While most New Year’s Eve revelers were wearily trudging out of Boston on the morning of Jan. 1, Lindsay Amherst and a few friends were strolling into the state’s capitol.
The 30-year-old Pawtucket native, along with a few members of the Tuesday Night Turtles running club, ran the entire Boston Marathon route, beginning in Hopkinton at 6 a.m. and arriving in Boston less than four hours later.
“We ran at an easy, enjoyable pace and had lunch in the city before heading back home,” recalled Amherst. “It was a great opportunity to preview the course and the Newton hills – and definitely a better memory than nursing a hangover!”
On Monday morning, Amherst will be tracking those same steps she took on New Year’s Day, but this time, she will be joined by close to 36,000 runners in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
“This will be my third official marathon,” she said. “My first marathon was the Rock and Roll Las Vegas (in Dec. 2012) and my second was the Lehigh Valley Via marathon (last September) in Pennsylvania. But I can say without a doubt that Boston is the first marathon I have seriously trained for, and I am 100 percent ready.”
Two years ago, Amherst was nowhere to be found on the radar when it came to the local running scene. She just moved back to Rhode Island in late 2011 after living away from it for nearly nine years, spending the bulk of them in Hawaii and five years in active duty service with the U.S. Marine Corps.
Amherst began running the following year and started seeing progress in her performances to the point where she just wasn’t posting personal-best times in races on a regular basis, but she was becoming the top female finisher as well!
That November, despite not running more than a distance of 18 miles in her life, she took part in the grueling R.I. 6-Hour Ultramarathon in Warwick and toured 37.8 miles in a 5:52:14.3 time, which not only placed her third among the female finishers, but also landed her a prestigious USATF New England ultrarunning championship.
And then came the victories. Her first one came in March of last year at the Run the Reservoir 15K in North Scituate. Then in August, she won the “Yo” Raymond 5K in Cumberland in 21:57. A month later, she captured the Miles with the Mayor 5K in Taunton, Mass. in 20:19, and in her final race of 2013, the Beat Santa 5K in Portsmouth, she was also victorious.
Late last month, Amherst returned to the Run the Reservoir 15K and made a statement by defending her women’s title with a 1:00:15 clocking that set the women’s course record, and a week later, she was first in the Officer Thomas Giunta 5K in Fall River, Mass. in a personal-best finish of 18:54.
Yes, it’s safe to say that Amherst is on top of her game right now – and at the perfect time, with Monday’s race right around the corner. And if her trend of PRs continue and she destroys her marathon PR of 3:51:53 with a qualifying time below 3:35, she may be looking at a repeat visit to Hopkinton next year – and possibly many more to come.
“With this being my first Boston Marathon, I’m honored to be able to run on such an important, high-energy and emotional year,” Amherst said. “Without a doubt, I know this will be my most successful marathon (time). Taking the factors of the congestion of other runners and the possibility of poor weather into account, I’ll be very happy with a finish time between 3:20 and 3:30.”
Amherst, who is employed as a civil claims clerk for the Providence District Courthouse, received an entry into the race through a lottery for a waiver her running club, the Rhode Island Road Runners, held late last year.
It was the RIRR, Amherst added, that she credits for not only putting her on the path to running two years ago, but also helping get her life back on track following the burn of a recently failed marriage and also adjusting to the loss of vision in her left eye following an ocular stroke.
“I was searching for social connections to add something optimistic in my life and I found (the RIRR),” she remarked. “At first, I struggled to keep up for five miles, but someone was always there with me, supporting me, being positive. Without (the RIRR), I don’t believe I would be a runner today.”
A 2001 graduate of St. Raphael Academy, Amherst set her sights on joining the military, but when her parents urged her to attend at least one semester of college being making her decision, she went to Hawaii and studied military science for one semester at Hawaii Pacific University.
After that semester, she returned home and enlisted in the U.S. Marines, and after graduating at the top of the military communications electronics repair school, she received her choice of duty station and opted to return to Hawaii and stay at Kaneohe Bay.
While there, Amherst made the most of her free time. She attended school at night back at Hawaii Pacific University and received her associate degree in business management. And with the encouragement of a fellow Marine, she ran in her first race, the 2004 Windward Half Marathon in Kaneohe Bay.
“I agreed (to run it) without thinking much of it,” she recalled. “I met him the next morning for the race, and at the time, I was running no more than five miles two or three times a week for morning training in the Marines. My finish time for the half was well over two hours, and I am almost positive I walked the last few blocks to the finish.”
After that race, she deployed twice from Hawaii – first to Kuwait in 2005 in support of OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), and then Iraq the following year in support of OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) – and in 2008, Amherst wrapped up her active service and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant.
But right before finishing her active duty, Amherst decided to break out her running shoes and give the Windward Half another try. Again, the race was a struggle at the end, and when it was mercifully over, she thought she had run her last race.
But four years later…
“I have been regularly racing now since mid-2012 and seeing progress every year,” offered Amherst. “My 5k time, for example, has improved from 27:55 in April 2012 to 18:54 this year. So much in life, as in work or relationships, you find yourself trying so hard, only to receive nothing in return. Running will never disappoint in that way – you will always get back what you put in. If you put in the time, the miles, and the effort, you will always see progress and improvement.”
While 2012 served as her introduction to the running scene, last year was her introduction to the spotlight, and also among her highlights was winning the RIRR’s Grand Prix series women’s championship. She became the youngest winner in the series’ history by dethroning the defending champion, standout Veterans Division runner Pat LaChance of Seekonk, Mass.
And since last November, Amherst has been doing some exclusive training with the Warwick-based Turtles, and the runners in that club “always push me outside my comfort zone. My success is exciting, but I can’t say that it’s surprising. I’ve trained hard this year, and the victories are very rewarding.”
Of course, a sub-3:30 finish next Monday would also be very rewarding, and Amherst is amped for the challenge and anxious to answer the starter’s gun. Like any Boston-bound runner would admit, it was a tough winter to train, but she only got tougher and expects to see her hard work pay dividends.
“Running Boston is a momentous goal, so when presented the opportunity to be part of such a historic race, you want to do well,” said Amherst. “It’s been a harsh winter, but nevertheless, I logged over 800 miles since January, and that’s given me the level of fitness necessary to head to Boston and a level of confidence I never had in either of my prior marathons.”
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24