Mary Higgins—sorry—Dr. Mary Higgins is a researcher, adjunct professor and university supervisor for the University of Colorado, in Colorado Springs.
She is also a 2:55:35 marathoner.
(She ran that at CIM last December and broke three hours for the first time.)
During this Boston buildup, she’s been running between 60 and 70 miles a week, her longest run being two and a half hours.
This will be her fourth time running Boston and her 8th-ish marathon.
The “-ish” is for the marathon she ran with her sister, Carolyn. It went from a request for Mary to run part of the marathon with Carolyn, to just one more mile, to Mary running the entire marathon with her and it taking them something over four hours.
Mary’s biggest training obstacle this season is actually the food poisoning she went to the ER with last Sunday.
“The weird thing is, that morning I ran an hour and a half. I felt perfectly fine. It was literally up until ten minutes before I got sick—[when] I started to feel a little dizzy and faint—and I was like eh, I’ll eat my granola, I just need something to pep me up before dinner.
And, noooo. I did not make dinner, I did not make my presentation, I didn’t make anything,” Mary said.
(She was at a conference in Toronto, Canada. Get travel insurance, Mary insists. )
The ER doctor told her she had food poisoning with severe dehydration.
Mary said they say if you throw up 14 times, it’s really bad (especially because of the dehydration that follows). She estimates she did ten reps of multiple throwing-ups and so she had probably thrown up 30-ish times.
“It was really bad,” she said.
But she also said, “It was hilarious though. I called the manager [she called the front desk of her hotel and a manager came to her room], and he was like, ‘Ma’am, I think you need medical attention,’ and I was like, ‘NO. I’m fine! Just check on me in an hour!’ And like…I’m throwing up in the toilet…and I finally was like, ‘Call ’em! Call them now! Please!'”
(The hotel paid for her taxi to and from the hospital. Canadians, man.)
But, despite the ER/food poisoning eight days out, Mary remains joyfully optimistic about her goals in Boston on Monday.
She wants to PR. Sub 2:50 would be a dream. Sub-3:00 at Boston would still be a win for her because she’s never broken 3:00 in Boston before.
“It is hard to say because of the weather and being sick, but I still would like to PR. I think it’s possible.”
(Please, infuse me with your optimism.)
She’s raced on the Boston course three other times:
In 2015 it was raining and she wasn’t prepared. She didn’t train properly, she didn’t hydrate properly during the race. She didn’t do anything right—her words—other than just be excited to be there.
In 2017 it was too hot.
“And last year was just—last year was insane.”
[If you don’t know how insane last year’s marathon was, read this Outside Online article about it.]
BUT, even with Boston being insane in 2018, she ran only about two minutes off of her PR.
Take a second, read that sentence again.
And after running a mere two minutes off of her PR (3:12 high) in the April hell-storm that was the Boston Marathon last year, she ran a massive 2:55:35 at CIM in December.
(For a frame of reference: the 2018 Boston Marathon winner, badass and first American to win the race in 33 years, Des Linden, ran over ten minutes off of her PR.)
So that’s why she thinks a PR—or even a consolatory sub-3 marathon—on Monday is possible. Even after food poisoning, even in bad weather. Because she’s made all the mistakes and ran in all the weather before.
And she’s fitter than she’s ever been.
She’s training at paces she said she wouldn’t even dream about. I’m 95 percent sure I overheard Matt Hensley, Mary’s coach, say her threshold pace is close to a minute faster than last year.
She also has a red bib this year.
“I’ve always wanted a red bib, so I’m really excited I get a red bib this week.”
The red bib puts her in the first wave (she’s in coral four) and means she’ll have less foot traffic to sort out and presumably start with a group whose pace is on-point with her own.
And to bolster the already bolstered, Mary I’ll-run-Boston-every-year-I’m-healthy said Boston has always been a very fun, very special event for her.
Among her best stories about why the Boston Marathon is so special to her is: being in education, and because Boston is so well-known and popular, she’s had classes of youngsters be very hyped up about it and follow her race.
Once, a fourth-grade class tracked her during the race and when she returned from Boston, they had turned the lights off, made a tunnel and chanted her name as she walked into the classroom.
This year her race plan is to start out pretty conservatively because she knows those early miles are downhill.
She ran the first half of CIM with her boyfriend, Dan Craighead, and he kept reminding her to “slow down” because she kept trying to go faster.
[Dan recently co-authored this Runner’s World article about racing in Boston’s unpredictable weather.]
So, she’s going to keep Dan’s voice in her head and go out at 6:30 to 6:40 pace and reeealllly try to stay in that range.
Then, she’s going to enjoy the race for a bit. She loves running through all the different towns, the people cheering, the different bands that are playing.
“I love everything about it.”
Her favorite part about the Boston Marathon, though, besides the race itself, is the walk to the start line.
“People don’t have to, but they literally have set up these tables on their front lawns with water bottles, Vaseline, like anything you could think of that you might need—they have it. And they’re just cheering you on. It’s so cu—I just love it.”
So she’s going to just try to stay calm and try to stay relaxed and enjoy it.
And then the hills—she’s so excited for the hills. Because in 2015, she walked up them and she was mad at herself.
“I was cursing at myself. I could not believe—I was like, ‘You’ve worked so hard to be here and you are walking up these sets of hills. What is wrong with you?”
When she went back in 2017 and 2018, she charged up the hills.
“And it was the best feeling ever.”
So she’s going to charge hard up the hills and then cruise.
“If I’m feeling good those last six miles…I’m gonna go for it.”
But no matter what, she’ll be happy because it’s Boston.
“I’m gonna get to the finish. I hope it’s a great race because I’ve put in so much training. But, if it’s not, I’m still going to get that unicorn medal—because I already bought the damn finisher’s jacket.”
If you want to track Mary, text 3158 to 234567 or download the B.A.A. app.