On The Podium: Renee Reynolds

By Denise Sechelski

Run every third Monday in April on Patriot's Day, the Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon race in the world. Runners, who gain entry to the race by achieving difficult qualifying times, line up at the start in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, west of Boston. Before they cross the finish line at Copley Square on Boylston Street in downtown Boston, they will have run through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel near Wellesley College at mile 13, up Heartbreak Hill at mile 20, and past the two sites where bombs exploded near the finish in 2013. The 122th Boston Marathon will take place this year on April 16.

Renee in Boston 2014

Renee in Boston 2014

Each April, a group of 25-40 Gazelles heads to the northeast for the Boston Marathon. For some it is "one and done," while others return year after year. This Friday Gazelle Renee Reynolds will continue her annual pilgrimage to Boston to run her 12th Boston Marathon in a row (her 15th overall), a streak she is excited to extend.

Reynolds began running in high school with her dad. "After he had heart bypass surgery at age 46, he started running again," Reynolds said. "He would run from our house to the end of the street and back for a two-mile total. He would invite me to run with him and he would time me. He would always race me the last block and really push me to finish strong." Reynolds' sister runs half marathons, and her 84-year-old mother, Elvira Montes, wins her age group in 5Ks and is a veteran of the beer mile. Reynolds is actually outpaced by her mom in the track event that requires runners to chug a beer before each of their four laps. "Yes," Reynolds smiled, "that's my mom."

After running two 5Ks while a student at the University of Texas, Reynolds began training with a group at former Austin running hub RunTex and ran her first marathon, Dallas White Rock, in 1995. Soon her sights were set on Boston. Reynolds didn't gain entry to the prestigious race until 2000, and then ran it again in 2003 and 2005. She joined Gazelles in 2006 and found her forever running friend, Leslie Barclay. They began training together, then made it into Boston in 2007. Now close friends, they have run the last 11 Bostons (and many of their qualifying marathons) together.

Maintaining such a streak may seem daunting, but not for Reynolds. "Boston is really special," she explained quietly. "It's my favorite race and my marathon PR. The people there are amazing, the organization is amazing. You're cheered the entire way. I like to take it all in and not take it for granted." When asked about her favorite part of the race, Reynolds immediately says, "Boylston Street. It's a wall of sound, and you feel like a rock star. I always wear my name on my bib, and people are shouting your name. It's incredible."

Running Boston in 2013

Running Boston in 2013

Her favorite Boston race is her first (2000), followed by 2011, the year she hit her marathon PR (3:28.04). She was there in 2013, of course, the year of the bombings. Reynolds had already crossed the finish line, but she heard the explosions. She and her family returned to their hotel near the finish and realized what happened when they saw the news on television. "We were on lockdown because we were so close," she recalled. "No one could leave their room. No food was being served. We had some chips in the room and beer, so that was my postrace food until they let us out around 7:30pm that night." Reynolds happily returned to the race the next year. "It was very emotional," she said, "but I was not at all scared."

Getting cool-down support from Coach

Getting cool-down support from Coach

This year's Boston will be her 38th marathon overall, thanks to a strong support system and keen attention to details. Her husband, Bob, is her most dedicated supporter and "the best road crew leader." The long training miles pass quickly with the help of her running buddies, and she loves the close focus of a track session, especially her favorite Gazelle workout: the 2K / 3 x 1K / 4 x 400. "I just concentrate on my splits," she said. "That keeps me motivated and preoccupied when it gets hard." Reynolds has also worn the same model of shoes for years. Her favorite Mizunos had been discontinued, and she won a pair of Skechers in a raffle at Rogue Running where Meb Keflezighi (winner of the New York and Boston Marathons) was a guest speaker. "Meb handed them to me," Reynolds said with delight. "So that's why I wear Skechers!" 

"But it's the 4th edition of the shoe," she's quick to add, "and they're on the 6 now. I don’t like to change, so I bought up all of the 4s I could find. I have about 6 boxes in the closet."

Reynolds' devotion to the familiar extends to her running nutrition. For example, she always eats the same thing before long training runs and races. "I have spaghetti," she revealed. "Three servings: at 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm. That's what I eat in training, so when I'm away at a race, it's the same thing. No surprises. In the morning, it's oatmeal and a CLIF Bar. While running, it's mocha and strawberry CLIF Shots." She tells newbie marathoners that it's never too soon to practice eating on long runs. "You have to train your gut, too," she said matter-of-factly.

Maintaining any running streak requires commitment, and Reynolds is definitely committed. She rises before dawn to train with the herd and slogs summer miles alone when she and her husband leave Austin for New Mexico from May through August. But she keeps her life balanced by honoring her love of McDonald's, beer, and Longhorn sports. "My husband and I are season ticket holders for Longhorn football, basketball, and baseball, and we go to everything. Sometimes it's hard to juggle all of it!" she admitted with a laugh.

Reynolds knows that every mile is a gift, and her streak of Boston Marathons is a long way from those first two-mile runs. When asked who she would choose if she could go for a run with anyone, ever, in all of history, she doesn't hesitate. "My dad," she said. "He died when he was just 56, so he never got to see me run any of my marathons. It would be great to run with him."

Denise Sechelski, writer and fellow Gazelle, has graciously agreed to be the contributing author of our On the Podium series. Thanks to her talent and enthusiasm, we will be posting more in-depth profiles on Gazelles that motivate us in running and in life.