When Lisa Rainsberger ran the Boston Marathon in 1985, everything was so different. Then she was Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach, just a year out of the University of Michigan. It was the year after she had won the Montreal Marathon and was an alternate on the US Olympic team. She won Boston with a time of 2 hours 34 minutes 6 seconds. No American woman has finished first here since.
Twenty years later, Rainsberger will be back to run again. Not with the goal of winning -- but doesn't that remain the goal of every competitive runner? -- as much as to enjoy the view.
"It was such a blur then," said Rainsberger, adding that she was focused more on the pavement and the footsteps in front of her than on the cheering crowds, the rolling hills, or the Citgo sign.
Rainsberger's pace has changed off the road, too. She is mother of two young children with her current husband, Ellis, in addition to two children from a previous marriage, and she runs to coach instead of race.
Rainsberger, of Colorado Springs, developed a business TrainingGoals.com five years ago, and is personal trainer to about 60 athletes. Ten of her proteges will be running in the marathon next week. Among them is Amy Shertzer, who won the Walt Disney Marathon in January. She will take off with the elite women at 11:31 a.m.
Rainsberger, who is from Michigan, lived in Marblehead the year she won the Marathon. She ran Boston twice after that, but struck out both times. In 1989, she finished fifth ("I went out way too hard and died."), and she competed for just a few miles in 1993, when she was hit by a car the day before the race on her way to a press conference.
She retired from racing when she developed a blood clot while pregnant with her daughter Katie, now 6.
"It was career-ending and life-altering," said Rainsberger, 43, by telephone. "I think longevity is what I'm best known for."
Rainsberger started in competitive sports as a swimmer, specializing in the 400 intermediate medley, and was good enough to qualify for the 1980 Olympic trials. But the US boycott of the Moscow Games thwarted those plans. Rainsberger switched gears, and decided to go for the gold in the Olympic marathon.
It was a good switch, to a point. Rainsberger finished fourth in the Olympic trials in 1984, 1988, and 1992, making her an alternate each time (the top three finishers qualify for the Olympic team).
But in between were numerous highlights, including the Boston and Montreal wins, victories in the Chicago Marathon in 1988 and 1989, the Cherry Blossom 10-mile in 1989 and 1990, the Japan Marathon in 1990, and the Twin Cities Marathon in 1993.
In 1996, she finished 19th in the Olympic marathon trials, then made another switch.
This time, she combined her swimming and running skills, and became a professional triathlete with an eye on the 2000 Olympics. She finished fifth in the USA Triathlon Nationals in 1997 and fifth in the Mrs. T's Triathlon that year.
Then came the blood clot in her right leg (she couldn't take medication for the clot because of her pregnancy), and Rainsberger retired from racing.
But not from running.
Her career as a coach was launched with her Internet-based company. She develops individualized programs based on each client's goals.
"It's not just telling them what to do," Rainsberger said. "It's about knowing them well enough to hear what they're not saying."
Her clients in the Colorado Springs area meet for group runs twice a week, and her out-of-town clients -- she has five in California -- pay her to come out and spend a week with them. She also corresponds with them via email or telephone.
Shertzer, 27, who went to the Air Force Academy and lives in Monument, Colo., became a client of Rainsberger's in January. After winning the Disney Marathon in 2:56.06, "I decided I should start training with a coach to run even better," said Shertzer.
She ran Boston for the first time last year, and finished in 3:03.
"I'm shooting for 2:52," said Shertzer. "But anything better than last year would be good."
Rainsberger got together with her Boston-bound group, many of them first-timers, to have dinner and go over strategy. She played a tape of her '85 victory -- cringing over her dated hairstyle -- and went over an eating and hydration plan leading up to the race, as well as race-day logistics, including the boarding of buses to Hopkinton and the long wait for the start.
Rainsberger will run with her husband, and hopes to finish in 3:20 or 3:30. Their children will be watching from the sideline, with their baby-sitter, who is the daughter of one of Rainsberger's clients from Colorado.
She said her goal is simple, to not have everything be a blur.
"I'm going to savor it this time," said Rainsberger.