This is the 15th story in a series profiling runners who will compete in the 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John. The stories are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.
Editor’s note: Marta Kelly and Frank Kelly, the popular father –daughter team who can be seen racing many events in the greater Saint John area, were not always linked together as runners.
In fact, Marta, who started running in 1998, was at it for almost a decade before Frank, at the age of 67, first tackled a race.
It was that event – the Brent Kelly Memorial five miler in tribute to Frank’s late grandson and Marta’s late nephew – where Frank raced the course wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, wool socks and work boots.
It was his contribution to a loving family tribute honouring Brent’s memory in a race that most recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Brent died from Giant Cell Myocarditis, a rare and often fatal disease of the heart, when he was 12 years old.
Running also allowed the family to remember Frank’s wife and Marta’s mother Dianne, who died in 2003.
It proved therapeutic in many ways and in 2007, a year after Frank’s initial race, he trained, wore proper running gear and shaved 20 minutes off his time.
From there, the love affair with the sport blossomed. Through many years of running since, Frank and Marta have raced together in five Boston Marathons and along with other family members, are regulars in many Run New Brunswick events – including Marathon by the Sea.
Here is a look at Frank and Marta’s Boston experiences as well as other thoughts, as written by Marta, who picks up the story after the 2007 Brent Kelly Memorial event.
After that, Dad was hooked on running. He enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow runners, being active, racing against others in his age group and traveling to races, both inside and outside of the province.
Dad ran his first marathon in May 2008 and qualified for Boston, at which point I had to train like a maniac in order to go with him. We trained together that winter and we were lucky enough to have the experience to run our very first Boston Marathons together.
The experience was incredible. I always enjoy running with Dad and having people look at him and think they should be ahead of him because he’s “older.”
They speed up only to get passed by him about a kilometer later as they underestimate the power of a stubborn Irishman.
Although we tend to bicker, a lot, when we run with me trying to get him to slow down as he races down hills and him trying to get me to stop nagging, the bickering stopped about mile 21 in that first Boston race.
After we made it up Heartbreak Hill, the reality that you have five more miles sets in and you start taking an inventory of your aches and pains; Will my calves start to spasm? Are my quads going to hold out? Questions like that. So instead of bickering, we concentrated on the great crowd support and kept plugging along to the finish.
It was a moderate temperature that year so we wore long sleeves and gloves but we were never too cold until the finish, when you chill quickly.
It was certainly a memorable experience for both of us and I was so proud to be able to run Boston with my Dad.
The next two years we were at it again, Dad insisting that “I run my own race” in those years to see if I could have a faster time. It was very hard to do so because I constantly worried about how Dad was doing. Was he feeling okay? Is it too warm out for him? Is he hydrating enough?
However, each time my fears were unfounded as he crossed both of those years in just over 4 hours.
In 2012, it was a different story because it was hot – really hot – and I was scared that Dad would have a hard time. Once again, he was adament that I “run my own race” until we went for a 4km run the day before the race and it was so hot, he relented.
We ran together – it was 28C at the start line and the temperature got up as high as 31C to make it feel like we were running in Cuba.
However, we made it and once again, I was very grateful to have run Boston with my Dad.
In 2013, since we didn’t re-qualify due to the heat of the previous year, we went down to volunteer and we were about 1 kilometer from the finish line when the bombs went off. It was a very crazy experience and certainly makes you realize what is important in life. We left Boston with heavy hearts that year.
Since Dad started running, he has competed an average of 20 Run NB races each year, has run 5 Boston Marathons altogether and has a personal best marathon time of 4:00:50, set at age 74 in Fredericton. That meant one more Boston. So again, I had to train hard and made it again for 2014.
We once again went on the bus tour and had a great time. The course support was incredible, there were 32,000 runners, millions of fans and we felt very safe.
We both requalified for 2015, so we’ll see what that brings after this running season. Dad of course will be running 15-20 races throughout NB. I, on the other hand will be recovering from my surgery and taking a break.
Marathon by the Sea is a special event for Dad because it is where he ran his fastest half marathon (1:49:56 in 2010). In addition, it was the first place he ran with both of his daughters (in 2006 in the 5 miler). He also ran the 10k there when they changed the routes up one year, so he has only to run the full at MBTS, which he may do in the future.
But for this year, it will be one of his many half marathons as he plans to obtain the NB provincial medal by running all four half marathons (Fredericton, Miramichi, Saint John and Moncton).
Marathon by the Sea is a special marathon for me in many ways as it was my very first half marathon that I ever completed.
It was in 1999 and was one of the rainiest days on record. I have since completed the 5-miler twice, the 10k once, the half marathon seven more times and the full marathon once. It is one of my favorite races and ellicits many
memories for me such as:
First half marathon in the pouring rain; First half marathon that I was dehydrated and was “ill” at the finish; First time going under 1:50 for half at Marathon by the Sea; First marathon run at home; First race with Dad (and my sister); Pacing my sister on her first half marathon; Helping my running partner with the first half of her full; Running my first sub 4 minute k down Crown Street, which nearly killed me.
This year, I will remember it as my first race after my shoulder surgery. I will likely be walking one of the shorter distances but it is all about participation, seeing my running friends, post-race running hugs, celebrating the
accomplishments of others, congratulating those who do SO MUCH in planning the event, including my dear friend Patrick Grannan along with his cohorts Mike Doyle, Kelly Burge and many others.
This is an event never to be missed. I am proud of the Saint John running community and their efforts in putting on a great event.
In addition, I wouldn’t want to miss the Fundy Fog Chaser’s water stop on Douglas Avenue – they are ALWAYS the best water stop and give the runners that final push to the finish each year.