“Run fast. Pray hard.” That’s Danielle Duhon’s running motto. It’s what got her to the Boston marathon in 2011 and what is taking her there again this year. “Boston is like the average runner’s Olympics,” she says. “Running Boston in 2011 was one of the greatest running experiences I’ll ever have. The crowd support and the privilege of having qualified and getting to run that course, is something I’ll never take for granted.” She adds, “It was such a blessing and an honor to be there, even if I never qualified again.”
The 43-year-old has qualified for Boston every year since, but traveling for a race can be expensive. Not to mention she works the night shift as a nurse and has three young daughters, the oldest of whom is disabled. But this year, is different. “I didn’t go back in 2012 or 2013. The reason I’m going back this year is because of the events of last year. I decided it was important for me to go back and show my support for the city after the events of last year.”
Aside from running alongside the more than 35,660 participants who also are running Boston this year, she’s headed to the race with her sister and seven of her girlfriends. All of who qualified. “It’s amazing we all qualified and got in. I think it will be really special and an honor to run for the people who can’t run this year. For those who lost their lives and to say ‘thank you’ to the city.”
But Duhon hopes this won’t be her last time running Boston. She has another goal in mind for which she will rely on her motto again, as well as the words of triathlete, Jessie Thomas, “Your best performance can come in spite of your biggest doubts. Always give your self a chance to succeed.” Duhon would like to run Boston again pushing her 14-year-old daughter in her new running chair. “My oldest daughter is handicapped and we just raised money to buy her a pushchair. My goal is to qualify for the push chair division. I am small and she weighs more than me, so it will likely take me more than a year to get there. I think she would be ecstatic. She just waves like she is in a pageant when I push her in races. It will be a tough road, but my goal is to give her that experience, however long it takes me to get there.”
As she looks toward her next goal, and even her ensuing race, Duhon credits Newton for her ability to still run at all. When she first began to marathon train, she would get injured every time she increased her mileage—stress fractures, IT band issues, Achilles tendinitis—you name it, she had it. In March of 2009, she ran her first marathon in New Orleans in a time of 4:07. “I was injured again afterward and went in search of a new shoe.” That’s then she was fitted in the Newton Distance. That summer, she began to increase her mileage and remained injury free. In December 2009, she ran her second marathon in a time of 3:41, giving her the qualifying time for Boston. “Nine months later and 26 minutes off my time. What? The only thing I changed were my shoes.”
Fast forward to today and she’s gone through about 12 pairs of the Distance U and is headed to Boston for the second time. For the next few days, she’ll tuck away her thoughts on running it a third time with her daughter and try to just savor the moment—a change from the first time she ran Boston. “Last time I ran Boston, I wanted to run my fastest time and I didn’t enjoy the race as much as I would have liked, because I was looking at my watch and trying to PR. I missed my PR by 3 seconds and I came home disappointed.” She adds, “This time I promised myself I wouldn’t run for the time, but would enjoy myself more and soak up every single moment of this race. Especially with everything that happened there last year, we owe it to that crowd to enjoy every single second.” Then, she’ll get back to running fast and praying hard to make her next goal happen.