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RANGELY I When Colorado Northwestern Community College anatomy and nutrition instructor Sarah Ward ran her third marathon last May and won the women’s division, she knew her time had qualified her for the Boston Marathon.
She just wasn’t sure she would get to register before all of the slots filled. Beginning in 2011, a new rolling registration allowed faster runners to sign up earlier. That meant that even though many racers met this year’s new, tougher qualifying standards—a full five minutes faster than the old ones—some people registering later in the two-week sign-up period simply didn’t get in.
In mid-September, just before she was scheduled to teach a math class, Ward got on her office computer and tried to sign up. After a few tense minutes, Ward learned that her registration had been accepted. She was in.
“I was excited and kind of relieved,” Ward said. “It felt like a lot of work to get to that point, so I was glad to get a chance to give it a try.”
Now Ward is preparing for the famous marathon, held each year on the third Monday in April. This year it’s April 15, and chances are good Ward’s tax return will be the farthest thing from her mind.
She and her husband, CNCC biology instructor and arts and sciences department chair Todd Ward, will leave for Boston on Saturday, April 13. They’ve never been to the city before, though already they’re getting tips from friends who have been.
“We’ll do a little exploring and pick up my race stuff,” Ward said. “Go out for a good dinner, I hope.”
Ward is gearing up for this race much as she has for past marathons. She puts in one progressively longer run, along with a few maintenance runs, each week. The long run, now up to 17 miles, will stretch to 20 miles by mid-March.
Though Ward generally prefers to run outside—as those who drive early to work via Dragon Road can attest—cold temperatures and slippery terrain have kept her on the recreation center’s treadmill for some weeks.
“The weather has been a bit of a concern,” Ward said. “I’ve never run inside like this before. I’m a little concerned about how that will translate into being on the roads again.”
But if Punxsutawney Phil is right, an early spring may have Ward back on the roads before long. Her preparation now is both physical and mental, as Ward begins envisioning the all-asphalt course winding through villages and woods before culminating in the heart of Boston.
However the marathon plays out in April, Ward is looking forward to the experience of it all.
“The biggest marathon I was part of had 1,000 runners. This one has 27,000. So it’s a little bigger,” Ward said, laughing. “No matter how it goes, it’s an amazing event I’m excited to be part of. All of us runners will be in this together, so I’m really anticipating a spirit of camaraderie out on the course.”