PAWTUCKET --- It’s been said time and time again that life begins at 40, but in Linda Bachand’s case, running careers can also begin at that age.
Four years ago, Bachand, a 44-year-old detective and 18-year veteran of the Pawtucket Police Department, stumbled upon a health and wellness expo with a co-worker during a work conference in Florida.
The expo was being held in conjunction with a nearby marathon that was scheduled that weekend, and when Bachand, who was looking to kill time, toured the expo, something inside her clicked.
“Quite honestly, just to see all the people that were doing the marathon – old, young, big, small – I looked at them and I was like, ‘If they could run a marathon, I could totally run a marathon,’” she said. “You don’t have to be 100 pounds and have the persona of what a marathon runner looks like. Anyone could do this.”
Before that expo, Bachand had run nothing more than a few 5Ks in her life, doing so only in the mid-90s while she was in the police academy,
But fast forward to this morning. Bachand will be among more than 26,000 runners who will answer the starter’s pistol in Hopkinton, Mass. for the 117th edition of the Boston Marathon. She will be pacing her friend, Cheri Fraser, and looking to reel her across the finish line in under six hours.
It’s been a crazy chain of events that has led Bachand to what is deemed the Super Bowl of marathons, and while she will be generously running for the New England Aquarium’s first-year marathon team – thanks to raising over $5,200 for the organization – that is just a small part of the story behind Bachand’s last four years, especially the last 15 months.
Yes, the running bug bit her after that afternoon at the expo. Yes, she ran in her first half marathon, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in Orlando, Fla., the following year on Jan. 10, 2010, and after running in three more half marathons and a scattering of smaller-distance races, she went back to Disney nearly two years to the day of her first 13.1-mile race and ran in her first marathon.
But instead of cooling her jets after her first dance with 26.2 miles, Bachand slammed her foot on the accelerator and never let off it.
From the final weekend of February to Memorial Day weekend, Bachand nailed five half marathons. She was racing almost every other weekend, running mostly races from a 10K (6.2 miles) to a half marathon. And when the fall came, she returned to marathon running and finished three of them in a span of eight weeks.
Once 2012 ended, Bachand had ran in over 30 races, with two-thirds of them being half marathons. It was a hectic year for Bachand, but what she’s out to do this year is making 2012 look like a couple of casual strolls in the park.
“I belong to the Half (Marathon) Fanatics and the Marathon Maniacs,” Bachand reported of those two national running clubs. “To get into those clubs, you have to do whatever the minimum is, and I think it’s three half marathons or full ones in three months.
“In order to level up, you have to do a certain amount of races during a certain amount of time. I’m trying to level up to the max in both the Fanatics and the Maniacs, so I’m going to try to do 30 half marathons in 30 different states, and 30 fulls in 30 different states.”
In baseball, a 30-30 player is one that belts 30 home runs and steals 30 bases in the same season, and 38 players in Major League baseball have accomplished this feat. In running, Bachand’s quest for 30-30 is unheard of, and yes, it sounds borderline crazy – on some occasions, if the timing is right, she will even run a full and a half on the same weekend – but she doesn’t mind it one bit.
“Once you have that endurance level built up, it’s not as hard as it seems,” she remarked. “It’s a lot, and I understand that’s it’s a lot. (My family and friends) think I’m crazy, and people always tell me, ‘I can’t believe you do a marathon or two every weekend.’ ”
One would think that running long-distance races each weekend would surely take its toll on Bachand’s body, but she has the perfect remedy that gets her back on her feet again – “ice baths, and a sports massage maybe once a month.”
One would also wonder how Bachand gets the time – and the money – to tour the country almost every weekend and race in every corner of it. Her response?
“I work two jobs,” she added, adding that she’s a bartender in Warwick. “I work Monday through Friday and the only night I have off is Tuesday. I usually leave Friday after work for a race and I come home Sunday night.”
When Bachand heads out of town to a race, she’s not all business and stressing over her times. Her best half marathon was a 2:17:37 at last October’s Baystate Half Marathon in Lowell, Mass., and her PR for a marathon is a 5:27:00 at last December’s Palm Beaches Marathon in West Palm Beach, Fla., but stats, times, and PRs means very little to her.
Rather, her No. 1 goals are enjoying the experiences of her races, connecting with some of her friends on the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs across the country, and simply having fun, and that sometimes means wearing a costume or a wig for the occasion.
“I run in a lot of races in costume,” she noted. “Two weeks ago, we were in (the) Run the Bluegrass (Half Marathon) in Lexington, Kentucky and my friend (Becky Kellhofer) and I dressed up as a horse and a jockey. Our picture made the newspaper down there.”
Bachand has also found another avenue to spread her joy of running. She and Fraser are the co-founders and driving forces behind Endurance Sports Connection, a national, non-profit group that “almost like a AAA for runners” that connects first-timers with veteran performers and gives them advice, support, and friendly connections.
Her plate may be full with ESC, work, and running, but Bachand, who enters today with eight marathons and 36 half marathons under her belt, doesn’t plan to be slowing down anytime soon once Boston is in the books.
“After Boston, I have a marathon and a half marathon the next weekend,” she said. “The weekend after that, I’m going to do the Big Sur Marathon in California. I will be home Mother’s Day weekend because of the Cox Marathon in Providence, but otherwise, I’m away every weekend from now until the middle of the summer.”
But before she looks ahead, she wants to savor her first time running Boston and enjoying the long weekend’s experience.
“The Boston Marathon has always been the marathon to run,” she added. “You have the history, and it’s here in my backyard. I’m originally from Oxford, Massachusetts, so I’ve always wanted to do it. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun.”