When Carleth Keys crossed the finish line last October, she swore to herself that she would never run the Boston Marathon again.
“It was tough,” said Keys, 45. “I suffered. All the hills – I felt like everything was hills.”
However, six months later, Keys is back to run her second Boston Marathon and facing those rough hills again, feeling strong and wise like she was just here.
“It was deja vu,” she joked until her kids wanted to know, “Why are we doing this again?”
Originally from Venezuela, Keys attracted crowds on Patriots Day, the traditional venue for the marathon, and became one of a number of runners to achieve a feat unparalleled in the race’s 126-year history: back-to-back Boston Marathons just months apart.
Until the pandemic, the Boston Marathon had been held every April since 1897. After it was called off in 2020—the first in its history—the race returned in 2021. But its comeback was extraordinary: it took place in October. It also featured a smaller field of racers, dropping to about 20,000 from a typical 30,000, making qualifying for the race more difficult. (Boston is the only major marathon that requires all participants who are not nominated for a charity to meet an age-adjusted standard time.)
Kim Westphal, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the October marathon looked like it was just yesterday. “I didn’t quite get out of the last race,” added Westfall, 30.
For Amanda Raethel, a cattle ranch manager from Falls City, Neb. The October race has been working best for her schedule in part because spring is the busy season when the cows give birth. But after qualifying again for this year’s race – something she never thought about having only started running again a few years ago – Raethel couldn’t refuse.
“Tomorrow is going to be very, very different. This race has a lot of history. It’s a tradition to be on Patriots Day,” Raythell said. “It’s going to be almost a whole new experience.”
Ray Simpson is competing in the 8th Boston Marathon, including the October event. He said that year wasn’t normal – it almost didn’t feel like a race at all. It was less tense, there was less energy, the crowds were a little thinner.
But Boston is back this year. “I think there’s going to be more buzz and oomph,” said Simpson, 57, of Toronto.
Joyce Lee ran the 6th Boston Marathon. Last year, she worked as a guide for a visually impaired runner, an experience she said was hard to get past. And while the turnaround this year seems a bit early, Lee, 41, is grateful for the chance to compete in the race again, particularly on the 50th anniversary of the women’s official inclusion in the event.
“We are reaping the rewards of all these women who have broken barriers,” she told me. “We have to inspire others to overcome their self-doubt.”