Tracy Guerrette twice has jostled with the masses at the Boston Marathon.
But when the 37-year-old native of St. Agatha takes off on Monday morning from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, for the annual 26.2-mile run to downtown Boston, she’ll share the starting line with only 50 to 60 of the world’s best distance runners.
Guerrette, the former Wisdom High School and University of Maine basketball player who now lives in Bangor, will be part of the elite women’s field for the 122nd edition of the world’s best-known marathon.
She will join a deep pool of title contenders starting the race at 9:32 a.m., a half-hour before the rest of the 30,000 runners begin the eastward migration to the finish line.
“This is the most competitive field of elite women to ever run Boston so I’m really excited to be able to start with them,” Guerrette said. “Part of me would like to be in the pace car and watch the race because it’s pretty much the Olympic Trials with Shalene Flanagan, Desiree Linden, Molly Huddle, Jordan Hasay, Deena Castor and Keelan Taylor, who are all trying to be the first American to win Boston in 33 years.”
Lisa Rainsberger, formerly Lisa Larsen Weidenbach, was the last — in 1985.
“It’s the best of the best and they’re going to all take off together with the other top women — and then there will be me,” Guerrette said.
Guerrette might not be able to match Flanagan’s winning time of 2 hours, 26 minutes, 53 seconds in November’s New York City Marathon, but for someone who committed to long-distance running barely four years ago, she has progressed at a sprinter’s pace.
Her big breakthrough came last October when she won the Maine Marathon in 2:43:57, a time that not only topped her previous personal best by 15 minutes but also eclipsed the 2:45 clocking required to meet the “B” standard to earn a spot in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Only after that race did she learn that while the Maine Marathon was certified as a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon and by USA Track and Field, times there did not qualify as Olympic Trials standards.
One of her goals Monday is to further validate her elite status by using Boston to qualify for the next Olympic Trials.
“It’s like my mother always says, ‘You’ve done the best you can, it’s all in God’s hands now,’” said Guerrette, who works as director of faith formation at St. Paul the Apostle Parish, which serves Catholic churches in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden and Winterport. “I’m just trusting in the Lord with all the work I’ve put in to show up and do well.
“But my number one goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials on a certified course. My second goal would be to PR, to get a better time than I did at the Maine Marathon, and another goal would be to run sub-2:40.”
Guerrette is building on an arduous training base that averaged 120 miles per week throughout the winter, much of it on a treadmill, including a longest single indoor run of 24 miles.
“From around Christmas to late January I didn’t go outside at all because it was either too cold or icy,” she said. “On the one hand you have no choice but to do it, but on the other hand it’s a great mental challenge.”
Guerrette routinely did double daily workouts but recently has tapered her running regimen to be as fresh as possible for the race.
“The buildup for this has been the hardest I’ve ever worked,” she said. “I’ve never been so tired and hungry before in my life, honestly. I’ve run the most miles I ever have and hopefully have put in enough of the fastest miles of my life both at marathon pace and faster.”
Guerrette will be one of three Maine runners competing at Boston with elite status. The others are her coach, Rob Gomez of Windham, and women’s masters division (age 40 and older) competitor Christine Hein of North Yarmouth.
Guerrette was accorded elite status based on her Maine Marathon time.
“It’s a learning curve for me, a new experience and opportunity,” Guerrette said of starting amid the elite field. “I know what it’s like to jostle (in the traditional starting field) and it’s wonderful. Starting with everybody you’re packed in tight and you look down the road and it’s just heads bobbing. You’re surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people.
Mainers who have run with the elite group have shared a different experience.
“Pretty much you’re out there by yourself on the course,” Guerrette said. “But I’m used to training by myself and suffering out on the road by myself, and I know the pace I have as a goal.”
Guerrette doesn’t expect to be able to stay with the top American and African runners for long.
“Even my sprint is slower than their marathon pace,” she joked. “They are going to go off, and hopefully there will be a few other women who I’m hoping are going to run my pace and I’ll stay with them.”
Guerrette plans to average 6:05 to 6:10 per mile, though rain forecast for Monday may slow the proceedings.
“You have to trust your training but you never know, you have to respect the marathon,” she said. “You can’t control the conditions, you never know what could happen, but I’ll do the best I can.”
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