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46, pregnant and in the Boston Marathon

By Associated Press, 4/15/2002

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Two weeks shy of her 47th birthday and eight weeks from giving birth, April Nolan is competing in the Boston Marathon.

Despite urgings from friends and family to skip the prestigious race, at midafternoon Nolan was on pace to finish the 26.2 miles in 6 hours, 46 minutes. She planned to walk about 75 percent of the way, running only the downhill stretches.

Nolan, who lives in the Syracuse suburb of Camillus, said she had clearance from her doctor and had spoken with marathon officials, who allowed her in the race.

"In pioneer days, or when things were less cushy, women did a lot more when they were pregnant," Nolan told The Post-Standard of Syracuse. "It wasn't considered a big deal. Maybe they walked back and forth to the village 26 miles? Today, we look at being pregnant as if it's like having a disease or being debilitating."

Dr. Marvin Adner, the Boston Marathon's medical director, said "if she's walking it, then it's probably OK."

Adner said race officials had discussed Nolan's decision to participate and planned to monitor her progress throughout the race. Her appearance comes on the 30th anniversary of the first time women were allowed to compete in the Boston Marathon.

Before 1972, female athletes had to sneak into the nation's oldest marathon if they wanted to compete, and they faced serious consequences when they inevitably were caught.

Nolan's decision to enter created a buzz around Marcellus.

"People are coming up to me and asking me about it," Nolan said before departing for Boston. "I'll tell them, 'Some people think that I'm nuts.' They'll say, 'You can count me as one of those."'

Nolan's 14-year old son, Jack, said his seventh-grade classmates, teachers and even his bus driver asked about his mom's plan to race.

But Jack, and his four siblings, who range in age from 6 to 16, have supported their mother.

"I think it's cool," Jack said. "She's like SuperMom."

Nolan, an occupational therapist in the West Genesee school system, abandoned her normal training runs of 11 to 12 miles a day for walks that added up to 20 to 25 miles per week. And just to test herself, Nolan said she did one 17-mile walk last week -- on a day riddled with sleet and hail.

"I'm in good shape and healthy," she said. "If the signals from my body are saying it's not a good thing, I'll stop. My goal is to finish."

After taking a respite from running because of her children, Nolan got back to running seriously about three years ago. She ran her first marathon in Albany, and her time qualified her for last year's Boston Marathon by 47 seconds.

She ran last year's Boston race in 3:52.51, just under the 3:55 standard to qualify for this year.

"Running a marathon is similar to being in labor because at the end of it, it feels so good to stop," she said. "It sounds perverse, but it almost makes you want to do it again. You want to go through it all just for the thrill."

Nolan also was raising money for the March of Dimes, which she said was fitting because it helps provide for at-risk babies. Nolan said that because she is pregnant at such a late age, her baby could fall in that category.

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