Courtesy of Rob McGuinness
LOWELL, Mass. - Some things are better the second time around.
Kayley Ryan '14 made her second appearance in a marathon on Sunday morning, going the distance in the Baystate Marathon. She posted a personal-best time of 3 hours, 27 minutes and 30 seconds and qualified for the 2020 running of the Boston Marathon.
The loops around the roads and bridges of Lowell on a blustery October morning proved to be far more manageable than Ryan's debut at 26.2 miles. That race – the Vermont City Marathon, in 2016 – was stopped due to extreme heat. This time, the weather wasn't a problem.
"The weather was perfect, and I felt great," Ryan said. "I knew it was going to be a good day whether I qualified or not."
Ryan opened the race with a few miles that were faster than her goal pace, but evened her pacing by the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) split. She reached 13.1 miles at 1:41:11 and knew that her goal of a Boston-qualifying time was well within reach. Her pace slowed in the final miles, but she was determined to hold on.
"I knew I had it in me," she said. "The final stretch was tough. My calves were starting to tighten up. But rounding the final corner and seeing the clock, I gave it everything I had."
Crossing the finish line brought a wave of emotion and a sense of accomplishment.
"I don't think I have ever felt as many emotions at once," Ryan said. "Relief. Joy. Pain. Shock. I never thought I would accomplish my goal of qualifying for Boston. But I did!"
Ryan will be eligible to run the Boston Marathon in 2020, joining a growing list of young alumnae who have qualified for the world's oldest annual marathon. The Boston Athletic Association recently raised the qualifying standards for the race, and Ryan is 2 minutes, 30 seconds clear of the required time – 3:30:00 – for her age group.
Ryan was a decorated cross country and track athlete during her time at Salve Regina. She was twice an all-Commonwealth Coast Conference honoree in cross country and was CCC Rookie of the Year in 2010. The former captain also was a three-time CCC champion and a two-time New England qualifier in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Now working as a registered nurse at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, the former Seahawk sought input from cross country coach Rob McGuinness in building a training plan that would could be adapted around her work schedule. The progression of workouts and long runs proved to be the right fit.
"Going back and forth between working days and working nights, it was hard to feel good on some of my quality days," Ryan said. "It was tough getting those runs in, but I tried to stick to the plan."
It was a formula that had worked well in the past. When Ryan was a senior at Salve Regina, her class and clinical schedule meant that she would often run workouts alone, texting McGuinness afterward for feedback. Her final track season, of course, included a New England-qualifying mark in the steeplechase and a personal-best performance in her final race on May 3, 2014.
"Kayley was always someone who held herself accountable for the work, even if she couldn't train with her teammates. It's a big reason why she had the success that she did in college," McGuinness said. "Some things don't change. Kayley is running as well as ever, and I am incredibly proud of her for an excellent marathon result."