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Spotted on the Streets of New Jersey: Dorothy Bardin

We are in awe of 74-year-old Dorothy Bardin, who finished first in her age group at the New Jersey Marathon on April 27 and qualified for Boston for the third time. If you ever think it’s too late—or you’re too old—to achieve your goals, read Dorothy’s story. She is an inspiration and proof that hard work, dedication and a positive attitude pay off!

This was the ninth full marathon I’ve done. It was somewhat special for me, too, in that my very first marathon was the NJ Marathon with Team in Training in 2006. I cherish the memories of that first marathon and my wonderful experience with TNT.

I’ve qualified for Boston three times. The first was in San Diego in 2010, which I trained for and ran with TNT. Needless to say, I was quite thrilled and very excited about going to Boston. However, six weeks before the race in April, I sustained a stress fracture in my heel. No deferrals allowed, not even medical, so I had to re-qualify before mid-September when the two-week registration period for Boston was scheduled.

My daughter Thea, who is my greatest cheerleader and support, was determined to find a marathon to run so that if I did manage to beat my qualifying time again, I could register for 2011. With such a short time in which to do it, it wasn’t easy finding one. We ended up at the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, IL. She ran it with me (for support) with minimal training. We had so much fun, despite our serious goal of the 4:55 qualifying time I needed. My previous PR, when I qualified in San Diego, was 4:57:59! In Fox Valley I crossed the finish line in 4:36:57!!! I literally walked around for the next three days saying to myself, “I don’t believe it!” over and over.

Did I think I could do that again in NJ? No! But all I needed to qualify was 4:55, and I felt I could do that, as long as I ran smart and didn’t run into any problems during the race. I had trained well with Brian Rosetti (founder of The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project) and felt reasonably confident going into the race, thanks to his coaching.

I surprised myself again! I was only 50 seconds shy of a new PR – but that’s incidental. I qualified, so now I can celebrate my 75th birthday next year by running the Boston Marathon!

Two things stand out in my mind about the race. We had a fairly strong head wind, gusting at times, the entire last six miles. When I felt my hat blow off my head somewhere around mile 23, my impulse was to try to retrieve it. Then I remembered Michael Conlon running with me at about the same point in the San Diego Marathon in 2010, and the same thing had happened. I stopped and turned to go get it, and Michael said “No! Keep running! I’ll get it.” So this time I just let the hat go. But the magic was in the memory. All of a sudden, in those final tough miles, I felt Michael’s presence, supporting me just as he had in San Diego.

The other thing that stands out in my memory was again, maybe with 2 miles or less to go, when I really thought I could not run any faster if I didn’t want to risk collapsing before reaching the finish line, some nice man yelled from the side “Dig deep! Dig deep!” That was what I needed, so I dug deep and found I could run still faster. I was very grateful to him for saying that!

Other than that, I think I was in the “zone” pretty much the entire time. Didn’t even allow myself to take in the beauty of the ocean, which I love so much. For these 4 hours, 37 minutes, 46 seconds, running this race was the only thing on my mind!