The Boston Marathon is perhaps the most prestigious race in the world of running. Distance runners from around the world aspire to one day run it. It is the oldest marathon in the world, dating back to 1897.
A Guntersville runner, Dr. Jill Roberts, will run the marathon this fall. And there’s a good chance she could run it again next spring.
She qualified in December of 2019 at the course in Huntsville. Not just anyone can run the Boston Marathon. You have to meet certain qualifying times to be considered. She was slated to run her Boston Marathon in April of 2020 but it was of course canceled due to COVID.
But her qualifying actually rolled over to the race that will be held this Columbus Day in October. And she can also run on the true Boston Marathon day of Patriots Day, the third Monday in April, in 2022 if she elects to do so.
Jill has been running since she was about 20. She took some time off from the sport when she had children but returned to it again several years ago. She is 46 and works as a physician at the Guntersville VA Clinic.
She has run 7 marathons and a number of half marathons. The Boston Marathon has always been out there as one of those things she would like to do some day.
The thought hit her in 2019 “What am I waiting for?”
With that in mind, she started looking for a flat course that would enable her to run her best possible time.
“I turned 45 in December of 2019 and that gave me a little more cushion on my qualifying time, since it goes up depending on your age,” Jill said.
She ran one marathon in Albany, Georgia, in March of 2019 to potentially qualify and it did not go as planned. She had been training in cool Guntersville. It was in the 70s in Albany and it was very humid. Her time was not what she wanted.
Then on December 14, 2019, Jill’s 45th birthday, she ran the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville. If you’re the least bit superstitious, you would say the stars aligned for Jill.
“My bib number was 1999,” she said. “That was the year I met my husband and it’s my favorite Prince song.”
It was her 7th marathon too and everyone knows 7 is a lucky number.
The course had a couple tough hills, particularly near the Botanical Gardens and heading towards the Space and Rocket Center. She hoped to run the 26-mile marathon in 3:50 or less. She absolutely smoked that time, running it in 3:33:11.
“That’s an average mile of 8:03,” Jill said. “It was almost 17 minutes faster than what I was shooting for. And I felt good after I had run it. And I got in Boston.”
It was a good thing she ran it a little faster. Boston got a little more stringent on times and qualified fewer people so as to maintain more social distancing for the race coming up. Still, Jill was in
Lots of people understand the significance of making the Boston Marathon. Jill got a shirt that said “Boston Marathon Qualifier” and wore it to the grocery store one day. People asked her if she had really qualified or if she was just wearing the shirt. A few said they needed her autograph and that they would watch for her on TV when they learned she was a true qualifier.
Jill takes her running and her training for big runs like this seriously. She will eat right and she will follow the Hanson’s Marathon Manual for her training. She has also drawn inspiration from social media of all places.
She’s part of a “Mama Docs Run” Facebook page where all the members are mothers and doctors. Many of them actually got together in Atlanta in 2019.
“You’re not going through it by yourself when you have a group like this,” she said. “You build one another up.”
They watched the Olympic marathon trials together when they were in Atlanta.
Jill’s best friend from medical school, Dr. Susan Swint, also qualified for the Boston Marathon so the ladies will unite on their trip this fall. Jill’s husband Mike and children Aiden, 15, and Kate, 12, will travel with her to Boston and they will make a vacation out of the trip too.
“”We will spend a few days in DC, then go up to Boston,” she said. “Fall break is the week before the race.”
At home, in her normal routine, Jill runs 6 days a week, usually running 7 miles each morning along the streets of her neighborhood at Signal Point.
Friday is her “day off.”
“I don’t cook on Friday and I don’t run on Friday,” she said.
When the days are long like they are now, she likes to run at 5 a.m. She has to change her schedule up a bit in winter.
Saturdays afford her the extra time to get in a long run of about 10 miles.
She does speed work, interval work, everything a serious runner is supposed to do.
She dislikes running on a treadmill, but has one for when the weather is really rough. She also mixes in free weights with her running.
“If I run in the morning, I do weights at night,” she said.
She has other hobbies she enjoys. She maintains a 55-gallon freshwater aquarium and she likes to go out on the lake for wakeboarding and wake surfing.
While she runs marathons, the half-marathon is her favorite distance, She does run a few 10Ks. She won the Wild Irish this spring and she runs the Pink Pumpkin Run every October.
While she does “eat to perform” with a balanced diet, she will splurge occasionally. She loves pizza and if someone brings Krispy Kreme donuts to the office, she is going to have one.