Richland runner hits her stride at Boston Marathon

By Jeff Morrow, Tri-City Herald sports editorMay 31, 2012 

Richland's Maron Wang needed a sense of purpose 10 years ago when her two children grew up and moved away.

She found it in distance running, and she has become good at it.

So good that Wang, 65, won her age group -- females 65-69 -- last month at the Boston Marathon. Her time of 4 hours, 5 minutes and 32 seconds was better than the other 46 runners in her group.

Not bad for a woman who grew up in Taiwan and never was really athletic.

"In Taiwan they didn't emphasize physical activity," she said. "They emphasized schoolwork. But as a mother, I started emphasizing physical activities for my kids (Connie and Larry) -- soccer and basketball. I kind of helped them develop some ability. They learned to ski and swim."

And during that time, Wang would lift weights at Columbia Basin Racquet Club in Richland.

But it wasn't until she and her husband Oliver saw the kids were grown and moved out that she had a lot more time on her hands.

That's when she decided to try running.

"Running keeps you fit and energized every day," she said. "It keeps you in shape, and I also got into the habit just to stay busy. I have a very optimistic outlook on life. Running helped me to feel good. I have very good reflexes because of running, better than when I was younger."

The diminutive Wang runs in the Tri-Cities five to six days a week -- depending on whether there is a race coming up.

Her mileage varies per week, from 25 miles up to 65 miles.

Wang has run nine competitive marathons in the past 10 years. She ran the Athens marathon in 2010.

It was the 2,500th anniversary of when, legend has it, a Greek messenger named Pheidippides was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce to the assembly that the Greeks had defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Pheidippides ran the entire distance, made his announcement, and died.

"It's a big marathon that usually has 2,000 to 3,000 people," said Wang. "This time there was 20,000. It was the hardest marathon I have ever run. They used the original route that (Pheidippides) ran from Marathon to Athens."

Her time was good enough to qualify her for the Boston race.

"It is astounding what she's done," said Kennewick's Doug Brown, Wang's running partner. "When she started running, she was in her 50s. But she's not only talented as a runner, she researches running. She's analytical about nutrition and training."

Wang met Brown, 60, in January 2011 when both were at a ski school at Bluewood. She already had decided her next marathon would be in the fall in Berlin.

"He was there telling people that he was running in Berlin," Wang said. "I didn't know him."

Brown said they had lunch later that day and swapped running stories.

"Our personal bests are within five minutes of each other," Brown said. "The timing was remarkable. We decided we're both from the Tri-Cities, we're both going to Berlin. We should train together."

They've done a good job pushing each other ever since.

"We don't do most of our running together," said Brown. "We get together once a week. When we're running together we both have the same sensation running gives you. We both work to hold up our end of the bargain for each other."

They also hold each other accountable.

"He calls me on a Monday and asks, 'What's your plan for tomorrow?' " Wang said. "So he might be planning on a 20-mile run. I may have to do the same."

Brown interjects, "Maron charts her own course."

The two went to Boston last month -- along with Maron's daughter and husband -- to run on a day so hot that race officials were offering deferments to any runner wanting it, hoping that competitors wouldn't suffer from heat exhaustion.

Wang declined.

"I feel lucky," she said. "I think the record heat affected me less because of the heat in the Tri-Cities. It was an extremely sunny day. Actually, the first mile I thought I might not finish. It was so hot. But nobody was quitting."

And that inspired her to keep going until she finally found her rhythm.

"I kind of like the big races," she said. "The other runners in my race are the pacer for me. They help keep you going."

And she did, all the way to the finish line 26 miles, 385 yards later, where she was proclaimed the winner of her age group and given a crystal vase.

Her feat also has earned her the Tri-City Herald title of Mid-Columbia Senior Athlete of the Month for April.

Brown -- who finished in 4:14.38 -- said Wang is an inspiration.

"Did she mention to you after she won her age group, she ran Bloomsday a few weeks later just for fun?" Brown said. "And she won her age group there. She's got a serious bet with her brother that she will run a marathon when she's 80. I have no doubt she will win that bet."

Wang takes it all in stride.

"I'm always looking for people to inspire me," she said, "and I'm flattered when people say I inspire them."

* Have a senior athlete that had a great athletic performance in the month of May? Nominate them for Senior Athlete of the Month by emailing us at sports@tricityherald.com.

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