)
“Crossing the finish line was amazing,” she shared. “It’s so easy to compare yourself to who you use to be. For me, it’s all about finding the success in each race. And that day, there were plenty of things to celebrate.”
That race lit a fire in her belly. That’s also when she decided to try and qualify for Boston.
“My Great-Great Uncle James Duffy won the Boston Marathon in 1914 so running that race has been in the back of my mind for 20 years. Knowing 2014 was the 100 year anniversary of his victory, I threw myself into the hardest 5 months of training I’d ever signed on for and qualified in Chicago last year by less than 3 minutes.” (3:52:07)
Post-race, (unsure if she made her qualifying time), she began walking across the street to a ballroom reserved for Mercy House runners. “My dad caught me in the hall and said, “Hey you, stop right there!” He hugged me and said, “I can’t tell you how proud I am of what you just did.” That’s when I started bawling like a toddler.”
But just because Maureen qualified [for Boston] didn’t mean she’d be allowed to run.
“Chicago misses the BQ cutoff date,” she explained. “So I wrote to the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) asking them if I could run. I shared WHY this race was so important to me – and the history that’s there with my Great-Great Uncle. In mid-November, the BAA sent me an invitational entry. I was in.”
When I asked about her Boston experience here’s what she shared…
“The course is a real different animal; it’s kind of like running a 300 year old wonky roller coaster track. The course literally rocks – even if you try to run down the middle of the road there is still camber. The race starts downhill and then there are 4 hills between miles 16 and 20. When you start running downhill again, you realize your quads took a beating, that gravity is pulling you forward and there is nothing you can do. This is the most meaningful race I’ve ever run… but it also ranked No. 1 in all kinds of suffering.
My entire experience in Boston was a joyful thrill and one of unabashed fulfillment. It was also one of suspended disbelief. Returning as a runner to this race which had become so important, not just to me, but to America, to reclaim the streets and the event, took on the tone of a solemn mission. At times it felt like a heavy task, but I wasn’t alone, and didn’t run it just for myself. That lightened the load considerably.
I was recently asked a question that had a lot of significance regarding my own running: “What’s the No. 1 thing you wish someone would have told you BEFORE you started running?” and I replied that I wish I had known that meeting a goal isn’t the end of the story, that there is a “Beyond” to each goal achieved. I wish someone would have told me, in the words of George Sheehan, that “building and maintaining fitness is not like saving money in a bank to be withdrawn at a later date, that fitness must be earned every day.”
Looking back on 1995, I would have aligned priorities to change with that fitness model a little better. For example, when I met a monster goal, I wouldn’t just revel in it for a while and then let life get in the way, forming a default mode of slackerdom. I would have shaped up the work-life balance, let family and friends take precedence when necessary, and set new moderate fitness goals as a bridge to the next big feat. I wouldn’t let the “all or nothing” demon take over my mind set.
So my new “Beyond”, and Chicago 2014 looms.”
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Maureen — it’s been an honor to be your sister in sole for the last 18 months. Not only are your accomplishments on the road HEROIC, but your kindness, honesty and love of others knows no bounds. May your “Beyond” be everything you want it to be and more. Onward! xo
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If you’re on the fence about chasing a “OMG! I can’t believe I did that!” life-changing goal this year, consider joining my Inner Circle of Sole. Not only will you have all the love, support and encouragement you need to ROCK your finish line, but I promise, you’ll never see your life through the same lens again.