BOSTON - Neither a partially torn Achilles tendon nor a heart murmur could keep a Lismore woman from reaching her dream - running in her first Boston Marathon.
Megan Sauer, 24, completed the 26.2-mile race on Monday with a time of 3:48:48 - not her best marathon time, but she did have that aching Achilles tendon to deal with.
A former high school track and cross country runner at Adrian High School, Sauer also ran during her collegiate days at Bethany Lutheran College. Her heart murmur - something she’s had since birth - is monitored through biennial meetings with her cardiologist. Sauer, though, knows her limits.
That doesn’t stop her from setting goals, though, like when she was in high school and her former track coach, Darrin Pater, talked about his own running of the Boston Marathon.
“I decided after I graduate from high school and college that I can do that, too,” shared Sauer on Tuesday morning. “Then I qualified for Boston and it was like, oh my gosh - super exciting.”
For her age division, Sauer had to run a race in less than three hours, 35 minutes in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon. She accomplished that last April, running 3:13:59 in the Run for the Lakes Marathon in Brainerd. She’s previously competed in two Mankato Marathons.
Sauer began training for the 123rd Boston Marathon in January, although two weeks later than she’d intended because she got sick. Her training regimen didn’t include workouts at a gym or running around an indoor track, but instead running up and down the gravel roads near her family’s rural Lismore home.
During snowstorms, the polar vortex and blizzard conditions - the typical winter weather for southwest Minnesota - she ran laps inside the family’s house.
“I had to get my runs in somehow,” she quipped.
On St. Patrick’s Day, Sauer ran a half-marathon in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
“That was my best half marathon,” Sauer said. “It was the perfect build toward Boston.”
She hit a literal bump in the road the next day. Running along her gravel road training course, she stepped into a rut, causing a partial tear in her Achilles tendon at the ankle.
It put an immediate stop to her running, and it was about two weeks before she could even get her shoe on her foot. Sauer said she didn’t run again for three and a half weeks, and when she got back into her routine, the most she could run was two to four miles at a time.
Not once, though, did Sauer - who also has asthma and anemia - consider backing out of the race in Boston.
“No way,” she said with a laugh. “I was like, I am running this marathon. If I’m crawling by the end, I’m crawling. I will cross that finish line one way or another.
“I usually run a 3:13 or 3:14 (marathon), so this was not a very good race for me,” she added. “But coming back after not running for three and a half weeks, I thought I did pretty good.”
Her Achilles bothered her the entire time, and she said she couldn’t have run any faster without probably doing some serious damage.
“I ran at a pace I knew I could at least try and keep until the finish,” Sauer said. “I hit mile four and I thought anything past here is the furthest I’ve gone in almost a month.”
The last 20 miles of the race, Sauer said she felt like she was just walking, steadily slowing down from her slightly more than her normal 7-minute mile.
“I stopped looking at my watch after mile 6,” she said. “I said, all I’ve got to do is cross that finish line.”
Not stopping on the route, or walking, was a big accomplishment for her, she said, noting that there were quite a few people who were walking during portions of the run.
“That was my goal - I’m just going to run it and finish and not stop, because if I stop I’m not going to get going again,” she said.
There wasn’t a spot along the rolling hills that comprised the race route that was void of cheering onlookers, Sauer said, noting heir encouragement propelled her onward.
“It felt amazing,” she said.
Several members of Sauer’s family, including her dad Barry and two sisters, Alissa and Morgan, were cheering at Mile 23, and ultimately found her in a medical tent after the race.
After crossing the finish line, Sauer said her hands and toes were cramping up and she couldn’t move them. She also had no feeling in her hands and had cramps in her legs. With wheelchairs waiting at the finish line, she was placed in one and wheeled to one of the two medical tents set up nearby.
For the next three hours, she recovered from dehydration with the help of an IV. Her family found her there.
“The sun came out after mile 6 and it got really hot,” Sauer said. “People were chugging water and Gatorade.”
For someone who trained during a Minnesota winter, Sauer said she would have done better had it been 30 degrees outside.
With the race behind her and the medal around her neck, Sauer and the family members with her are now enjoying the sights of Boston. History buffs, they have planned several tours through the rest of this week.
After all, this race might just be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It’s pretty expensive out here, especially staying for a week,” Sauer said. “We wanted to tour things and get around and see the sights - make it a worthwhile trip.”
After Monday’s run, Sauer was already out touring Tuesday morning.
“I’m walking slowly, but I can walk,” she said with a laugh.
A 2017 graduate of Bethany Lutheran School, Sauer works as a paraprofessional at Adrian Middle and High School. Her mom, Kerri, opted not to make the trip because she doesn’t care much for crowds - and Boston was definitely crowded on race day. Oldest sister Anna also stayed back due to her busy schedule at the greenhouse where she works.
Bruce Juber of Worthington also competed in Monday’s Boston Marathon. The 59-year-old finished with a time of 3:49:33.
There were 30,349 entrants in the marathon, including 16,645 men and 13,704 women. Runners hailed from all 50 states in the U.S. and 118 countries. Winning the elite men’s division was Lawrence Cherono of Kenya, with a time of 2:07:57, while the elite women’s division winner was Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia, with a time of 2:23:31.