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Kathy Derks, 8th American at Boston, Has Come a Long Way Since UW-Stevens Point


“Don’t be afraid to hurt because it’s going to hurt. Getting better, getting faster – it hurts, it sucks, and it’s uncomfortable. But just being able to understand your limits and knowing where those are is a big first step in order to reach some of those goals.”

Last week, thousands of runners ran from Hopkinton to Boston to compete in the 126th running of the Boston Marathon. The 8th American that day was a college 400m runner from Wisconsin Stevens Point, Kathy Derks.

The progression that Kathy has made from her college days to her marathoning is incredible. Especially since she hated to walk when she was 10 years old and had her mom push her in a stroller during their vacation in New York City.

Kathy wasn’t recruited onto the UWSP team but simply asked to join. She came in as a 60-second 400m runner with room to improve and the determination to get better. It was after a breakout race her sophomore year where she finally dipped under 60s that she realized her potential.

As he moved to the cross country team to help her 800, she began taking running more seriously. And her times dropped with her increased dedication. When the dust settled, Derks was a 57/2:13 400/800 meter runner after improving from a 60/2:29 runner.

After she graduated, she had difficulty not being on a team and gravitated toward distance running. She started running because she had the time to do so. As she trained for her first marathon, the goal of running Boston became her focus. She ran 3:01 in her debut and was hooked.

As her marathon days progressed, she needed help to achieve her goals. She reached out to a friend to coach her and the partnership has seen even more improvement. As she grasps what this new PB means to her, Kathy will continue to run for the love of it. In 2024, she’ll toe the line of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials hopefully as a 2:30 marathoner.

Marathon Progression:

2018 – 3:01

2019 – 2:50

2020 – 2:39

2021 – 2:36

2022 – 2:34

Photo Credit: Alison Wade

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On Improving your running

Don’t be afraid to hurt because it’s going to hurt. Getting better, getting faster – it hurts, it sucks, and it’s uncomfortable. But just being able to understand your limits and knowing where those are is a big first step in order to reach some of those goals.

On how she views herself with her times

I never view myself as being in the elite or as being a professional athlete. I do this for fun. I’m not sponsored. I don’t have a lot of monetary support through brands. So, I and I have a full time job and do this because I’m very passionate about it and want to push my limits.

On the crowds at Boston

So at mile 10 or 11, I raced the whole thing alone. But the really cool thing about Boston is you’re never alone. I was running alone, but the crowd shows up and I never felt like I was alone because everyone was still cheering for me and in it with me.

On motivation

I’ve always been a very intrinsically motivated individual. Even though there is prize money on the line, I never go into a race thinking that. I always go into the race thinking I want to run to my ability and see what I can do.

On her love for running

I just truly, genuinely love running. It’s one of my passions. And so even if I wasn’t competitive, I would still probably run all of the time. I just genuinely love it. It’s me time. That’s the time where I don’t have to pay attention to anybody else. It’s just me. And that’s it’s my entertainment. So going forward, all time goes aside, I want to be able to do this for a very long time.

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