The Running Whys – Kay Stairs

Kay Stairs met Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, during pre-race festivities of the 2015 event. Stairs qualified for and competed in the race for the first time last month. Photo Submitted.

Kay Stairs, left, met Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, during pre-race festivities of the 2015 event. Stairs qualified for and competed in the race for the first time last month. Photo Submitted.

This story ran in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner May 16.

Midway through training for an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon, Fredericton’s Kay Stairs got married.

Several days after tying the knot, Kay and her husband Richard spent a few days in Saint John and the couple celebrated by tying their sneakers and taking to the roads of the Port City.

We just went down for a few days after the wedding and proceeded to go out for a 20-mile run,” said Stairs, chuckling at her fitness regiment in February 2014.

You gotta do what you gotta do.

It seemed fitting because it was Richard who, as member of the Capital City Road Runners Club, offered to run with Kay when she asked someone to accompany her for long runs in a quest to complete her first marathon five years ago. She had been inspired by the club members’ tales of long-distance conquests throughout North America during regular group outings and wanted to take her shot at the big one.

So Kay and Richard successfully trained, eventually ran together in several marathons in Moncton, Charlottetown and Fredericton and after realizing she was close to qualifying, she decided to go for Boston.

Her dedication eventually paid off later in 2014 when Stairs ran a 3:57 time in the Sugarloaf Marathon to qualify for last month’s Boston Marathon, a reward for persistence and determination.

There are so many traditions,” explained Stairs, 53 of her 4:16.38 clocking in Boston last month. “It was an honour to take part.

Now, she’s got her eyes set on another marathon in September in Montreal, the Cabot Trail Relay in Cape Breton next week and a triathlon in July in Saint John.

All this for Kay, who took up the sport as a teenager in Toronto, part of a program she enlisted in so she could pass required high school fitness standards.

I did not consider myself an athlete, but I took part in that program and I loved it,” she said.

There are so many things that appealed to me – you could do it anytime, anywhere. It was challenging, you could do it yourself and all you needed was a pair of running shoes. I took it up as a fitness activity.

Running ultimately became a regular part of her routine. She ran to keep in shape, she ran while she mourned the death of her first husband and she remained committed, hiring a babysitter to look after her son while she got out on the various distances.

Approximately 25 years ago, she moved to Bathurst as a geologist and it was there when she started to take part in races – most notably the Banque National 10-kilometre event. And she was further hooked.

To me, it is an important part of running because there are so many things you get from going to the races,” she said.

Then, after a career switch to nursing and a move to Fredericton 10 years ago, she joined the Capital City Road Runners Club and as her 50th birthday approached, set a goal to run the 42.2-kilometre distance to further motivate herself.

It seemed like the thing to do but it was so terrifying at the same time,” she said. “I felt I should get some help (by joining other runners) and I wanted to be a little more social.

Richard provided valuable assistance in what developed into a love affair and after Kay completed three marathons, they got married in the midst of winter training. As time passed and the kilometres accumulated, Kay had moved closer to the qualifying standard for Boston.

I had never even thought about it but one marathon, I finished in 4:00.21 and the qualifying time, as I learned, was 4:00.00 for Boston,” she said. “That is where it crystalized in my mind – I could do this.

Kevin Barrett’s column appears every other Saturday. If you have a suggestion for a feature story, email him at kevinbarrett16@gmail.com or visit barrettkevin.wordpress.com.

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