April 21, 2013

Running: Let marathoners' good deeds put hatemongers on the run

By John Rolfe

The barbaric attacks at the 2013 Boston Marathon cannot stain or destroy the good that the event produced. Here is one heartening local example, out of Cumberland Center. Running as a "SoleMate" to benefit Girls on the Run-Maine, Jen Humphreys Rohde raised $5,135 for the organization, of which she is the executive director.

Rohde also ran a personal best of 3:24:09 on a day when heroism took other forms and made athletic achievement irrelevant. For a brief time, she was able to celebrate with her family. Husband, John, and kids -- Chas, 9; Seamus, 7; Xiomara, 7; and Nell, 5 -- had waited patiently for hours near the finish line, "basically across the street from where the second bomb went off," on Boylston Street. Rohde, who hadn't run Boston since 2002 (3:26:01) didn't feel her best but in the joy of finishing, thanked every volunteer and policeman she encountered.

The family had returned to the hotel room on the 11th floor of the Westin Copley Place when booms sounded, followed instantly by sirens. The older kids were drawn to the windows; the parents, not surprised by sirens sounding in the city, were unconcerned until the kids mentioned the great number of ambulances, and the truth of the situation emerged. Thankfully the damage was not visible from the Westin.

The family hurried back to Maine on Tuesday, and after a tough couple of days Rohde was able on Thursday to say that the sense of shock had diminished and that "each day was a bit more manageable."

So talking about the race was OK. Rohde, who has Road Runners Club of America coaching certification, had qualified for Boston with a 3:28:34 in the Sugarloaf Marathon last May. She's put up PRs of 18:47 for 5K and 1:32:01 for the half-marathon in the past couple of years.

This season she coached herself through her Boston training. She now doubts the wisdom of this approach, but her preparation does sound pretty thorough. It included longest runs of 26 and 28 miles, plenty of the hills in which Cumberland roads abound, a 10-mile tempo run at 7:17 pace and a 75-mile peak week. And no injuries.

If there was a hole in the regimen, it may have been no actual racing during those training months. But that omission may not have mattered. As any marathoner can tell you, it's a long 42K home when at Mile 1 you already know you're physically sub-par, and that was the case with Rohde. She had had health issues the previous week and was feeling well under 100 percent at the starting line in Hopkinton on Monday morning.

The 3:12 goal for which she was aiming was out of reach, but Rohde ran an impressive race all the same. She clicked off pretty even 5K splits and hit the half in 1:39:17, meaning she didn't give back much in the second half, and ran a 7:48 pace overall. A high point of the race was seeing a strong contingent of GOTR and Maine Coffee Roasters/Maine Track Club volunteers at the Mile 14 waterstop. Rohde was finisher 6,872 overall, 1,210 among the women and 128th in her 40-44 age group.

As a demonstration of toughness and perseverance for GOTR participants -- girls in grades 3-5, and 6-8, who undertake 10-week programs culminating in a non-competitive 5K -- that performance should serve admirably. "Our mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident," notes the program's Web site (http://girlsontherunmaine.org).

Rohde became involved with GOTR through a former Mount Desert Island High classmate (and cross country standout) Jeanne Higgins, who now lives in Seattle. When the two connected on Facebook a couple of years ago, Rohde learned of Higgins' involvment with GOTR -- she co-founded the Puget Sound program in 2002 -- and that Maine was one of three states that didn't have a council. Now the program is booming. There were 36 runners last fall. There are 180 this spring.

As she did at the Boston finish, Rohde can't offer enough thanks -- to her husband for his training-period support and "taking on the lion's share of family duties"; to those who volunteer and who donated to her GOTR effort; and to early program supporters such as Maine Running Company owner John Rogers and MRC General Manager Maggie Poisson, who's now on the GOTR board.

"Grateful" is a word Rohde uses often even as she reflects on Monday's atrocity.

"To me, perhaps what's most horrific is that Boston is an occasion when the best of humanity comes together. People who aren't runners, but they come out year after year, giving their time to cheer and to support. It's a gift to be in that environment, and as someone commented on Facebook, running is the only sport that people only cheer, not boo.

"It sounds strange but I'm grateful to have been in Boston. I feel the strength of the community of runners, and I feel personally that much closer to it. I hope I'm fortunate enough to be there for Boston 2014 because it will be an amazing event."

John Rolfe of Portland is a road runner. He can be reached at 791-6429 or at:

jrolfe@pressherald.com

 

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