Christine Suter had a heavy heart when she lined up at the Boston Marathon last month.
On her mind — and etched onto her bib — was Sarah Prunier, the long-time snow school instructor who died on Whistler Mountain in March. Suter helped train Prunier, an Ironman competitor, and said the tragedy hit her hard. She went to Facebook, seeking to raise money for Prunier's widower, Tyler, eventually going beyond her initial goal of $20 per mile.
"I was really, really upset by it and I wanted to do something," she said. "Running in Boston was really about running for Sarah and appreciating that I could."
With those thoughts in mind, Suter said it was as good a time as any to head to the Massachusetts capital and test her mettle in the marathon for the first time after she was offered a spot in the April 18 race.
"Normally the entry into Boston is a qualifying time. I have a friend that does the timing for Boston and in February, he called me and said 'I have an invitational entry. Would you like it?'" she recalled. "I decided that life's too short and I didn't know what was going to happen to me in a year from now, so that I should take it and I took that spot."
Suter said she ran alongside a friend and veteran competitor who was on her eighth time running the marathon. She was there more to run than to win, and completed the course in four hours, 20:03 minutes (4:20:03).
"Running there was an amazing, amazing experience," she said. "We just took it as an experience and to just have a great day, which is exactly what we did. I wasn't running to race. I was really running to experience it. My phone had ran out of batteries because I had taken so many pictures by the end."
With the marathon always running on Patriots' Day, a holiday in Massachusetts, Suter said there were some memorable clusters of fans along the course.
"There must have been four people deep in every single small town you went into. Everybody is out there. They're having barbecues, they're having picnics, they're handing out freezies, they're handing out oranges and they're setting up their own sprinklers for you," she said.
Suter works with Boston-based Marathon Tours & Travel, who had an extra entry into the Big Sur International Marathon in California six days after Boston. While Suter, already nursing a partially torn hamstring, noted tackling the ocean-hugging course from Big Sur to Monterey wasn't the wisest idea, she cautiously opted for it anyway.
"I thought 'I just have to go slow,'" she recalled. "There's huge hills. There's winds. It's a beautiful race but it's quite difficult.
"I know that I've already run a marathon, so don't try to race this. (I'll) just be out there and do the best I can do."
With the Californian course being her preferred one of the two, Suter posted a time of 4:29:12.
"I definitely liked Big Sur. I think that's because of running here. We're always running hills or mountains, so I like that. I like when it changes. A long big hill is like 'OK, that's just what you do.' Nothing's that big," she said with a laugh.
Going coast-to-coast in a week and completing both races came with its share of challenges, but Suter explained the perceived obstacles weren't actually that hard to overcome.
"The time change, for me, I didn't really feel it," she said. "I felt tired, but I attributed that to running a marathon, not to the time change. My sleeping patterns were a little off, I was struggling to get to bed early, but other than that, I didn't notice it too much.
"The other thing is that with our clients, when I got to Big Sur, we take them out for a run to get them ready for their marathon. It was expected of me to put on my running shoes and go for a run. So that was good, it got me moving."
Suter has signed up for the 50-kilometre race as part of August's Squamish 50 and is also pondering the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon in October. She'll also lead the training for a group of about 25 people while also participating in the North Face Whistler Half Marathon in June.
"I'm set up well for rest right now," she chuckled. "It's all about the rehab."