Erin Tiernan was gutting it out at mile 25 of her first marathon on Monday.
The pre-race euphoria was gone, the endorphins long spent. Just trying to…finish. Then she heard a small voicing chirping “Mumma, run fast!” Two-year-old Griffin (aka “Finn”) Tiernan hopped up and down beside his dad, urging his mom on, a mile from the ING Hartford Marathon finish line.
Long distance runners will tell you that emotions are an important part of running successfully. Erin felt a complete emotional package on her 3-hour, 58-minute and 27-second journey on Monday.
“When I heard my son, that was the motivation I needed to finish the race,” Erin said on Tuesday. “It was amazing. I remember feeling invincible at mile 18 and thinking it wouldn’t be bad. There were runners to talk to. Then I hit a wall at mile 18 and a brick wall at mile 23. No more talking. I was not able to talk. At mile 24, I swore I’d never run another marathon.”
Then came a candy station and some sugar (a Snickers bar) at mile 24, providing enough energy to get to mile 25, where Finn and his dad were waiting for Mumma.
Erin finished among the top third of all runners in the race, 863rd out of 2,706.
Ms. Tiernan, co-owner of the Basics and Eastaway clothing stores in Oak Bluffs and a casual runner, was moved by the Boston Marathon tragedy in April to run 26 miles, 385 yards at the 20th edition of the ING Hartford (Conn.) marathon on Columbus Day.
“This was my first marathon, and people ask me ‘why would you want to do that to yourself?’” she said from her home before the race last week. “Well, watching the tragic events at the Boston Marathon inspired me to do this. I’ve been a casual runner for long time and I just wanted to be part of it in a positive way: to show solidarity, to be part of something that someone wanted to take away.”
Her Boston Marathon-inspired mission was underscored by race officials’ comments before the marathon start in Hartford. “They talked about running and the tragedy in Boston. A lot of people were in tears, including me,” she said.
“I totally didn’t think I wanted to do it,” she said, recalling her thoughts last spring. But, as it often happens in life, when the student is ready, the teacher appears. “Katie Brown is a good friend and an experienced marathoner and we have trained together since May. We run long runs twice a week and in between, I use a running schedule I got off the Internet,” she said.
“It’s getting easier,” she said. “In May, my starting long run was 7 miles, the longest I’d ever run. Now I can run 10 miles and it feels like nothing. Overall, I feel better. There are aches and pains but really, there is little pain. I run barefoot, in sneakers with no support: the way (humans) were supposed to run.”
Erin has run the Island Turkey Trot and the Falmouth Road Race and in July ran a half-marathon in Portland, Maine to prep for Hartford. “Initially I wanted to run the half-marathon in Portland and then prepare for the Boston Marathon next year, but I had the (half-marathon) distance by June so I decided to do Hartford,” she said.
Erin said the training process has taught her some life lessons. “I’ve learned how much I can push myself. That I can do more, that I don’t know what my limits are,” she said. “Yes, I did carbo-loading — pasta. It’s great. I’m eating like a 16-year old without gaining weight.
“I have always been weight-conscious. Exercise was always about being thin. Now, although I don’t have to worry about it, I understand that that’s not the point of exercise. It’s more about pushing myself and having goals, more of an inside job than an outside job.”
Talk about a Tiernan marathon-running dynasty may be a tad premature, but Erin’s husband, John, pointed out that Griffin completed a half-mile run with his dad at the Jabberwocky Camp 5K this summer.
Since we are wired to remember joy and pleasure and not to remember pain as vividly, it’s not surprising that Erin has more running plans.
“I need to run a 3:40 marathon to qualify for Boston in 2015 and I’m definitely going to run the Turkey Trot on the Island on Thanksgiving,” she said. “And you know, I’m sort of thinking I might run the Cape Cod marathon in two weeks.”