Three local runners in Boston for ‘Super Bowl’ of marathons

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; Twenty-six and two-tenths miles is a long way to go, but it’s not nearly as far as Boston.

For three local runners, a 26.2-mile run &045; a marathon &045; will only be the culmination of their trip.

First they’ll have to go to Boston to run in the Boston Marathon, perhaps the most famous marathon in the world.

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For just about anyone, running in any marathon would be tough. But for Boston, runners have to qualify by running a certain time in another marathon. The time varies based on age and gender.

&uot;It’s the Super Bowl of marathons,&uot; Simmons Iles said. &uot;You have to qualify in another marathon just to be allowed to run there.&uot;

Iles, Mary Margaret Waycaster and Andrew Ketchings left Natchez Saturday to head up to Boston for the marathon tomorrow.

Boston is one of the most competitive marathons in the world, but Iles said

Part of what makes it so difficult is the course, which features a particularly difficult stretch starting around mile 16, in which runners have to climb several hundred feet over the course of four miles. Coming late in the race as it does makes it tough on runners.

&uot;It’s like running up Silver Street, except it goes on for about four miles,&uot; Iles said.

Iles said she doesn’t have any real goals for the race except to have fun.

&uot;My ultimate goal was to qualify for Boston,&uot; Iles said. &uot;I want to enjoy myself up there.&uot;

Part of that enjoyment will be catching a Red Sox game at Fenway Park. Iles, who said she is a big baseball fan, is looking forward to it.

&uot;I can’t wait to see the Green Monster,&uot; Iles said.

Mary Margaret Waycaster, Iles’ sister, will also run in the marathon.

&uot;She’s a little younger than me and she’s been doing this seriously for a while,&uot; Iles said. &uot;I think she can run a really good time.&uot;

Waycaster qualified for last year’s Boston Marathon but deferred her qualification to this year because of an injury.

Waycaster and Iles’ parents will be in Boston to watch them run.

For Andrew Ketchings, it’s been an unusual journey getting into long-distance running.

&uot;I ran track in high school, but I was a sprinter,&uot; Ketchings said. &uot;If someone had told me I was going to run a marathon, I would have said they were crazy.&uot;

Ketchings is a marathon veteran, but to qualify for Boston he did things a little different.

&uot;I’ve run seven or eight marathons over the last few years, but I never really seriously trained for them,&uot; Ketchings said. &uot;But I decided I wanted to run in Boston, so I followed a strict schedule. I had to run a 3:20 to qualify, which was about 16 minutes faster than I’d done before.&uot;

Ketchings decided not to run in last year’s Boston Marathon because of nagging injuries, deferring his qualification to this year.

&uot;Of course, compared to what I have now, those seem like nothing,&uot; Ketchings said. &uot;But I’m looking forward to doing this.&uot;

Ketchings said he doesn’t have any particular goals for the race except to finish and have a good time.

Iles credits a large part of her ability to run in the grueling events and do the even more grueling training runs to the help she gets from her family.

&uot;My husband and kids have been extremely supportive,&uot; Iles said. &uot;He helps out doing some of the stuff around the house I usually do. Sometimes I get up at 4:30 a.m. to go on

training runs and I think, ‘Maybe this is crazy.’&uot;