WINNSBORO — Winnsboro runner and health education teacher Sonya “Cookie” Kennedy said that running the Boston Marathon in 2001 was one of the most exciting events in her life.
A college basketball star at Tuskegee University in Alabama, she was a two-time All-American there. But Kennedy did not start running until after she graduated college.
“Running the Boston Marathon is probably the most exciting thing I have done in my entire life,” she said. “There are spectators all along the 26 miles and I could hear college students screaming for (runners) who were blocks away.”
She got on a runner’s high and turned in a 3:38.47 time.
She got serious about running in 1997 and ran with guys in her area who suggested she try for a marathon. Kennedy qualified for Boston on her first attempt at ever running a marathon, a point of pride for her.
Her brother ran the Boston marathon a few years before she did and that let the marathon bug bite her. She pushed herself through grueling workouts and even hired a nutritionist to help her build leaner muscle mass for the race.
The average runner runs 60 to 70 miles per week while training for a marathon. She did speed work and tempo runs twice a week and added in 20 mile runs on the other days. Tempo runs consisted of running up to 10 miles where each mile was run in 6 minutes 45 seconds or less.
During the training, she said she basically worked, ate, slept and ran. Her regimen required a 9 p.m. bedtime among other things that cut into her social life but she said the sacrifices were worth it.
Since she moved home to Winnsboro from Michigan, Kennedy has continued running, just not at marathon levels. In 2000 she ran the Detroit Free Press race that qualified her for the Boston Marathon. Qualifying times are age dependent and at 3 hours 45 minutes she made the cut.
The Boston race was a one-of-the-kind experience because she actually ran faster even though the course had hills much steeper than the Detroit race.
“People talk about Heartbreak Hill (the hill nearly a mile from the end of the race),” she said. “I don’t even remember that hill because I had so much energy that day.”
Kennedy first saw about the bombings at the 2013 marathon when she arrived home after school and saw the news was on.
“I had just gotten home from school, walked in the door and saw the bombing on television,” she said. “Around noon that day I thought of Boston, as I do on every Patriot’s Day as I feel camaraderie with the other runners.”
When she saw the news coverage she said her heart just fell to the floor.
“It was devastating, just unbelievable. My heart just goes out to the victims and their family members,” she said. It was unbelievable. I am grateful the police found the bombers and hopefully justice will be done.”
She is thankful there will be a Boston Marathon in 2014 and that the city emerged Boston Strong.
“(The attack) was such a cowardly thing to do. It makes me almost want to train and run a marathon next year,” she said.