Bellaire graduate gearing up for fourth Boston Marathon

Kristina Tomlan didn’t run cross country in high school.

The Bellaire High graduate was a standout in track and field, running the 300 hurdles primarily. She did run on the Big Reds’ 4×8 team during the postseason and qualified for the state.

However, she never really considered herself a “distance” runner.

People can certainly change and Tomlan has.

Tomlan, who owns a doctorate of physical therapy from Youngstown State University, actually got into distance running just for fun with some of her college classmates.

“I was running track (at Youngstown), but it got to be too much with school and I wanted to focus on my studies,” Tomlan said. “And I always had a goal to run a marathon, but I thought once I graduate and have more time to run, I’ll do one.”

At the urging of a couple of her professors, who had ran marathons themselves, they convinced Tomlan and her friends to focus on running a marathon.

“They told since we were already running eight miles, they’d help us with a plan to start training for a marathon,” Tomlan said.

Basically, the rest is history.

Tomlan entered and finished the Columbus Marathon in 2008 and posted a qualifying time for the prestigious Boston Marathon in her first try.

“My goal was to just run under four hours,” Tomlan said. “I really had no idea what to expect. I had some 5K races, but never anything that far.”

Tomlan has just kept running and running since then.

The 28-year-old departed Saturday for Boston where she’ll run in Monday’s 118th Boston Marathon for the fourth time.

“It’s every runners dream to run with the top runners in the world,” Tomlan said. “Obviously, you don’t get to see them, but it’s still pretty awesome.”

Despite having met the qualifying standard in time last year, Tomlan didn’t participate in the marathon, which turned out for the best because of the terrorist attack that occurred near the finish line of the race, involving a bombing.

“It turned out to be a blessing and worked out in my favor,” Tomlan said.

Tomlan had kicked around the idea of entering the race last year at the urging of her friend, who did participate.

“I just kind of waited it out and (the race) closed the registration,” Tomlan said. “I remember my friend texting me and telling me what had happened and then I got like 50 other text messages from people wondering if I was there or not.”

Tomlan’s parents, who will be in Beantown this Monday, usually wait for her near that very spot where the bomb exploded, which made it resonate even deeper.

“My parents have stood in about that same spot,” Tomlan recalled. “They’re always on the left side of the street.”

The year anniversary of the attacks was recognized last week and the excitement for this year’s race, both among the runners and Bostonians, is at an all-time high.

“There are definitely going to be a lot of emotions all tied into one,” Tomlan said. “There will be some nerves, but a lot of excitement, too. They’re expecting a record number of spectators and runners, so I think all of the memories will be positive.”

All told, this will be Tomlan’s 16th marathon. She completed the 26.2 mile jaunt around Columbus in 2008 for her first.

“I’ve averaged about three a year since I started,” Tomlan said. “I am still considering a race for the fall, but I’ve not made any plans just yet for my next (race).”

Tomlan’s qualifying time, which had to be faster than 3 hours, 35 minutes, was posted at the Chicago Marathon in Oct. 2012. The Boston Marathon permits a one-time roll over from a qualifying mark. Since Tomlan didn’t participate in 2013, her qualifying mark still earns her a spot.

“It’s very competitive,” Tomlan said. “I think the first time I qualified, the time was 3 hours, 45 minutes and then dropped to 3:45 and now 3:35 or faster and that (varies) by age group. There are people who have the times, but they still might not get in because the registration closes or they only take so many people in each age group.”

Along with Boston, Chicago and Columbus, Tomlan has also ran Pittsburgh (three times), New York City, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Akron and Washington D.C.

There’s still one marathon that Tomlan definitely wants to run before her career is over.

“I want to go to Greece and run the original marathon course,” Tomlan said. “That’s my goal.”

With such a large field, the Boston Athletic Association breaks the field into waves. Tomlan is in Wave 2 and will begin her 26.2 mile run at 10:25 a.m.

The ‘elite women’ begin at 9:32 and the elite men go with Wave 1, which begins at 10.

Tomlan’s parents and her boyfriend made the trip for support.

“My dad maps everything out and he’s got it down to where they can see me five or six times during the race,” Tomlan said. “I always have to run on the left side of the street, my mom usually waves a big flag and I even write on my arm where they’ll be, so I don’t miss them.”