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Winning Time

With third Boston Marathon win under her belt, Christine Kennedy now prepares for world championship.

On April 18, even this spring's finicky sun came out to cheer as won the 2011 Boston Marathon in her age division for the third straight year. 

"The day before it was wind and rain, and we had this storm come through," says Kennedy, 56, who lives in Los Gatos. "It was cold, but by the time the race started at 10 o'clock, the sun was up. The following day, it poured rain." 

Kennedy's winning time of 2:56:17 in the women's 55-59 age group was better than her previous two wins in Boston—2:57:19 in 2010 in the 55-59 group and 2:56:32 in 2009 in the 50-54 group—while the second-place winner this year came in at a distant 3:08:03. Kennedy's time in 2011 was second best among all women 50-plus, whereas in 2010 her winning time was the best of that overall group.

"I was second in the 50-plus because Joan Benoit Samuelson, the former Olympic champion, was my competition [this year]," says Kennedy. "I'm ranked second in the U.S. behind her in the over-50." 

In 2010 and now in 2011, according to the Boston Athletic Association's official marathon results, Kennedy's winning time was better than the second place finisher in the younger 45-49 age division. 

"It's great what she is doing at her age," says Willie Harmatz, who co-owns in Los Gatos with Kennedy. "Christine's a very dedicated athlete. She's a great example for everyone who trains hard and wants to succeed." 

Being in a marathon requires eating lots more carbs than usual to keep up your stamina. The day of the , Kennedy left her hotel on a bus with other marathoners at 6:15 a.m. She had already eaten a breakfast of oatmeal after carbo-loading for about three days beforehand on extra pasta and other yummy food. 

"You definitely burn energy during the event," Kennedy says. "A lot of people, when they go on the buses, forget they might have three hours before the event, and it might be six hours until they are able to eat again." 

Once the buses arrived at the marathon's starting point in the town of Hopkinton, MA, the runners had at least a couple hours until the race began. Each person had to find their assigned corral in time, which was quite a feat, considering about 24,000 registered runners were in the area. 

In the 2010 race, Kennedy qualified to run with a small elite women's group. This year, however, she chose to run in a large group of elite men and sub-elite women. 

"Last year I hadn't realized that because there was such a small field, 35 elite women, over three or four miles it got strung out, so there was nobody to run with," she says. "I prefer to run with 1,000 people in my corral, so there's people with you all the time, so you are constantly motivated." 

This July in Sacramento, Kennedy will compete in the World Masters Championships, an international track-and-field event being held in the U.S. for the first time in 16 years. In the running world, the term "masters" refers to participants being at least 40 years old. Kennedy plans to run the 5000K and then get used to Sacramento's summertime heat for about a week before the event's marathon. Her goal, not surprisingly, is to win her age group and have her time, at least, near the top of all 50-plus winning times.

Kennedy began running in 1982 while she was a housewife with two small children in Ireland. She has won numerous championships and marathons in the U.S. and Europe. Currently, she runs about 70-80 hours a week, in addition to working at her store and leading a on .

For information about joining the group, contact Kennedy at 408-354-7365. 

About this column: Each week Susan Wiedmann will write about nature in Los Gatos and how people relate to it in different ways. Susan is a longtime freelance writer and photographer with a passion for capturing wildlife through her camera's lens. Please leave any comments about this article at the bottom of this page. You can contact Susan about possible topics at Susan@UpCloseWithMotherNature.com or at www.UpCloseWithMotherNature.com

Susan Wiedmann April 29, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Hi, Brad: Yes, Christine Kennedy's winning time is amazing, but I think it's even more stunning if you do consider her age. As anyone who has hit the "Big Five-O" knows, the body begins to whine a lot more quickly when physically challenged. Christine, apparently, ignores that fact, sets her goals and does her utmost to reach them - an inspiration for all of us.
Mary Ruddell April 29, 2011 at 11:27 PM
WOW! I knew that Christine was a runner but I had no idea of the level of her abilities. Boston is a very tough marathon which I have been a spectator at but never participated in. I've bought running shoes from her, thought her very knowledgeable, and low key. Congratulations!

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