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One runner’s secret to running a sub-3 marathon

From a 3:33 to a 2:59 marathon over the span of seven months, Elaina Raponi took nothing for granted

Photo by: Elaina Raponi/Strava

For Elaina Raponi of Kingston, Ont., breaking three hours in the marathon meant everything. At the 2022 Boston Marathon, Raponi knocked off her goal as she sprinted down Bolyston Street with 32 seconds to spare for a personal best of 2:59:28.

Photo: Elaina Raponi/Strava

The road to 2:59 was certainly not easy for Raponi, as the sport had plenty to teach her over the past five years. She began running casually after she graduated from McMaster University in 2013. She started to take things seriously in the lead-up to her first half-marathon in 2017. 

“Running at the time was accessible,” Raponi says. “The low cost/no membership attracted me to the sport, but I never thought how much I would love it.”

Working full-time in communications at a Kingston hospital, Raponi, 31, has always relied on gratitude as something that has kept her motivated. In 2019, her life quickly changed when her father, Tony, was put on life support after quadruple heart bypass surgery. Raponi spent three months visiting him in three different hospitals in two different cities. 

“My dad is my best friend and my biggest inspiration,” she says. “When you get close to losing a loved one, it changes your entire perspective on things.”

In 2021, Raponi began taking her training more seriously, and she knew she needed a coach to reach her goals. “Truthfully, I didn’t know what my potential was, and thought having a coach might change my relationship with the sport,” she says.

She began training with a group called the Kingston Run Scene, under coach Brant Stachel. She broke 20 minutes for 5K in her first couple of months under his wing, but was unable to test her fitness in a race environment due to the pandemic.

Raponi found herself at the start line of the Erie Marathon, where she ran 3:33 and finished three minutes shy of the Boston qualifying time of 3:30:00. She felt defeated, but she knew she was capable of more.

Raponi kept showing up, and found herself on another start line at the Georgina Marathon last October. This time she was going to Boston, achieving a 30-minute personal best for a time of 3:03. 

Raponi with her training group in Kingston, Ont. Photo: Elaina Raponi / Strava

“I was dealing with an Achilles injury going into Boston, but I kept telling myself to go after things because life is too short,” Raponi says.

Even though there was doubt going into the race, Raponi’s secret was to remind herself to be grateful for what she has: a loving family, a supportive coach and great friends.

Raponi’s next goal is to work toward a 1:20 at the TCS Toronto Waterfront Half in October.