As long as she can remember, Katie Clark has been dreaming about qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Katie’s dad was a marathon runner, but had never run the Boston Marathon. As a young girl, Katie remembers sleeping nightly in a t-shirt that read “In Training for the Boston Marathon.” Katie started running with her Dad when she was nine years old and never looked back. Katie ran in middle school, high school, and college, usually running the 400 or 800 meter races.
In 2005, Katie decided to run in the OKC Memorial Marathon with the goal to earn a time that would qualify her for the Boston Marathon. After all, she was now coaching track and cross country on the high school level, as well as teaching at an Edmond high school. The time to pursue that dream seemed right. Katie’s dad came from out of town to cheer her on, and even ran the last three miles beside her.
But she was eight minutes shy of qualifying.
Katie continued to run daily, even after she married her husband, Michael, in late 2005. “Running is just my thing,” she says. She would challenge her personal records often by running in organized races, any length from a 5k to a half marathon. In 2008, Katie and Michael welcomed their first child, Macy. In 2011, they welcomed their second child, Max. Katie continued to run through her pregnancies and while nursing, under her doctor’s supervision. By this time, Katie was a stay-at-home mom to their two children.
In 2013, Katie ran the OKC Marathon again, feeling like her body had bounced back. She had trained well, and she still desperately wanted to qualify for Boston. On race day, Katie had a cold.
She missed her mark again.
At ten weeks pregnant with their third child, Katie ran the half marathon in OKC in 2014, and then ran it again 5 months postpartum in April 2015. She nursed Mallory, the baby, on the way to the 2015 race. Katie remembers not feeling in great shape, but wanting to do the OKC race because it’s such a special “hometown” race.
Katie weaned Mallory after a year of nursing and began chasing her Boston dreams again. (While also chasing three kids!) This time, Katie found a friend who was also training to qualify, and they chose a training schedule and would often run together, challenge each other, and signed up for a Boston-qualifying marathon together.
The week before the race, Katie had bronchitis. That did not stop her from running and finishing the marathon. Katie remembers seeing her family at mile 8 and feeling like her legs were dead.
But she kept running.
Katie vomited on the race course that day.
But she kept running.
Katie remembers that race being so, so tough but also knowing “my family is going to see me struggling, but they are also going to see me finish, too.”
Katie finished the race, but did not qualify for Boston.
However, she says, “I still wear the shirt from that race proudly. I earned that shirt.”
Frustrated but not deterred, Katie persisted and found another qualifying race scheduled for August of 2016. It was one of the marathons closest to the cut-off date for the Boston Marathon. Katie registered, and then trained in the Oklahoma heat all summer. It was hot on race day and a rough course. Katie’s time on this marathon was a personal record, however, she was two minutes and thirty-three seconds shy of qualifying.
Knowing that she’d had a good run was great, but having to update friends and family that she had not qualified again was extremely difficult. “It’s vulnerable to share your goals, especially when you keep failing,” she says.
Katie became pregnant for the fourth time, with her son Maddox, and continued to run. At 32 weeks pregnant, Katie ran the OKC Memorial half marathon in April 2017.
Maddox was born in June, and Katie felt like it took a while to get back into shape. This was her fourth child, and she was now 36 years old. For the first time, Katie took 11 days off from running. She was nursing a baby, and her body was exhausted. She remembers crying when she realized, “My body just can’t do it.” But she kept training. Katie says, “running is my therapy; when I was dealing with postpartum depression, running was my outlet.”
Now a Mom to four children, Katie says she has to run early in the morning (4:30 or 5:30 am), or else it just won’t happen. “I am home in time to get the kids ready for school. But there are a lot of other things that just don’t get done…my house is always a mess, my minivan is a pit; I am rarely in non-running clothes. But my kids are joyful and smart, and they are watching me show discipline and work hard to chase a dream. Michael and I are committed to scheduling dates to help us stay connected, because I usually have to go to bed early in order to get up so early to run.”
In fact, on a vacation with Michael, the couple met another couple who happened to be runners. Not only that, but one of them was a running coach and had just qualified for the 2020 Olympic trials. Katie felt it was a divine intervention and immediately hired him. Sixteen weeks out from the BQ2 Marathon in Chicago, Katie employed the plan that Coach Enoch Nadler had set for her, running six days a week, 50-60 miles a week, with Boston always on her mind. In addition to running, the plan included stretching, injury prevention, and more. In that time, Katie did not miss a single day of training. “I wanted to be able to say that I have done everything I can to give myself the best opportunity.” This sometimes meant running while pushing a stroller, while her kids were in childcare at the Y, or her last resort was running on a treadmill during nap times. Katie weaned her youngest child, Maddox, two weeks before the BQ2 race.
Once in Chicago, Katie was encouraged because the weather was good, it was a good course, and her coach had given her an exact racing plan. She fueled her body well, and ran in her final attempt to qualify for Boston. She ran in 3:29:13, earning another personal record…
And a time that qualified her for the Boston Marathon.
“It was the best feeling in the world; I cried because it had finally come to pass.”
On April 15th, this metro mom of four will be fulfilling a lifelong dream by running in the Boston Marathon for the first time, at age 37. “While this is something for me, I also hope this has been a lesson for my kids,” she says. “I have worked really, really hard. And I didn’t qualify on my first four attempts. My family has been my biggest support system all along the way, and I actually hope this is not just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hope to run it again.”
We’ll be cheering you on, Katie. Thank you, from all of us, for not giving up.
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.” — Jesse Owens