Local women brave hot Boston Marathon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2012

By David Freeze
For The Salisbury Post
Every Boston Marathon is memorable
Dr. Kathi Russo of Salisbury didn’t know exactly how profound these words would be. After taking up running in 2007, she became very competitive quickly. With hard work, Russo has qualified for the famed Boston Marathon each of the last five years. Nothing, however, prepared her for the intense struggle against weather conditions that she and three other local runners experienced on Monday, April 16.
This was the 116th running of the Boston Marathon, the only marathon in the world where nearly all the participants have to qualify by running fast age-graded times in other races. Local runners joining Russo were Meredith Abramson, Kelly Lowman and Carol Hauss. Abramson and Lowman were making their first trip after qualifying within the last year, and Hauss joined Russo in making her fifth trip.
The lead story of the 2012 Boston Marathon was the heat. Temperatures in the mid-80s to near 90 degrees had been predicted for about a week prior to race day. Though runners and organizers hoped for a break, it never came and race day dawned warm and calm without a cloud in the sky. Runners at Boston and other major marathons are often seeded in waves or corrals, with the faster runners near the front. The official start for runners was 10 a.m. for Wave 1, with temperatures climbing quickly. Other waves followed at planned intervals until 27,000 runners left Hopkinton, Mass. on a journey of 26.2 miles toward Boston.
Lowman had an extra agenda when she made her trip to Boston. Not only did she want to run America’s most famous road race, but she planned to do it at 18 weeks pregnant.
“It is so hard to qualify,” Lowman said. “There were just no guarantees that I could ever return. I just wanted to have the experience, even though my plan was to take it just a little easy.”
Lowman and Abramson train together, and they qualified side by side at Myrtle Beach in 2011. The plan was for Abramson to run hard and Lowman to just cover the distance while enjoying the sights along the way.
On Saturday, because of the brutal weather, race organizers offered deferments for any who wanted to drop out of the race with the promise of guaranteed entry for 2013. Doctors and family members encouraged Lowman to do this, and she reluctantly agreed.
“I didn’t want to drop out, and kept thinking I could change back and run the race,” Lowman said. “But all in all, I’m glad I did it.” Lowman got a choice seat at the finish line, giving her a once in a lifetime view of the fastest runners in the world as they finished.
Abramson hydrated well and planned to adapt to the heat, but still wanted a good time regardless.
“It’s Boston, baby,” she said. “I’m here and I want to do well.”
Abramson started by clipping off the miles at an eight-minute pace, then as the day warmed, her pace fell to nine minutes and eventually to 10.
“We were just shuffling by the end,” she said. “I ran through sprinklers, misting tents, ate oranges and bananas, and drank water and lots of Gatorade. Race organizers summed it all up by saying, ‘This is not a race, this is an experience.’ It certainly was.”
“I was just so glad to be there. I must have slapped hundreds of hands and thanked countless volunteers. The continuous sounds of feet slapping the pavement amazed me.”
Abramson’s official time was 4 hours, 29 minutes, and 9 seconds.
Though used to traveling to Boston, Hauss admits this may well have been her last.
“The heat was an issue, but I just felt bad,” she said. “The residents and volunteers along the way were doing all they could. They were passing out anything wet and cool that might help the runners. It isn’t always this way at Boston, but they sure helped us get through the race this year.”
Hauss has a unique distinction from most of the other runners at Boston. Her first trip was in 2004, another brutally hot day. If in fact 2012 is her last, she can handle that.
“I came in a blaze and will go out with one too. Two of the hottest races in the 116-year history of the event!”
Hauss ran a 4 hour, 44 minute race, over an hour slower than her best time.
With the fastest time of the local marathoners, Russo finished in 3:50:45. That time again qualifies her for the 2013 race, and she plans to be there.
“This was a tough race,” said Russo, who is a pediatrician. “I was about 20 minutes slower than I had hoped. I walked through most of the water stations and on a couple of the hills. My training for the last six months had been focused on this race, and I was disappointed. But, I will be back!”
All of the women plan to keep marathoning. Lowman and Russo are in for 2013, with Russo heading for Berlin in the meantime. Abramson is going to try to qualify quickly by running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon in May. Hauss is looking for a fall marathon.
Lowman and Abramson are teachers at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, while Hauss works as an X-ray technician for Rowan Regional Medical Center.
A highlight of the trip for Abramson and Lowman was meeting the Boston Marathon overall winner, Wesley Korir, at Logan Airport as they waited to fly home. Lowman spotted him, and Abramson started a conversation. Korir is a resident of Louisville, Ky., and was on a connecting flight through Charlotte. After Korir showed them his trophy, Abramson said, “I finished about 2 hours behind you.”
Korir quickly echoed the thoughts of the Salisbury women marathoners when he replied “We all struggled that day!”
David Freeze is a freelance writer.