The L Street Running Club: Building Community One Run At A Time
L Street Running Club member Tina Karas is about to run her 11th Boston Marathon. Last year, she was among the crowd of racers stopped just short of finishing. Now, this 45-year-old senior marketing manager for the Hallmark Health System, wife and founder of the Southie Tri Team is back preparing for the 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Copley Square in Boston, with hopes of once again performing her signature cartwheel at the finish line!
SB: Firstly, how long have you been a long-distance runner? What attracted you to the L Street Running Club?
TK: A very close friend of mine convinced me to join L Street Running Club (LSRC) with him in 2002. I was so nervous when we first joined, as I could not run at all! He had done the research on the club and said they seemed to be a great, low-key, uncompetitive, welcoming group who simply enjoyed running. He talked me into that first run and I was almost sick to my stomach with nerves. I really was not a runner! On the first run along the beach, out and around UMass Boston, I struggled and was concerned that the group would be so annoyed with me for not being able to keep up. But, that simply was not the case. That very same group of runners is a group of people I now consider some of my closest and dearest friends.
SB: Obviously, many members of the L Street Running Club participate in local marathons like the Boston Marathon. Do you find that being a part of the club inspired you to train for the marathon or is this, like most running endeavors, more of a personal goal?
TK: I honestly feel I may have never participated in a marathon had it not been for LSRC. I could not run a mile when I joined. Before long, they started telling me, “Just come do the Boston Half Marathon with us. You’ll be fine.” I wasn’t so sure, but in October 2002, I did the Boston Half Marathon, which my friend and I, who had talked me into joining the club with him, celebrated finishing like we were rock stars. We probably had 20-30 of our closest friends and family there at the finish; we all went to brunch and rode the energy of our accomplishment for at least a week.
Then our friends at LSRC started saying, “Oh, you’ll be doing the marathon with us in April.” I thought they were out of their minds, but it’s amazing how the members of the club just coax you along, and in April 2003, I did my first Boston. It was not something I had ever thought of doing before and honestly, I was afraid of what it was going to do to me. I heard some horror stories about how a marathon breaks down your body, people crawling to the finish, but in April 2003 I was at the starting line with them and so nervous!
SB: That sounds overwhelming! How did you fare that first time around and how many times have you gone back for more?
TK: My first Boston in 2003 went really well. My only goals were to finish and finish standing – both of which I accomplished. It was such an amazing feeling, something I truly never thought of doing before and there I was at the finish line with my friends and husband. Since then, I’ve completed 10 Bostons… although I have a tough time counting last year as a finish as I was stopped just before the finish… and a total of 16 marathons. So, this year’s finish will be my 17th marathon, 11th Boston.
SB: You came very close to finishing last year. What was going through your mind as you were forced to stop? Did you understand what was happening ahead of you at the time?
TK: I was stopped at mile 25.73 and really could not comprehend why. I had come upon a fellow LSRC member, Ivan Belcher, at about mile 20 and we agreed to help each other to the finish line. I always have two friends waiting for me at the bottom corner of Hereford and I was set on getting to them. We started seeing other runners coming back down the street saying the race had been stopped and I honestly thought they had ‘hit the wall,’ there’s no way the marathon would be stopped.
I kept telling my running partner Ivan, “Come on, we have to get to Judy and Dennis at the bottom of Hereford.” That was where most of us runners had piled up at that point and I even tried to go through a sidewalk barricade to get to them, until finally a police officer put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You need to stop.”
Some amazing volunteers from the finish line came down, gave us the Mylar blankets, and guided us to where we needed to be. It all just seemed like it wasn’t happening.
SB: Are the events of last year affecting your training this year? If so, what has changed for you?
TK: The events of last year did affect my training, or more so my determination. After I went through about a month of working through what had happened, I refocused with more determination than ever. A few of us went together with free numbers and invites and did the Providence Marathon. I poured myself into my triathlon training last year, getting a personal record time in a half ironman up in Montreal at the end of the summer. It was so nice to be back together with our LSRC training group in January, I think we all feel the same desire to come back more determined than ever for ourselves, our city and all the victims, care givers and first responders. It’s a day that’s always been special to anyone who runs the marathon, and now we have even more to prove.
SB: The Boston Marathon is a major achievement for any runner and will be a notch on your belt when you finish. Have you reached any similar milestones in your time as a long-distance runner of which you are particularly proud?
TK: Finishing Boston this year will be incredible and I’m sure very emotional. I’m just thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of it and to share in the journey with my running partners, LSRC and my friends and family. Running brought me into triathlons, which are my true passion, and when I turned 40, I did my first full ironman distance triathlon and have since completed another, the Lake Placid Ironman, both of which were huge milestones for me.
SB: If you are willing to share, what was the biggest disappointment for you as a runner?
TK: I don’t really have any big disappointments as a runner. Running does not come easy for me, and I guess wishing I was faster is something I’d like, but I also know my own limitations, and at this point in life, just being healthy, fit and happy are the most important things.
SB: What are you doing to prepare and what is your schedule like in the months and weeks leading up to the race?
TK: In the final months leading up to Boston, my number one goal is to avoid injury. My training does not include as much running as others do. I use my marathon training to prepare me for my triathlon season. So, I take one day off a week from workouts. My week typically involves an hour bike/hour swim on Monday, one-hour run on Tuesday, hour bike/hour swim on Wednesday, an hour to 1.5 hour run on Thursday, Friday is off from workouts, Saturday a long bike ride and Sunday a long run. Plus, working full time and going out and having fun with my husband and friends. It also includes lots of eating and probably not as much rest as I should get.
SB: Wow! Would you say you do most of your training with your fellow club members?
TK: I do almost all my training with friends of LSRC. It just makes the training more enjoyable, and we help each other out along the way. If you’re having a bad run and your friend is not you pull each other through it. The support is incredible.
SB: As you prepare for the race and think about the course you will run, what would you say is the most daunting part of the course for you? How are you preparing for that?
TK: The marathon for me always begins between miles 20-22. Up until that point, I always have a great run. It’s after the hills when we dump down into Cleveland Circle finding a way to shut off the negative thoughts that start to pop-up and keep putting one foot in front of another. The last 4-6 miles are the most difficult. This year, to prepare, I’m really focused on going out a bit slower than my race pace for the first 3-4 miles, then slowly increasing my pace and making sure I fuel properly along the way. My friends and I are also testing a new run/walk interval to see if that will help get us to the finish line in the pace we want.
SB: Finally, what are you most looking forward to on race day?
TK: I love the training journey leading up to Boston. The friendships and fun we have at LSRC just are a treasure. I get really sad when it’s over that’s why I always have the next race planned. I cannot wait to meet up with LSRC race morning, gather for our group photo and take the bus ride to the start together and just being out there once the start goes off. But the most incredible part will be going up Hereford and coming down Boylston Street this year, hugging the left side of the road, the side I’ve always run on, and proudly attempting my cartwheel over the finish line and sharing in it all with my friends and family and our incredible city!
SB: Thank you very much, Tina for providing so much information about your experience training for the Boston Marathon. Best of luck on race day!
Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.