(Nov. 12, 2021) Berlin resident Karen Cathell fulfilled a lifelong dream when she competed in the Boston Marathon for the first time on Oct. 11.

“Since the fall of 2017 I was chasing my dream to qualify,” Cathell said. “The crowd support was the most I’ve ever experienced in any of my races. All 26.2 miles were lined with spectators cheering, screaming, hooting and hollering. The town shuts down, businesses aren’t open along the course.”

Just over 15,000 runners participated in the Boston race, she said.

“A smaller field size was held this year due to covid restrictions (typically 30,000 run), which then made for a harder/faster qualifying time needed to be accepted,” the 40-year-old said. “Just because you run a qualifying time does not mean you will be accepted. From that pool of those who registered, the fastest are accepted. This year you needed to run your qualifying time, plus 7 minutes 47 seconds faster.”

November 2019 Cathell ran the Philadelphia Marathon to qualify for Boston in a time of 3:31:08. For women 40-44 years old, runners needed 3 hours 40 minutes or faster to qualify.

Her training period for Boston was an 18-week plan, averaging 40-50 miles a week, which included running five days a week during the heat and humidity this summer.

“Boston was my 26th marathon, in 11 different states (12th if you count DC),” she said. “I ran my first marathon in October 2014 in St. George, Utah. This was my dad’s last marathon of his running career, and my first marathon.”

Cathell’s two siblings, David and Robert Stevenson, also qualified and ran in the Boston race.

“Rob ran the entire race with me. This was much appreciated company. David is faster than us, so he ran ahead,” she said.

The temperature was warmer than ideal marathon weather, she added, and many people cramped up after mile 18.

“I ran another Boston Qualifying (BQ) time of 3:34:26. I was very pleased with my time. I ran evenly-paced splits,” she said. “The first half is mostly down hill, which is very tough on the legs, second half of the course is hilly. The course is considered a challenging marathon with four hills in the second half. One at mile 20.5 [is] famously known as ‘Heartbreak Hill.’”

This recent trip to Boston was a family affair, Cathell said. She was joined by her husband, James; two daughters, Mackenzie and Brooke; her two brothers, and their parents, Janice and Joseph Stevenson; and Rob’s wife, Megan.

“Nine of us celebrated this historical moment,” Cathell said.

“My dad ran the 100th anniversary Boston in 1996. He’s inspired me through the years to run marathons, and set a goal to run one in every state. One of the greatest memories I’ll hold close to my heart is getting the family photo of my dad, myself and both brothers standing on the finish line in Boston,” Cathell said. “My mom is, of course, our greatest cheerleader and supporter.”

The 2022 Boston Marathon is a strong possibility for Cathell.

“Boston had always been held in April on Patriots’ Day. This year’s 125th anniversary race was the only time it was ran in October,” Cathell said. “Next year’s 2022 race will return to Patriots’ Day. Stay tuned … you may just see me there in April.”

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