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‘I thanked God so many times today,” said Katie Clark, a member of the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, after she completed her first Boston Marathon.
There was plenty to not be thankful for as she ran the 26.22-mile course from the rural New England town of Hopkinton to John Hancock Tower in Copley Square. After training through an unusually cold Oklahoma winter, she faced a hot and humid Monday morning — and the dreaded Newton Hills.
“I could’ve sworn there were at least seven of them,” she said. (There are four.)
At mile 24.5, when she was struggling, she caught sight of her husband, Michael and their 11-year-old daughter, Macy, along with friends Meredith and Jeremy Edwards. “They gave me the boost I needed to finish,” she said.
The Clarks, also the parents of Max (7), Mallory (4) and Maddox (1), are partners in ministry, serving in their church’s Celebrate Recovery program and children’s ministry. Michael Clark coaches drama for Leadership Training for Christ.
“Running a good race” for Christ, as Paul writes in Galatians 5 and 2 Timothy 4, is a vital part of marathon training, said Katie Clark, who ran cross country and track for Oklahoma Christian University from 2000 to 2003 and broke multiple school running records. After graduation she coached runners at the high school and college levels.
In Boston, she stayed focused — and thankful — as she crossed the finish line at 3 hours, 24 minutes and 4 seconds — a personal record by more than five minutes. Her time qualifies her for a return trip to Boston in 2020.
Why did you want to run in the Boston Marathon?
When I was a kid, I used to sleep in my dad’s shirt that said, “In Training for the Boston Marathon.” My dad is a runner and got me running when I was about 9 years old, but he never ran the Boston Marathon. Hearing him talking about Boston planted a seed when I was very young. I knew I wanted to run the race one day.
Also, Boston has qualification standards by gender and age, so I wanted to challenge myself to qualify for Boston.
How does running relate to your Christian life?
Running gives me an outlet to connect with God. It’s a time for me to stop all the outside distractions that can consume my day-to-day life. I like to think, pray and listen to sermons and scripture while I’m running.
I used to use running more as an escape from the world. I would shut down and try not to think. I would just ignore my problems instead of addressing them.
Now I use my running time to work through different issues. I come back home feeling refreshed. I feel like running makes me a better wife, mom and friend. It is one way to connect with God, and it means a lot to me.
What does your family think about your training and participation in these races?
My family has been very supportive. Marathon training is hard on everyone involved! I train many hours each week, so it requires some flexibility and understanding from everyone.
I love being a stay-at-home mom to four wonderful children, but it’s also nice to have something that’s mine. I used to feel guilty about spending so much time on myself, but I now know I also know the importance of doing what I love.
My kids have watched me work really hard to achieve this dream, and they are my biggest cheerleaders! I hope I’ve been a good example to them of setting a goal and putting in the work to achieve it.
What was on your mind as you prepared for the Boston Marathon?
That I am overwhelmed with gratitude! I absolutely love running, and it’s such a gift. I tried to qualify for Boston four times before I reached my goal at the BQ.2 Marathon in Chicago last September. I will never forget how I felt in that moment!
I think my previous failed attempts made my qualification that much sweeter. It makes me so happy to use the gift God has given me. I have received so much love and support from family and friends, and it’s been a big encouragement for me.
Check out this video of Katie’s reaction the day she qualified for the Boston Marathon.
Describe your training routine.
I have used my coach, Enoch Nadler, for my last two marathon training cycles, and it’s been so helpful. My husband and I met Enoch and his wife, Angela, while on vacation last year. Enoch and Angela are the owners and coaches of Team Florida Track Club in Gainesville, Fla. Enoch plans all my runs and strengthening/stretching routines and loads them on an app that I check and complete each day. I run 50-65 miles each week.
I also focus on injury prevention with the strengthening and stretching routines to keep me healthy and injury-free. I usually wake up between 4 and 5 a.m. six days a week so I can get my run in before the day gets crazy.
Is there a scripture that you live by, a favorite?
I love 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
I am so incredibly thankful for God’s love and grace. I make mistakes and have imperfections, but God can still use me for his glory.
I try to be open and honest about my struggles because I know many others have struggles, too. I sometimes have the tendency to hide my weaknesses, but I know I’m where I am today because of God.
It’s difficult to be vulnerable. But I also know that is how we connect with others. I love seeing how God uses our struggles to help others who are going through something similar.
Now that you have run the race, what takeaways do you have from the experience?
Even though it was a tough run, I loved being out there running the race! As I tell my kids all the time, “We do hard things in this family!” And accomplishing something when it’s so challenging makes it that much sweeter. I tried to soak up every moment. I wanted to run a PR (personal record), but I didn’t want to be so focused on my time that I didn’t enjoy the experience.
I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude. I thanked God so many times — especially as I struggled through the last several miles. I tried really hard to focus on feeling grateful for the amazing opportunity to accomplish a lifelong dream instead of how much my body was hurting.
So many times what we choose to focus on can completely change our outlook. For me, during the race, it was gratitude. Also, I loved sharing this experience with so many others.
When I decided to try to qualify for Boston, it was scary to be vulnerable and share such a big goal with my family and friends, especially when I kept missing that goal. But it gave others an opportunity to encourage me. I would’ve missed out on that love and support if I had kept it to myself.
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