At about 11:50 a.m. Monday, under the warm Boston sun on Patriots’ Day, Tina Vaccarella of Cutchogue began the grueling 26.2-mile journey around the city, a race that dates back more than a century.
“There’s no other marathon like it,” she said.
After 3 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds, Ms. Vaccarella crossed the finish line of the 2016 Boston Marathon as the 7,872nd runner in a race of about 30,000. As she always does after a race, the first thing she looked for was her family.
“My husband and my kids travel to every marathon I go to,” said Ms. Vaccarella, 40. “They’re definitely my support team and I look forward to them in the end.”
This was the second straight year Ms. Vaccarella ran the Boston Marathon. She posted a nearly identical time last year (3:29:03) under much wetter conditions.
She said she’s been running marathons for about five or six years now and the Boston Marathon is her featured event. This race took on added meaning since it was the 50th anniversary of the first woman to complete the race. In 1966, Bobbi Gibb finished the race in 3:21:40, a watershed moment for women athletics. Women had been barred from running the race for much of its history.
“I could not believe when I saw that,” Ms. Vaccarella said of the anniversary. “Fifty years, that’s not very long ago. I can’t believe that.”
Ms. Gibb’s finish all those years ago helped dispel the notion that women’s bodies couldn’t handle the rigors of a distance race and helped usher in the era of Title IX that allowed for rapid growth in women sports at all levels. Monday’s race featured 12,168 women who finished compared to 14,471 men, according to the race results.
“There are many strong women athletes out there,” said Ms. Vaccarella, who was the only local woman to complete the race, according to the cities listed for runners on the race results. Another Cutchogue runner, Robert Kujawski, 54, finished the race in 4:18:06. Mr. Kujawski was one of four locals at the Boston Marathon in 2013 during the terrorist attacks.
Ms. Vaccarella said her running career didn’t really begin until college. She started running more after the birth of her first daughter, she said. An occupational therapist who works in the Riverhead School District, she balances a busy workload to find time to train.
On the weekends she schedules time for one long run, usually with a friend. During the week she finds time wherever she can, whether it’s before her kids wake up or after putting them on the bus for school.
“I have a short period of time during the week; I have to get to work, too,” she said. “My husband [Louis] is such a huge support system.”
The support of the people in Boston is what makes the race so special, Ms. Vaccarella said.
“The crowds are lined for the 26 miles,” she said. “There’s tons of cheering and people handing out waters and oranges, in addition to the race crew of course.”
Ms. Vaccarella will likely set her sights on running the Hamptons Marathon in the fall as her next big race.
There wasn’t much time to celebrate after Monday’s marathon. The next morning, she was back at work.
“Hopefully later this afternoon we can celebrate a bit,” she said Tuesday morning.
As soon as the opportunity to register for next year’s Boston Marathon is here, Ms. Vaccarella plans on signing up once again.
“It’s a race I don’t want to miss,” she said.
Photo Caption: Tina Vaccarella of Cutchogue with her three children, Ava, 10; Emily, 7 and Tanner, 9. (Credit: courtesy photo)