For Wendy Gesund, the best part about running in the Boston Marathon isn’t even going to be the race.
“It’s really not about the race, it’s about the journey,” the Ahwatukee Foothills resident said. “My goal is to break four hours and just to have fun,” Gesund said. “Mostly, my goal is to go and take in the whole experience.”
Gesund, 48, is involved in a group of about 20 people from Ahwatukee, Tempe and Gilbert who all qualified for the Boston Marathon this year and will be attending the race on April 16 together.
The group, brought together by Tempe resident Ed Wagner, is made up of different running backgrounds, skill sets and inspirations. The common goal is enjoying their accomplishments to the fullest.
They train together as much as they are able to. Morning and weekend runs are planned with the hope that whomever wants to attend is able to do so.
“The camaraderie is really great,” Gesund said. “That’s probably the main reason I’m going this time. It is an opportunity to go and enjoy such a great event with a great group of friends. That makes the experience even better.”
Gesund’s love for running has developed over the past 35 years, since she began running track her freshman year in high school. From then on, she never had any desire to stop running and got more involved in Arizona’s marathon and triathlon scene.
Unlike some of the other group members, Gesund has ran the Boston Marathon twice before. Her first time was 22 years ago.
“The first time I went it was just really, really exciting,” Gesund said. “I’ve run over 30 marathons, so I do a lot of different cities. That particular one, it’s one where the whole city gets involved, they just make it really fun and there’s a lot of great talent out there.”
Paige Swaine, 45, started running five years ago with weight loss as her main reason. The challenging aspect of running kept her attention and has led her to run in seven marathons.
Her first, though, will always be in the forefront of her mind. In 2008, she participated in the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and was encouraged by her family’s support.
“It was 29 degrees outside and my kids and their dad were out at mile five to cheer me on and that was probably one of my best memories,” Swaine said.
As her excitement for the Boston Marathon builds, she realizes this might be her last full marathon. She anticipates triathlons and half-marathons filling the void from here on out.
Swaine’s biggest running inspirations remain her daughters.
“I have two athletic daughters and I just wanted them to realize that you never get too old to workout (and) to take care of yourself,” Swaine said. “(You’ve) always got to keep yourself in tip-top shape.”
During her seven years of running, Mary Laibe, 41, has learned to run with an appreciation for the ability.
“I have a lot of friends on Facebook that have been hit by cars and things like that and aren’t able to do this any longer, so it makes me feel very, very blessed,” Laibe said.
Laibe said she’s going into the Boston Marathon with the mentality that she’ll never get this opportunity again. As she prepares for an Ironman race in June, though, Laibe is making sure to run this marathon smart and safe.
Her favorite part of running is treasuring the sense of accomplishment that any race runner is familiar with: crossing the finish line.
When the last participant of the Boston Marathon has crossed the finish line, each member of the local group, which includes Ahwatukee residents Chuck Mills and Alan Baskin, along with Gesund, Swaine and Laibe, will know the feeling.