Kimberley Wright, 55, of Mapleton had a goal when she traveled to Pennsylvania last month to run in the Nov. 22 Philadelphia Marathon.

One of three runners from Aroostook County to participate, she hoped to complete the 26.2-mile race in three hours and 30-some minutes.

“I have to tell you a story,” she said when I called to talk about her fourth marathon.

She said she and her husband, Barry, both coach cross-country at Presque Isle Middle School. She coaches the girls, and he coaches the boys. This fall they brought together their two teams to view the YouTube video of Rachel Platten singing “Fight Song” to encourage the kids to give their all. The video pumped Wright up as well.

“If I can ask this of my team, then I can ask it of myself,” she said.

Then, in Philadelphia, at the end of mile 24 of the marathon, something remarkable happened. She had heard various chants and songs along the route as fans encouraged the runners.

“Going into mile 25 that song came over a loudspeaker — Rachel Platten singing ‘Fight Song.’ It gave me courage and strength.”

Only a couple of hundred meters from the finish line, she saw the time on the finish line clock read 3:39:11.

“I knew if I kicked it in, then I would be able to do those last meters within the 49 seconds left on the clock before it read 3:40:00,” Wright said.

Since the time on that clock was based on when the elite runners first left the start line, Wright, who began later, also knew she had more wiggle room to meet her goal.

All runners had a microchip in their running bib that activated when they crossed the start line and recorded their official time at the finish line, she said.

It was not until Wright and her running partners Richard Hoppe and Don Audibert were on their way home that they went online by phone to check their official times.

Wright learned she had achieved her goal with a net time of 3:35:53 to place second among the 97 women in the 55-59 age group, 397th among all 4,077 women runners and 1,827th among the 9,159 people who ran the race.

“Just to finish was a huge accomplishment; to meet that goal was the icing on the cake,” she said, admitting her “dream time” was 3:32.

Her running partners added to the thrill.

“To share that passion and enthusiasm with like-minded people was a high point,” she said.

It was Hoppe who suggested she enter the Philadelphia Marathon. The two ran the Boston Marathon in April side-by-side finishing simultaneously. Training in the wintry weather of February, March and early April was getting old.

“At first I said, ‘No way. My head’s not in it,’” Wright recalled.

Ultimately, she relented, even after breaking her wrist in February and undergoing two surgeries to repair it.

“Rich is an exceptional training partner. He helps by pushing without pushing,” she said, adding that she loves the training regimen, especially the nutritional part of it.

Her routine includes long runs on weekends (14-22 miles), easier short runs during the week, speed work on a treadmill and hill work: running up a hill eight times at different rates of speed.

“Rest and nutrition are as important as physical training,” she said. “I love, love, love to eat. I would rather eat well and eat late than eat junk food,” she added, saying she takes the time to prepare a good meal, even if it is 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. before she can eat it.

Wright recalled that she wasn’t eating well or exercising regularly when she first got into running in 1982. That’s when her brother Chris Smith, the cross-country coach at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, offered to buy her a new pair of running shoes if she would start running and working out.

“I took him up on the offer and, thanks to God’s grace, haven’t stopped since,” she said.

She started a weight training program at the Presque Isle Racquetball Club and began running, with the motto: “I don’t run far, I don’t run fast, but I run.”

Then she decided she would like to run faster, inspired by her middle school runners and her daughters, Elizabeth and Emily, and their teammates, who were running cross-country at school.

She asked her brother for help, and they set up a program with good health as the primary goal. Her sister Katherine also provided support and encouragement, writing all the strength-training programs Wright uses.

“Marathons weren’t on my radar,” she recalled.

She ran 5-kilometer races to get faster, joining the Aroostook County Musterds (pronounced “moose-terds”) running club. She was voted the club’s “Runner of the Year” in 2012, and she won the County Challenge Series for women in 2013 and 2014.

“Rich mentioned a marathon and I blew it off. I had no interest,” she said.

Then, Evan Graves, Caribou High School coach and accomplished marathoner, also mentioned a marathon.

“I asked for his help, and [Graves] wrote my training program for the Sugarloaf Marathon four years ago,” she said.

With encouragement from Hoppe, she ran the Sugarloaf 15K in 2012, and marathons were finally on her radar.

She ran the Boston Marathon with Hoppe and Audibert in 2014, the year after the tragic terrorist bombing, and again in 2015.

“Philly was completely different,” she said, explaining it was competitive but more relaxed than Boston.

With 11,000 entrants to Boston’s 30,000, the race is smaller, runners do not have to qualify to enter, and contestants are not bused to the start.

She said security was tight and police were everywhere, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, but she felt they were in good hands.

“It’s not all about the race; it’s about the entire experience,” she said, enthusiastic about taking the train to a “vibrant and historic city” and “sharing the love of running with thousands of people who feel the same way.”

“And it was inspiring,” she added, remembering the wheelchair entrants pulling up to the start and a man running with a prosthetic leg.

“I feel blessed to have the health to do it, the people to do it with, and the support of family and friends,” she said.

Kathryn Olmstead is a former University of Maine associate dean and associate professor of journalism living in Aroostook County, where she publishes the quarterly magazine Echoes. Her column appears in this space every other Friday. She can be reached at or P.O. Box 626, Caribou, ME 04736.