From Former Smoker to Boston Qualifier

767953-1011-0010sPittsburgh resident dropped the cigarette habit for greater rewards, including a BQ and dozens of finishes in half and full marathons.

By Henry Howard

Kristy Brown’s running journey has come a long way.

The Pittsburgh resident has reformed herself from a pack-a-day smoker to a Boston qualifier. She has run 16 full marathons and 27 halfs. And she’s not stopping there.

But to know Brown’s full story one must go back to the first days when she laced up the running shoes, back in late 2007. She had been a gymnast while growing up, but running was something she took up in adulthood. And not just running but setting and achieving goal after goal. Up first: Brown knew she wanted to finish a marathon by the time she was 30 so she started training.

She accomplished that feat on May 18, 2008, as a smoker. In fact, she did another half-dozen marathons as a smoker. But she wasn’t satisfied with her performances. Eventually she quit smoking on June 8, 2010, “because I wanted to be able to run faster, so I could qualify for Boston.” She took Chantix for two weeks. “It made me feel weird, so I quit taking it, but never smoked again.”

Brown encourages anyone and everyone – smoker, former smoker, non-smoker – to try running. “Don’t get discouraged about your pace,” she recommends. “I suggest keeping a running log of your runs and times, so you can actually see the improvements that you make (which you WILL). And never compare yourself to others.”

It’s also important to Brown to set and meet goals. “I think I love the training the most, which is what keeps me signing up for these races,” says Brown, who runs 30 something miles each week. “I like having a goal, and working towards it. I think I feel more fulfilled after running a marathon, but half marathons are my favorite distance. I’m trying to be smart, and stick to only one full marathon a year, so I can still be running marathons well into my golden years.”

Brown blogs and uses social media to connect with other runners, many of whom have persevered through various obstacles. “I get so inspired by the thousands of people that have handicaps, diseases, and other disabilities, that still manage to run. I would like to think that if tragedy strikes my life in that way, I would still be able to get out there and run as well,” she says.

Like many runners, Brown listed qualifying for Boston as a goal. In 2011, she missed qualifying by a mere 11 seconds. After that bitter disappointment, she rallied and pushed through out of “sheer determination.”

“I missed qualifying by 11 seconds at the Shamrock Marathon in 2011, and I was determined to never feel that disappointment again.”

With that milestone out of the way, Brown continues to push herself but has matured as a runner. “My running has definitely changed post-Boston,” she said. “While I still have time goals for the marathon, I’m not as emotionally attached to them, as I was about BQing and running Boston. That being said, I think all runners push themselves with the hopes of running personal bests.”

Brown has three items left on her list of goals: running at least a half marathon in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, run a sub-3:30 marathon and race in Ireland. “I have zero doubt, that all three of them will happen, so I’m in no hurry. Just enjoying the journey.”

Point of pride: 1:36 half marathon, 3:33:56 marathon in 80°+
Favorite race distance: Half marathon
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Energybits, Coca Cola (don’t judge me) and water
Favorite inspirational mantra or saying: Anything is possible
Where can other runners connect or follow you: Blog: pghrunner.com; Twitter and Instagram (@PghRunner) and Facebook (Pittsburgh Runner)

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