Heidi and Keith Mitchell are running's intercontinental couple. Both have a lot of experience running the Boston Marathon and will make the 26.2-mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston together again Monday.
The Darien couple, who met at Waveny Park in New Canaan, made their first trip together for the 105th Boston Marathon in 2001. (Although Heidi has been running the race since 1997.) They have made it most years since then but not every one. Two children and Heidi's battle with breast cancer forced her to miss the race several times.
Keith travels to Japan often for business and stays for several weeks before returning home. Heidi frequently runs with the Waveny Running Club while juggling activities for daughters Taylor, 9, and Megan, 6.
"Keith made the mistake of running when I was pregnant with Taylor'' in 2002, Heidi said. "He'd go out and run, and I'd go order from Baby Gap. She was born the day after the marathon (five weeks early). The day of that race, I did so much gardening because I was angry I couldn't go. He got home, and later that same night we were off to the hospital."
Her training was further compromised by breast cancer in 2005. She did not have chemotherapy, but she has not returned to her fitness level from before her cancer. Among her best runs are a 3:08 in the Philadelphia Marathon in 1999, and 3:11 in Boston in 2001. Last year, she finished Boston in 3:58. "This year we're planning to run together, and it will be ugly,'' Heidi said. "It won't be a matter of time. Now it's just a matter of finishing."
Keith has maintained his running routine even with his ultra-commute. "Running actually helps me adjust to the time zones,'' he said via email. "I look forward to my first run the morning after I have arrived whether it is in Japan or returning to the United States. It helps me get back into my routine ... run in the morning, shower, quick breakfast, go to the office. I travel frequently, but I am not typically jumping around once I arrive in Tokyo. I have my running routes mapped out much the way I do at home, and my hotel is located next to the office so commuting time is essentially zero."
He even made it a point to do a 20-mile training run without water in Japan last month after the earthquake. "I wanted to make the training run slightly more challenging and to give myself a better sense for what it must feel like north of Tokyo in the Tohoku region where thousands of people (including 400+ of our employees and their families) were still without water, food, electricity, heat, etc.,'' Keith wrote. "Many of these people are still in the middle of their own 'marathon' of a much different kind with far less preparation for the challenges they face."
The Mitchells don't know how many more times they'll run together in Boston. Heidi narrowly made the time standard last year, and race officials have tightened the window. Their focus now is enjoying the experience all 26.2 miles of it.
"Last year when I ran with Keith I said, 'Will you talk to me?'" Heidi said. "It gets kind of boring out there with nobody to talk to. I don't mind training with him, but he has to talk to me during the race. Talk to me about the kitchen project. Just tell me what's going on. It's not about time anymore."
Have you run the Boston Marathon? What has been your experience? Start the discussion below!
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.