May 13, 2002
WHS grad hits stride at the Boston Marathon
by Deborah Stone
The Boston Marathon is one of the nation's oldest and most venerable of the marathons and to most serious athletes, completing it is an important notch in the belt.
The marathon, held each April to herald the arrival of spring, recently celebrated its 106th birthday.
A field of almost 15,000 runners competed in the 26.2 mile race and approximately one third of them were women.
The top finishing time for the men was 2:09:02 and 2:20:43 for the women.
Danielle Johnson, a 1995 WHS graduate, now living in Portland, entered the Boston Marathon after having only run in one other marathon in her life. She finished in the top one percent of women at Boston with an amazing time of 3:01:34.
Johnson began running at the end of her junior year at Woodinville. She was a swimmer prior to running and in the off season, she would run just for fitness purposes, never really giving any thought to competing at the sport.
"A teacher for Woodinville saw me running one day around the track and asked if I wanted to try out for track in the spring," explains Johnson. "Spring came along and I thought it would be fun, so I tried it. I ended up doing cross-country and track in my senior year and then when I entered the University of Oregon, I competed on the varsity cross-country and track teams there, too. When I transferred to the UW, I competed there, too."
Johnson's times kept getting faster with each of her races and following graduation from the UW, she continued to run, doing a variety of road races, cross-country and track races.
Now residing in Portland and working for Nike, Johnson runs for the team, Nike Portland, and she is required to run a certain number of races a year. She trains daily and puts in about 50-60 miles a week, which includes a combination of track workouts, tempo runs and one long run on the weekend.
Her first marathon, however, didn't occur until last June when she competed in the San Diego Rock n' Roll Marathon, finishing third in her division and 16th among the total number of women athletes, with a time of 3:03:48.
This time easily qualified her to run the Boston Marathon in April.
"The Boston Marathon was definitely a wonderful experience for me," says Johnson. "The crowd was so unbelievable and the whole city was out to watch the race. I was really pleased with my performance, but I also know that I can run faster. I was on a much faster pace until mile 22 and then I hit the wall, as they call it. Heartbreak Hill really broke my heart!"
Johnson feels confident that she can improve her time for her next marathon, in Chicago in October. She hopes to have a finish time in the 2:50s because the course there is flatter, which will make it easier on her legs.
"I love to run," comments Johnson. "I love the freedom of the sport, the competition, which is the best part of the sport for me, and I also enjoy the training."
To be a successful runner, Johnson believes that the qualities of determination and independence are important. She adds, "The willingness to dig deep is necessary, too, plus you really have to enjoy running and the challenges it presents. But it's also really important to be attuned to your body and listen to it to know when to take it easy."
Johnson hopes to qualify for the Olympic Trials one day, but right now she's enjoying how she's running and thankful that she can still compete, injury free.
"I just strive to do the best that I can in whatever makes me happy, whether it's running, being with my family and friends or working."