April 28, 2009

As Sarah Shapiro crossed the finish line of 113th Boston Marathon on April 24, 2009 with a time of 3:11.41, she was surprised to find a familiar face waiting close by to congratulate her on the amazing feat she'd just accomplished. Michael Murphy, a UMass Boston senior runner on the Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams, just smiled and said, "I can't believe you did it!"

Shapiro returned the smile and replied with, "I told you that I knew what I was doing! Now you better start to listen to me at practice."

The first year coach certainly looks like she knows what she's doing after finishing 207th out of over 9,000 registered women in this years' race. A former standout runner at UMass Boston, she became the Head Cross Country Coach in 2007 and is now instructing the Beacons Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field squads year round.

The 2009 Boston Marathon featured over 23,000 runners from all over the world and is one of the most recognizable races in the United States every single year. Many train for the race as the pinnacle of their running careers but Shapiro is just getting started.

"I ran the 2007 Holyoke Marathon to qualify for the 2008 Boston Marathon, and both of those races went alright. Both of my times were good times, but I knew that I could run a faster race," said Shapiro.

She was right.

In her third marathon appearance, the 2006 UMass Boston graduate ran her fastest marathon yet, improving from her 2008 time by over 20 minutes (3:31.49) and almost a half hour better than her first go round at Holyoke in 2007 (3:39.00).

"I love running and I think that is a part of why my times have continued to drop. If you're going to commit to running a marathon, it's going to take a lot of training. The way I look at it is, you might as well enjoy it all or you're not going to do well."

Shapiro must be enjoying herself because she's doing just fine. The Weymouth, MA native was the 3,006th overall runner to cross this year's finish line, putting her in the top 15th percentile for all racers and within the top two percent of female runners.

Leading up to the race, she was running between 60 and 70 miles every seven days with a focus on speed workouts during the week and a long run (12-20 miles) on the weekends. She trained with Mike Leavitt, another former UMB runner who also ran this year's marathon in a time of 2:55.00.

"Mike was great to train with because he is faster than me, so it made me work harder. I was really surprised when I crossed the finish line and looked up to see 3 hours and 11 minutes for my time. During the race, I knew I was running well but didn't think I was going that fast so it was a really nice surprise for me. To be able to finish a marathon, no matter your time, you just need to stay focused and have some support," said Shapiro. "The Boston Marathon is so fun to run because from Mile 1, all the way through Mile 26 there are people cheering you on. It was awesome because so many kids from my UMass Boston teams showed up to cheer me on, and I hadn't even told them I was running."

When asked about plans to run another marathon, Shapiro seemed very gung-ho about entering multiple races within the year. She's thinking of running in the 2009 Chicago Marathon this October and as of now, has every intention to run the 2010 Boston Marathon as well.

If completing one marathon isn't a great accomplishment in itself, Shapiro praises all of the runners who raise money each race to run for a cause. She's one of these runners, and this year raised over \$2,000 dollars for Children's Hospital. In 2008, she ran and raised money for the Joanna Mullin Foundation, so for Shapiro, just running the marathon doesn't cut it.

"It's the way to go, run for a cause," said Shapiro. "It will make you work that much harder and you'll be that much more determined to finish." In the meantime, Shapiro continues to run and train on her own and it has even rubbed off on someone very close to her heart.

"No one else in my family was ever been a runner, but now my Dad is starting to get into it which is pretty cool. He's 60 so I helped train him and now he's doing his own thing. I always used to tell him that I liked to run so much because he never used to give me rides anywhere when I was younger, and look at me now."

As many runners know, you're never really out of season and can continue to work on something while training year-round. Shapiro's goal for the 2010 Boston Marathon is to run the 26.2 miles in under 3 hours.

Anyone that has ever seen her run can only have one thing to say about that goal - see you at the finish line Sarah!