Sarah Mulcahy had planned to run the 123rd Boston Marathon aggressively with a personal-best time for the 26.2-mile distance among her considerations.
That goal alone would be ambitious, given the challenging nature of the course. And the 33-year-old math teacher and assistant track coach at Fort Kent Community High School already had established a high-level personal best of 2 hours, 44 minutes, 28 seconds late last year at the California International Marathon.
That time qualified Mulcahy for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and earned her a spot in the elite women’s field for this year’s Boston race.
Mulcahy followed her California run by completing the Millinocket Marathon just six days later, but since then training has fallen victim to often nasty winter conditions in the St. John Valley. That has prompted Mulcahy, one of 171 Mainers registered for Monday’s Boston Marathon, to revise her goals.
“I have no time goal at all,” she said. “I just want to enjoy it, and I want to be healthy.”
Mulcahy took a couple of weeks off after the Millinocket Marathon before embarking on a training regimen for Boston developed with coach Rob Gomez.
That was before the wrath of winter engulfed northern Aroostook County.
The difficulty stemmed not so much from the heavy snowfall that buried the region but biting winds that added significant chill to already cold temperatures for pre-sunrise workouts in order to accommodate her job and family, including 4-year-old daughter Olivia and son Isaiah, 2.
“I don’t mind running when it’s subzero or even 10 below, but when you add 30 or 40 mile per hour winds it’s not enjoyable anymore,” Mulcahy said. “You’re just doing it to get the miles in, and that’s not why I run. I run because I enjoy it.”
Mulcahy’s training efforts were challenged further when her husband, Jon, spent January in Texas for his job with the U.S. Border Patrol.
“I spent the whole month on the treadmill,” she said. “My parents would take the kids for a night at the end of the week so I could get a long run in, but every single time they had them it was negative 18 or negative 20, so they weren’t enjoyable runs.”
Mulcahy said she has been dealing with calf problems for the past month, so her goal became being healthy at the starting line.
Mulcahy, a four-time champion of the Bay of Fundy International Marathon in Lubec and a three-time winner of the Millinocket Marathon, will be running Boston for the third time.
In 2014 she completed the race in 4:09:35 but had an excuse for the slow time by her standards — she was 6 1/2 months pregnant.
Two years later she returned to Boston but had to drop out after 10 miles due to injury.
This year Mulcahy will be among 75 runners in the elite women’s division who will leave the starting line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, together at 9:32 a.m.
She earned that status with her performance Dec. 2 in Sacramento, California, where she bested the Olympic “B” qualifying standard of 2:45:00. She was eighth in her age group and 91st overall among 3,638 women finishers at the California International Marathon, which for the second straight year served as the USA Marathon Championship.
“Being in the same group as the winner [at Boston] is going to be pretty exciting in itself,” Mulcahy said. “This is something you dream of. You don’t ever expect you’ll get yourself in that position so when you do you praise God and are thankful. I’m blessed.”
Having the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials — scheduled for Feb. 29, 2020, in Atlanta — on her running horizon and the quest for a career-best effort in that race on her mind has altered her competitive priorities for 2019 and perhaps beyond.
“Boston isn’t my focus, the trials are my focus,” she said. “One year I’d like to go to Boston and see what I can do, but I don’t know what I’m going to do after the trials. I might take awhile off from racing as competitively so I can spend more time with my kids, and then when I’m in my 40s maybe go for masters’ times.
“I love running, that’s my thing, but the grueling nature of training for the marathon is a lot.”