In a 24-hour period last week, Wendy Thomas of Windsor placed 19th among women in the Boston Marathon on Monday morning, flew home and arrived in Windsor at around 11 p.m., drove her two boys to school Tuesday morning and was at work by 8 a.m. in Greeley.
Just a typical 24-hour cycle for Thomas.
The 35-year-old ran the 26.2-mile race in a personal best 2 hours, 32 minutes, 49 seconds and was the fifth fastest American woman to finish. Of the 18 runners who finished ahead of her, Thomas was the oldest.
Shalane Flanagan, 32, was the fastest American in the women’s race, placing seventh in a time of 2:22:02. Rita Jeptoo, 33, of Kenya, who won the marathon last year, set the women’s course record with 2:18:57.
There were more than 32,000 runners (male and female) in the 118th marathon, and Thomas proved to be one of the elite runners in the prestigious event.
Boston was only her third career marathon, and she ran an incredible 5:50-per-mile pace. The first 20 miles she was on a 5:40-per-mile pace.
Running this year’s Boston Marathon was special because of last year’s bombings at the finish line. Thomas said the security was intense and Boston did a good job of securing the city.
“It was amazing. I never quite experienced anything like it,” Thomas said. “I promised myself that before the race that I would make sure to kind of take in the experience. Most of the races I go to I’m so focused on the times. Most of the time I run a race from start to finish and I couldn’t tell you anything about the course or the spectators.”
It was different in Boston.
“With Boston, I made sure to tell myself to enjoy it, to take it all in and I did,” Thomas said. “I was high-fiving people along the way, reading the signs that everybody had out. I never experienced a city come together like that. There were just thousands and thousands of people out there cheering you on. Everybody in Boston was just so grateful that we had all come back to run after what had happened last year. I mean, the whole experience is something that I’ll remember for sure forever.”
The emotions ran high on race day for the 5-foot-6, 110-pound Thomas.
“It was really emotional. I had to make myself kind of check out at the start so I wouldn’t be a teary-eyed emotional mess as we started the race,” Thomas said. “Even running through and the people cheering for you kind of made you grateful for the experience to be there. They rebounded and came back even stronger.”
Thomas’ coach, Scott Simmons of Colorado Springs, said Thomas ran a great time on a difficult course.
“It was over a 2-minute personal best on a tough course,” Simmons said. “That course, depending upon just weather or wind, is either a really hard course or a really fast course. This one wasn’t really fast this time. It was pretty tough to be able to do what she did. It was a hard race for her, but she did well.”
A stay-at-home mom for 10 years before starting her job in property management this year, Thomas and her family have lived in Windsor for the last six years. Thomas, who grew up in Colorado Springs, played volleyball at Lamar Junior College and didn’t start running until her late 20s after she had her kids.
“I didn’t really like running, but I just got more and more competitive,” said Thomas, whose husband, Kevin, played baseball on the 1996 Greeley Central squad that placed second to Cherry Creek in the Class 5A state tournament. “After I had my kids, I started running to lose weight and just a way to get back in shape. I started running a couple of local races just for fun, and started winning them and started traveling to U.S. championship races and it kind of just snowballed from there.”
Indeed it has.
Thomas’ first marathon just happened to be at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Houston, where she ran a 2:34:25 in 2012 and finished 12th. Her second marathon was at the Twin Cities in Minneapolis at the U.S. Championships in October 2013 in a time of 2:36.
Simmons said Thomas has what it takes to be a great marathon runner above and beyond most people.
“She just works hard, she’s extremely disciplined and motivated and she has great support with her family,” Simmons said. “The day that she was actually leaving (for Boston), she was taking her kids to baseball games. For her it’s nonstop. She figures out a way to get into training, which is not easy. She gets it done. She’s only going to continue to get better.”
Thomas’ goal for Boston was to run under 2:30, place in the top 20 and finish in the top five for American women. She accomplished two of the three. Thomas said Boston wasn’t the course for her to run under 2:30, even though the weather was nice for running.
“It was the perfect day,” Thomas said. “The weather was great. The crowds were great. But the downhills took a toll on my quads. By 20 or 21 miles, my quads were just cramping up and getting to the finish became the only goal. I’d been training to run a 2:29, but I kind of knew with Boston’s course being what it was I could run anywhere from 2:29 to 2:34. This year was one of the most stacked fields that they’ve had in a very long time because of the circumstances. They wanted to make it bigger and better.”
Thomas trained for 12 weeks for Boston by running 110 miles a week.
“I had to work for every mile,” Thomas said. “I used the crowds to pull me through.”
Thomas plans to run again May 10 in the USA 25K Championships in Grand Rapids, Mich., and run in the Chicago Marathon in October.
Thomas, who trains around Windsor and in Colorado Springs, is sponsored by Adidas and The Boulder Running Company out of Colorado Springs.
She plans to run in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials when she’ll be 41, and is part of the USA Running Circuit.
Thomas has her summer lined up competing in races, including stops in Costa Rica and a half-marathon in Minnesota.
She doesn’t know if she’ll run Boston again next year, but plans to run it again in the future.
“I feel fresh. I definitely feel like I have quite a few more years in me before I’m done,” Thomas said. “I’m glad I waited until I was older. I had my kids first and then I got to start training. A lot of the people I compete against are trying to figure out how to take a break to have kids. The way I did it was perfect for me.”