Although she was born and raised in the South, and now lives in California, Blake Russell is a converted New Englander—thanks to post-collegiate years spent living there with her husband Jon, a Massachusetts native. She still roots for the Red Sox and Patriots and on trips back to the area to visit her husband’s family one of her
first stops is at the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts.
It’s small wonder Russell holds a special place for Boston; perhaps the best race of her life occurred there in 2008 when she made the Olympic marathon squad by placing third on the criterium course along the Charles River and through Back Bay, erasing the heartbreak of finishing an agonizing single spot off the team four years before in St. Louis.
But in her one run over the traditional Boston Marathon course from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in 2011, Russell didn’t fare as well, dropping out just before 17 miles. “I kind of went into that race a little sick, with some bronchitis, and by that point I could barely breathe,” she recalled.
So Monday will be an opportunity to conclude some unfinished business, although one Russell wouldn’t have expected a year ago.
“I raced Bloomsday then had [sports hernia] surgery, and in the fall I started coming back from that,” she said. “I was just having fun running, started feeling good, and the long term plan was to run Cal International, since it was later in the year and relatively close.
“Then in the middle of a run around Christmastime I got Boston in my head, and by the end of the run I was really excited to do it. So I called Sev [longtime coach Bob Sevene] and asked him if he thought it could be done. He said yes, and so I slowly built up my mileage until I was in the high 80s, sometimes 90s. I ran my first marathon off that and did 2:30, so it’s not necessary to do high mileage.”
Although Russell, now 41, entered the masters ranks two summers ago, “I am ignoring that part, but I’ll take it,” she said. “I think I can be competitive, in the top 10. I think there’s going to be pack running 2:30-2:32, hopefully I can just tuck in with them; I don’t want to get pulled out too fast.”