The Boston Marathon is one of the longest standing traditions in sports, held annually on Patriots Day in Boston.
Each year, thousands of avid runners put their training to the test and partake in one of the oldest annual marathons held around the world.
Ardmore’s Mihaela Popa participated in her first-ever Boston Marathon this year, an historic race as the winner finished just two seconds in front of second place.
“That feeling of running Boston,” Popa said. “It is a dream that you are running Boston, since you are a marathoner you can register for this or that race any time and running is a passion,” Popa said. “This one, maybe because you have to qualify for it, it makes you have to push yourself harder.”
Popa, originally from Romania, moved to Ardmore with her husband in the early 2000’s. Popa did not run much in Romania and took up the hobby to stay in shape.
After a friend saw how fast she was running at the gym, they convinced her to start training outside.
“After I had my kids, I did not gain a lot of weight but I felt like I needed to exercise,” Popa said. “I didn’t use the machines or dumbbells, I didn’t want to get big and muscles. I just wanted to sweat and get my exercising done on the treadmill and I loved it. Everyone was impressed because no one would stay on cardio as long as I did.”
After starting to run on the streets, Popa decided to run the local Arbuckles to Ardmore marathon race. Signing up for the 5K, Popa was making great time and was in first place when another woman passed her entering into Noble Stadium, which was the finish line.
Popa has run 11 marathons since her first 5K four years ago, and qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon in 2017 by running the Fort Worth Marathon in 3:27.
When she got to Boston, the weather played a major factor in her race. After Popa said she wanted to enjoy every minute and every mile, humidity and rain made her take a different approach.
“It was very humid, we had to stop at every mile to do what was smart for you to finish it,” Popa said. “A lot of people started to not feel good and get dizzy.”
Although the weather made the race more difficult than anticipated, the joy of running in one of the world’s most prestigious races made it worth it for Popa.
“By mile 20 in the marathon, you feel like you have already gave it your all, it is just your mind keeps you going because you are trained that way,” Popa said. “You are running with all these elite runners that you will see on TV later, I don’t know, it is just that feeling of doing Boston.”
Popa has already qualified for the 2020 Boston marathon by again competing in the Fort Worth Marathon. Being a veteran of the Boston, Popa now knows to expect the unexpected, and will train for various weather conditions which might affect the race.
After completing the Boston Marathon, Popa now has other running goals in mind. She would like to compete in the Chicago Marathon, the New York City Marathon and possibly a race in her home country. Competing in her first Boston will be a memory she will hold onto for forever.
“I could do this for fun, just to be there with my friends,” Popa said. “ I love running, I will run these because of my love of running.”