Abby Blair came to running late in her 22-year-old life.
She's quickly making up for lost time. Blair, a 1998 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, ran her first marathon two weeks ago and made it a memorable occasion.
Blair finished eighth among women and 102nd overall in the Country Music Marathon and Half-Marathon on April 27 in Nashville, Tenn., a race that had more than 4,400 entrants in the marathon.
"I was very surprised," Blair said. "I'd run several half-marathons before, but this was my first marathon. I got caught up in the crowds and all the bands. They had all kinds of bands, not just country, about every mile along the course."
Blair's official time was 3 hours, 17 minutes, 26 seconds for the 26.2-mile course, but her chip time (actual time on the course) was 3:17:04. Aurica Buia of Romania was the top woman, finishing seventh overall in 2:35:58. Jackson Chebet of Kenya was the overall winner in 2:18:59. There were 4,427 marathoners entered in the race, with 2,073 male and 1,389 female finishers.
"I just wanted to qualify for Boston, I needed a 3:45 or 3:40," Blair said. "I wanted an eight-minute pace, but ran a 7:32 (7 minutes, 32 seconds per mile). My quads were pretty sore at the end, but I felt great."
Since she was an unknown runner, Blair was given a high bib number (10198) that put her in one of the last groups to cross the starting line. Blair said she snuck up to a group of 1000-bib numbers, but even then it still took her 22 seconds to reach the starting line after the gun went off. The elite runners all had single- or double-digit numbers.
When she was in high school, Blair was a cheerleader. She ran on the track and field team her freshman year, but didn't start running cross country until her senior year at Juneau. Blair was also a cheerleader her freshman year at Mississippi State.
"I never considered myself a racer," Blair said. "But somehow I find a way to push myself at the end. I didn't realize how good I could be until I finished."
Blair just completed her first year of veterinary school at Mississippi State while wrapping up her undergraduate studies. She'll graduate with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology later this month and she found out the day before her marathon that she'd earned an academic scholarship for next year's veterinary medicine studies.
Since she's been concentrating on academics, Blair trains on her own. She said she runs with a running group in Starkville, Miss., where Mississippi State's campus is located, and every Saturday the group has a long run of between 12 and 20 miles.
"The runners in my group kept telling me I should go a little farther and run a marathon," said Blair, who added that she's still recovering physically from the marathon. "My first couple of days (after the marathon) I wasn't walking very well and I'm still fatigued. But I also had finals all last week."
Blair said she plans to return home to Juneau in late May and will be up here until she heads back to school in August. She plans to run a few local races while she's here and she has another marathon in her future.
"I qualified for Boston, so I'm definitely headed there next April," Blair said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.