“I’m at the point where I’m just ready for it. I’m ready to run it. I’ve put in the time training, and I think you get to the point before it starts when you start to taper off where you’re like, ‘I’m ready,’” Leah Shanks said.
Shanks’ journey to Boston started in 2009 when she decided to sign up for her first full marathon after racing in half marathons and in college at the University of Mississippi.
She was set to compete in the 2010 Virginia Beach Marathon as her first full marathon when doctors discovered a malignant tumor growing on her spine. She underwent intensive surgery to remove the tumor and was not able to compete in the Virginia Beach Marathon.
Two years later, Shanks returned to distance running, but experienced pain due to the presence of medal rods running down her back after surgery. Eventually, she completed the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, and came within minutes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2014.
In Dec. 2016, Shanks qualified for the Boston Marathon at the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Ala.
Shanks’ training for the marathon has included two 20-mile exercises on weekends.
“I’d always do those on the weekends, and during the week, I’d do like two speed workouts and change it up,” said Shanks, who said she also comes up with her own workout plan from past experiences.
She said she is grateful for the opportunity to run in the marathon.
“I almost didn’t know if I’d be able to run again. It was one of those things where I say, ‘I can do this. God’s given me another chance.’ I want to be able to use this gift because there are so many people that can’t, and I was almost one of those people,” she said. “Through hard work, and a lot of sacrifice from family and friends and everything, being able to do this is kind of the icing on the cake.”
Ginny Patterson Roszkowski, of Lebanon, competed in the Boston Marathon last year and offered some advice to Shanks about the race.
“One thing she told me is the first time I run it, because it such a different course, to not go out there too hard or anything because you’ll wear yourself out,” she said.
Shanks will make her way to Boston next week for the April 16th race with her husband, Grant Shanks, their four daughters and her mother and in-laws.
“This may be the hardest goal I’ve ever set for myself – just enjoy it,” Shanks said. “Not try to stress on a time, but just take in the experience, because it’s pretty awesome and I want to enjoy this marathon and running without worrying about a time necessarily.”