Sarah Mulcahy figured to be one of the faster Maine runners at Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon.
The 28-year-old resident of Baring Plantation qualified for the historic race last June when she won the women’s division of the inaugural Bay of Fundy International Marathon in Lubec in a time of 3 hours, 16 minutes, 22 seconds.
A strained groin suffered during Mile 4 of last October’s Mount Desert Island Marathon slowed her distance training to a relative crawl, as did a subsequent hip flexor injury.
And then there was the news over the winter that Mulcahy was pregnant, with her first child due July 12.
“After I had to drop out at MDI I was pretty down and out of running for about eight weeks. Then we learned we were pregnant,” said Mulcahy, a seventh- and eighth-grade math and science teacher at Woodland Junior-Senior High School in Baileyville.
“My husband was very wary about me running Boston because he knew I’d be 6½ months pregnant by then.”
The plan was to let Mulcahy’s Boston Marathon debut wait for another year while she and her husband Jon attended to her pregnancy — until the final days leading up to the race, when she told him she wanted to run it after all.
“It was a totally last-minute decision,” she said. “I said to my husband last week, ‘I’m running,’” and he said, ‘Are you serious?’”
Mulcahy hadn’t put in anything close to the needed training mileage on the roads during the tough winter months in Washington County to make a truly competitive marathon run, pregnancy or no pregnancy.
Most of her efforts had involved either cross-training workouts and or using her elliptical machine. Only last month did Mulcahy begin running outside again — and even then it was just once or twice a week, certainly not the 80 to 100 miles per week she ran leading up to the MDI Marathon.
“I didn’t want to push that injury too much,” said Mulcahy.
But the decision to run Boston for the first time wasn’t about Mulcahy, a native of Eagle Lake, achieving a fast time or otherwise further establishing her distance-running resume.
“We were so up in the air about it, because I had already qualified and was registered and we had made all the plans, and then once we found out I was pregnant we decided just to go and spectate,” said Mulcahy, a graduate of Fort Kent Community High School and Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.
“But as we went along I thought, ‘I don’t want to go there and just watch.’ I have a number and I worked my butt off to get it, and how cool would it be to tell our child that he or she had run the Boston Marathon before they were born and that we won the unicorn (the symbol on the medal earned by finishers of the race) together.”
Mulcahy had completed two shorter road races this spring, including a 1:13.49 clocking — a 7:23-per-mile average — at the Bridge the Gap 10-miler on Verona Island two weeks before Boston.
Once the decision was made to run the marathon, Mulcahy was able to string together several solid training runs in the final days leading up to the race. That included 11 miles and nine miles on back-to-back outings, but nothing longer.
“I’m married to someone who reins me in,” she said.
Mulcahy stayed true to a conservative game plan on race day for the benefit of both the runner and her baby amid conditions that grew warmer for the estimated 36,000 runners in the field as the day progressed.
“My doctor told me not to get out of breath, so I took it very easy,” she said. “I walked when I needed to walk and I drank plenty of water. I’d take two cups of water, one to drink and one to dump over my head to keep my body temperature down.
“And after each water stop I’d walk for a tenth of a mile, and it worked.”
Spectators along the route who noticed her condition — or perhaps the “Running for Two” shirt she donned for the day — provided plenty of vocal encouragement, Mulcahy also met up with another woman in the race who was pregnant, and the two chatted as they ran together briefly.
“It was completely different for me to be in a race and not be running for some sort of time,” Mulcahy said. “It was completely relaxing, there was no pressure.
“You got to talk to so many people, and everybody was so supportive. It was just an amazing experience.”
Mulcahy and child ran the first 5 kilometers in 24:56 and her 10K split was 51:27. She completed the first half of the marathon in 1:54:33 and crossed the finish line on Boylston Street in front of the Boston Public Library in 4:08:19.
It was a 9:29-per-mile pace that left her in 19,713th place overall and 7,856th among women finishers, but none of that really mattered.
“This was about the baby and not me,” said Mulcahy, who hopes to return to the MDI Marathon in October and is eager for a more competitive run at Boston. “I made sure I paid attention to my body, and at no point during the race did I feel ill at all. It worked out fine.
“My original goal after I qualified for Boston was sub-3 hours, but it became just to get a good finish, to get a medal and to have a great story to tell our baby.”