While many were trying to beat the tax filing deadline on April 15 of this year, Diane Gerlach was trying to beat her entry time on her way to the finish line at the Boston Marathon.
Not only did the 55-year-old Derby grandmother of seven come in under her qualifying time, she had her best marathon time ever.
“I wanted to be under 3 hours 50 minutes [her qualifying time], and my goal was 3 hours 48 minutes,” she said. “I finished in 3 hours, 43 minutes and one second – my best time ever.”
A runner since high school, Gerlach ran her first marathon with her husband Tom in 2013 – the Prairie Fire in Wichita.
Then last fall her husband surprised her by entering her in the Boston Marathon.
“There’s a day that registration begins, and I think he did it that day,” she said. “When he got word that my application had been accepted, he let me know. I thought he was joking,” she laughed.
“I’m glad he did it. I knew my time qualified, but if he hadn’t done it, I don’t think I would have pursued it.”
Luckily, Gerlach had been training earlier in the year for another marathon with a group from First Gear in Wichita, running in “rain, horrible winds, very cold temperatures, a lot of different environments.” The day of the Boston Marathon turned out warm, but there was a lot of rain.
“It poured buckets in the morning,” Gerlach said. “We stayed [in a hotel] out of the city, so we had to get on a train to the city, drop off a bag with extra clothes, then walk to school buses that bring you to the start of the run, a 45-minute drive outside of Boston.
“When we got on the train it just rained and rained – people had plastic bags on their feet. It was just like a monsoon,” she said.
Although the rain did let up on the drive to the starting area, “it was just a muddy, muddy mess,” she said. “You had to walk through inches of mud and sludge to get to the port-a-pots – it was overwhelming at this point because my husband couldn’t go with me; I was by myself.”
As it got closer to her 10:50 a.m. run time the rain stopped and didn’t start again until about 16 minutes after she finished her race.
The race starts with wheelchair racers, then “the elite – ones who can do the whole 26 miles in two hours,” Gerlach explained. Then the rest of the runners go in four waves.
“My time got me in Wave 3,” she said with a note of pride. “I felt good there was a whole group behind me.”
Along the way she was cheered on by son Chuck and his wife Melissa, and, of course, Tom.
“I saw my son and daughter-in-law because they told me exactly where they were at mile 7, and she had a cow bell so that got my attention,” Gerlach said.
“My husband saw me and was yelling and yelling but I didn’t see him at all,” she lamented. “He told me where he was [mile 13] by text before I started but I had forgotten and there was a guardrail so he couldn’t get on the road and I didn’t hear him yelling.”
Gerlach doesn’t plan to do the Boston Marathon again.
“I prefer half-marathons, they’re easier on the body,” she said with a laugh.
“I read [on Facebook] where a lot of people trained and trained and then had a horrible run, their legs cramped up, or they had a bad time, so I can see wanting to go back and try to do your best,” she said. “I was just so fortunate that that was my best time.”