By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Karen Durante is one of those rare people who watched a family member complete an Ironman triathlon and became inspired to start running marathons as she approached the age of 50.
That motivation came to Durante in the late 1990s while watching her sister, Nancy De Roma, and she has since risen to the top of her age group at the marathon distance. On Monday, Durante will run her third Boston Marathon. At the age of 62, she ranks in the top 10 in the world in her age group.
“I got into it later in life,” Durante said. “I started running off and on throughout my life, and my sister was an Ironman world-ranked competitor. I think I always felt the urge to do the Boston Marathon, but to put it into practice is entirely different. I’ve picked it up, and my sister has stopped competing.”
Durante ran her first Boston Marathon in 2003. She ran again eight years later in 2011, and posted her personal best time on the course of 3:39.57. Durante continues to improve as a distance runner, as is evidenced by her personal-best time of 3:23.54 at the Chicago Marathon last year, a result which placed Durante in second place in her age group.
If Durante finishes in the top three in her age group Monday, she will stand on the podium on Boylston Street.
“Boston is one of the tougher ones I’ve done,” said Durante, who has finished nine marathons heading into Monday. “The harder parts in Boston are toward the end. New York City is also a very difficult marathon with lots of hills and bridges. Chicago is probably the flattest I’ve run.”
Durante, who trains under Fernando Braz with Whirlaway Running Club, has been running 50 to 55 miles per week in preparation for the Boston Marathon. She typically runs locally with Maria Sancartier of Newburyport and Deb Johnson of Georgetown. The winter weather hasn’t significantly deterred her training. She was only relegated to the treadmill on three occasions this winter.
“It wasn’t too bad this winter,” Durante said. “It was windier than most. The snow wasn’t an issue because the storms fell on weekends. That’s when I do my long runs.”
For fear of setting herself up for disappointment, Durante is not willing to publicly share her goal time for Monday’s race. She did offer an estimate that it would take a time somewhere between 3:25 and 3:30 to earn a spot on the podium. Durante competes in local events on the Grand Prix Series, and feels most comfortable at the half marathon distance. She will have her sister, Nancy DeRoma, and daughter, Trina Bellinger, cheering for her on the course Monday.
“The half marathon distance is probably the best to compete at and get better,” Durante said. “You never know what will happen in a marathon on race day.”