Although they will be thousands of miles and several time zones away from Boylston Street on Monday, hundreds of military service members deployed overseas will run their own “Boston Marathon.”
Supported by the Boston Athletic Association, the Boston Marathon Shadow Runs present opportunities for service members to participate in the prestigious event without actually being there. The BAA provides T-shirts, banners, bibs, medals and finisher certificates. This year, shadow marathons will be held on U.S. military bases in Kuwait and Niger.
At Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Capt. Lindsay Daraitis with the Minnesota National Guard and Capt. Vanessa Rios with the Texas Army National Guard plan to be among the competitors.
The two women chatted with Women’s Running via email about what they want to accomplish and how they trained for a grueling desert marathon.
Home: Ham Lake, Minn.
After recently arriving in Kuwait for a 10-month deployment, Daraitis set out on her first run.
Things didn’t go quite as planned.
“It was supposed to be 12 miles, and I lasted 5,” she recalls. “I was still suffering from jetlag, and it was hot. It felt like the air I was breathing was full of sand—I could taste it in my mouth and nose. When I drank water, it just felt like I was making mud puddles in my stomach.”
Undeterred by that brutal run, Daraitis, who has competed in triathlons, is determined to finish on Monday. “This is my first marathon and it’s in the desert—I’m just hoping to survive,” Daraitis says. “I would be happy with a finish under five hours.”
As the mother of two girls, ages 8 and 6, and three stepsons, Daraitis also feels a special connection to the Boston Marathon. “I joined the Army as an adult female lawyer with a family, so it was a difficult decision,” she says. “I accepted my commission in May 2013, about a month after the Boston Marathon was attacked, and it made me firm in my decision to join.”
Daraitis began training for the shadow marathon in November, but her running has been interrupted several times during the deployment process. Traveling from Minnesota to Texas to Kuwait, she’s also had to adjust her running to deal with extreme weather changes. In Kuwait, she runs at 4:30 a.m. before it gets very hot. For shorter runs, she uses the base’s quarter-mile track. For longer workouts, she runs the base’s perimeter, some of which is a gravel road. She also bikes one day a week.
Monday’s marathon will be her first, but not her last—she hopes to run the actual Boston Marathon next year. “I have a feeling I will like that one a lot better,” she says.
Home: Laredo, TX
Job: Public Affairs Officer
Deployed in Kuwait since November 2016, Vanessa Rios has turned to running to cope with being away from home. “Running helps me reduce stress, maintain resiliency and forget about any problems,” she says. “The longer the run, the faster the time passes by, and it gets closer for the time to go home.”
While in Kuwait, she has competed in a half marathon, a 17K trail race and last year’s Boston Marathon Shadow Run. Despite a painful bout of plantar fasciitis, she finished in 4:01, a time she was hoping to beat this year. But after recently twisting her ankle on a run—the desert terrain is notoriously rocky—she knows that goal will be tough to achieve.
“I know I haven’t trained as much as last year because of my recent injuries, but I will give it my best and I will push through,” she says. A determined athlete, Rios wakes up at 3 a.m. every day for the first of two workouts for the day. “In the morning, I work on my cardio and strength training,” she says, adding she trains alone at such an early hour. “In the evenings, I work on boxing and recently I added CrossFit every other day.”
Still, what she enjoys most is heading out on an early-morning run as the sun peaks over the horizon in the desert. “I clear my mind and just enjoy the peaceful sunrise and birds chirping,” she says.