CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Now that she's completed the Boston Marathon, Mary Prillaman is scaling back on her running.
But she still plans to take part in the Charleston YMCA Corporate Cup competition in June because that's when her obsession with running began.
Prillaman turned 40 in April 2006. She was healthy, though did little exercise other than walking. She had moved to Charleston two years earlier to take a job as controller of Charleston Newspapers. Her husband, Tim, stayed in Martinsville, Va., and she returned there most weekends.
The personnel director was trying to recruit employees to compete in the annual games among Kanawha Valley companies. He needed someone to run in the 5K race for women 35 and older.
Always willing to please, Prillaman signed up and talked her brother back home in Virginia into training with her for the 3.1-mile run.
Afterwards, Prillamen recalled, "I told my brother that since we could run 3 miles, we could run 15." So they signed up for the Charleston Distance Run just a few months later -- unaware of the hilly course.
When they came to steep incline up Oakwood Road, Prillaman said her brother was so upset with her that he wouldn't run or walk with her.
He forgave her and let himself be convinced that since they could run 15 miles, they could run 26. Their third race was the Huntington Marathon, just two months later.
Over the next three years, Prillaman and her brother trained and ran various races together until he became ill in 2009. She debated giving up running or doing it alone. She had only placed once and that was fifth in the first Corporate Cup race.
She consulted Diana Morris, a colleague and veteran runner. "She gave me the best advice," Prillaman said. "She said to pick the races that I could be competitive in."
So every month, Prillaman found a race she could do, and she started placing in them. She trained consistently, investing in a treadmill at home.
In the fall of 2010, she ran the Huntington Marathon in four hours, as she did the Myrtle Beach Marathon a few months later. The times weren't good enough for her to qualify for the marathon.
Her brother was her biggest fan, calling to check on her time after every race.
"On the last day we spoke of racing, he told me I would get it the next time. That same month, he died, and I made it my goal to qualify for Boston in his memory."
After she fell short by 10 minutes of qualifying in April 2011, she started to wonder if she had what it takes to be a long distance runner. "By that time, it was in my blood, and I started looking for yet another marathon to try to qualify."
Last May, her husband drove her to Cleveland for a marathon. The Prillamans are deeply religious and very active in their church in Virginia. Her husband anointed her with oil as she lined up with 13,000 other runners, and she prayed before and constantly over the 26.1 mile course. She finished in three hours and 52 minutes and 58 seconds--seven minutes faster than she needed to qualify.
Although her fast time qualified her for her age group, that still didn't mean she could run the Boston race. For 2012, the famous marathon had changed its rules to ensure that the fastest of the fast in each group got accepted when registration began in mid-September.