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Maritimers bringing special memories home from Boston

O’Donnell, Merriam, Johnston share thoughts on the race

By Andrew Wagstaff
Maritime Runner
April 16, 2019

BOSTON, Mass., U.S.A. – As Heather O’Donnell walked to the bus yesterday morning in a torrential downpour, with the wind howling around her, she was not convinced her day at the Boston Marathon would be a positive experience.
It wasn’t long before she started to find out otherwise. In fact, her attitude started to change the moment she stepped on the bus.
“How could it not?” said the marathoner from Meadowvale, N.S. “Every single volunteer was smiling and laughing and wishing everyone a great run. Their energy was so contagious – even the weather caught on to the positivity.”

Heather O’Donnell (left) of Meadowvale, N.S. and Rochelle Johnston of Moncton, N.B. were among the top Canadian female finishers at yesterday’s Boston Marathon.

Photo courtesy of Heather O’Donnell

By the time O’Donnell and the thousands of other runners in yesterday’s 123rd annual race were settled into the tent at athlete’s village, the rain had stopped and the skies started to clear.
Once the race started, she settled into doing what she does best, and ran a tremendous race. She rolled through the halfway mark at 1:27:21 on her way to a PB finish of 2:56:16, the fastest finish by a Maritime female, and sixth among Canadian females.
More than a race, it was the experience of the whole event that O’Donnell appreciated.
“This race is famous for a reason,” she said. “To run in a race surrounded by such talent is humbling and inspiring, and most of all, motivating. The steepness of the hills was drowned out by the cheers of the crowds and my PB today was partly thanks to my training, partly thanks to good advice from my coach Lee McCarron of the Road Hammers, and especially thanks to the energy out there on the course.”

Heather O'Donnell with her unicorn at the finish line.

Photo courtesy of Heather O'Donnell

For Vincent Merriam of Stratford, P.E.I., it was his second trip to Boston, and he seized the opportunity to lay down a PB of his own. His 2:44:10 finish made him not only the top Islander at the race, but also 24th among Canadians.
 “The crowd support is unbelievable and deafening by Wellesley College,” he said, with a laugh. “The Boston Marathon is amazing.”
The crowds were so overwhelming, that Merriam said he got a bit emotional after crossing the finish line.
He PB’d by more than four minutes, a result he was very satisfied with, and one he chalked up to hard work and planning.
“It was proper training/tapering and good food/hydration,” said Merriam. “I also went out a bit fast for the first half because I knew my legs would be close to out of order by the second half.
“Go big or go home,” he said, laughing.

Vincent Merriam, ready for some post-race refreshments at Cheers.

Photo courtesy of Vincent Merriam

While her first two trips to the Boston Marathon were incredible and meaningful in their own way, Rochelle Johnston of Moncton, N.B. said yesterday was without doubt her best experience at the race yet.
She finished the race with a solid time of 3:11:06, the best among New Brunswick women, and 22nd among Canadian women.
“Although this wasn’t a personal best for me, it is definitely one of the races that I am most proud of,” said Johnston.
She went into the race with no specific plan, other than making sure she did not start too fast. She said she wanted to lock into a 4:20-ish pace just to see how it felt, but eventually even threw that idea out the window.
“At around the 16K mark, I was starting to feel a little flat, so made the game-time decision to turn my watch to the time of day, and run solely by effort,” she said. “It was a great choice – I ran the rest of the race according to feel, and was pleasantly surprised that I was still able to pull off a 3:11!”
It was also a special day for Johnston in that her siblings, Glenn and Suzanne Myers, were running the same race, while her family was also on hand to cheer her on at Heresford Street. She counted down the miles until she could see them, and said having them there made the marathon very special.
“It was such an amazing experience – I smiled the whole time!” she said. “I know I ran the best I had for the day and managed to have fun at the same time – I can’t ask for better than that!”

Rochelle Johnston making the final turn onto Boylston Street.

Photo by Meghan Slattery