10 area runners to compete in Boston Marathon

Tamara Pavlov had a marathon scheduled in the fall of 2008 in Harrisburg, but for three weeks leading up to it she wasn’t sure if she could run due to being injured. So the morning of that race, Pavlov woke up, took an Advil and decided to run a marathon. Far from a small task.

The Montoursville resident not only completed the marathon that morning, but ran it in roughly 3 hours, 30 minutes. With the time, Pavlov found out she qualified for the Boston Marathon and figured she may as well give that one a shot.

That was the first time Pavlov qualified for the Boston Marathon. Today will be her fifth time running it after she first qualified for the 2009 race.

“I didn’t expect to qualify (for Boston). I didn’t even know what the qualifying time was,” Pavlov said. “I kind of went in (to the Harrisburg marathon) without expectations.”

Pavlov, 31 years old, is one of 10 area runners who will be running the Boston Marathon today. She joins Lock Haven’s Scott Bair (41), Williamsport’s Julie Pentico (51) and Mike Habalar (45), Muncy’s Amy McCoy (36), South Williamsport’s Robert Cronin (39), Lewisburg’s Beatriz Benedit (50) and Carly Shea (40) and Milton’s Yelena Share (26) and Lacey Balliet (33).

“It’s just special going to Boston … There’s something just special about Boston to be able to run with thousands of other people and the cheers are just great,” Pavlov said. “I love running. It’s just my escape from a crazy life I lead as a financial adviser. I’m always on the go and stressed out in a really busy office. It’s my time to reward myself.”

This year’s Boston Marathon will be the 13th marathon Pavlov will run in. She’s been to Boston in 2009, 2014, 2017 and 2018. She admitted that even having run in Boston four previous times, each trip is still unique and special and never gets old.

“I’m injured right now, but I’m still going to do it regardless. You get there and you kind of forget about everything,” Pavlov said. “The logistics are so hectic. You have to take an official bus to get to the athlete tent. Once you get through all of that it feels like a piece of cake to actually run the 26.2. You’re like ‘oh that’s nothing.'”

While some people put in weeks and months worth of strict training and regiments to follow to prepare for a marathon, Pavlov admitted her training and conditioning isn’t that way.

“A lot of people train really hard and they really follow a schedule and hire a coach, but I never followed any type of schedule. It’s always been ‘hey if I have time to get my run today, great, if not I’ll wing it,'” Pavlov said. “My motto in life is ‘wing it.'”

While Pavlov qualified like numerous runners by hitting a certain time for her age group, Cronin had a different approach to qualifying. After being deployed last year in a high-conflict zone as a member of the Army National Guard in Kuwait and Jordan, Cronin received a military exemption to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

While in Kuwait, Cronin ran a Boston Marathon shadow run, finishing in 5 hours, 3 minutes. Unlike Pavlov, who is quite accustomed to marathons, Cronin admitted that his run in Kuwait was the first marathon he’s ever run. However Cronin is not a stranger to running races. He’s run 26 races since he became a runner nearly four years ago, including that marathon in Kuwait, a half marathon, a 10-miler and a handful of 10Ks, 9Ks and 5Ks.

“I did a lot of sacrifice last year to be able to try to train appropriately for the marathon. I raced 26 separate races while I was deployed,” Cronin said. “I was focused on training. … I did significant training and though my time isn’t nearly as good as many people I trained with running around here, I think it’s going to be an honor to be able to run and honor those people I ran with while deployed and trained with.”

Cronin ran four days a week and swam three days a week to train while overseas with the Army National Guard.

Cronin is 39 and at the age of 34, he walked by a recruiting poster and thought that it was time to enlist and train for the military. That training enabled him to do a triathlon a few years ago and he then started focusing on how he could improve and get better and started thinking about the Boston Marathon.

“It may not have been a lifelong bucket list, but if you have the opportunity to do the Boston Marathon, you’re not going to say no,” Cronin said.

When he first began running four and a half years ago, he was averaging 12 minute miles, but now said he is hitting personal bests and was running a 7-minute mile when he was deployed.

Cronin, like many runners in the area, is part of a Williamsport runner’s club and for him, it’s been a nice group to be with and encourage one another.

“It’s just an amazing experience. There’s a family feel. It doesn’t matter your pace, someone will run with you in this area. Someone will motivate you. Someone will cheer you on and hope to see the reward on your face when you complete it,” Cronin said. “When I started I was doing 12 minute miles and I felt like that guy who was holding everyone back. When I started running in that running club, there wasn’t one person who said you’re holding us back.

“They gave me what I considered one of the best quotes. What’s the difference between a person who runs a 10-minute mile and a 5-minute mile? Nothing. They both ran one mile. Just hearing that motivation convinced me to continue running those distances, increasing distances as I progressed and doing better on my time because I’m doing those distances.”

It’s those sentiments about the area running community that Pavlov echoed.

“We have a very good community, everyone’s supportive of each other. I know a lot of runners from Lewisburg, Sunbury area and like Selinsgrove, and I’m good friends with people in Williamsport area as well. We all kind of encourage each other,” Pavlov said.

Another first-timer for the Boston Marathon is Habalar, a ninth-grade history teacher at Williamsport. Habalar has run eight marathons leading up to Boston and has been a runner for 15 years. He qualified for Boston after running a 3:14.45 at the NCR Marathon outside of Baltimore in 2017.

Habalar said that being able to qualify for Boston and run it today is the culmination of his 15 years of running.

“I set a goal for myself pretty early on in my running career to try and run a sub 3:15 marathon and qualify for Boston. Marathon after marathon, I came up short of that goal,” Habalar said. “However, you learn a lot about yourself through running and training for marathons. I believe running is a near perfect analogy to life. The things that are worthwhile in life are hard. Very hard.”

Hitting a time below 3 hours, 15 minutes was far from easy and Habalar admits qualifying was extremely difficult to accomplish.

“To qualify for the Boston Marathon was the hardest physical thing I have ever done, but the feeling of accomplishment crossing the line at NCR in sub 3:15 was pure elation,” Habalar said. “Runners run for all different reasons and I respect that, but for me, I want to push myself to the absolute maximum and see how far my body can be pushed. The pursuit of Boston has allowed me to do that and it has been glorious.”

South Williamsport fourth-grade teacher Pentico is another area runner who will be running in Boston today. The mother of three is not a stranger to the Boston Marathon, having previously run it in 1996 after she ran her first-ever marathon in Philadelphia to earn a time qualifying mark.

Pentico qualified for Boston this year at the Via Marathon in Lehigh Valley in September, but she then improved her own qualifying time at the NCR Marathon in Sparks, Maryland. The faster time moved Pentico’s start assignment to the first of four waves.

She was the women’s open division winner and Road Runner’s Club of America’s Maryland Female Open champion with a time of 3:05.36.

After she ran Boston in 1996, Pentico had no real plans on doing it again, but after the 2013 bombing, Pentico and a friend of hers trained with hopes of qualifying.

“Countless runners chase the dream of running the Boston Marathon, so the opportunity to run it against is humbling,” Pentico said. “Every time I compete a marathon, it is a special feeling, but Boston takes the experience to a different level with its challenging course, tragic history and sense of pride of being Boston Strong.”

There are three marathons on Pentico’s bucket list: Boston, New York City and London. She’s scheduled to run the New York City Marathon in the fall.

Pentico has run seven marathons in her life and has been a runner since she competed in track and field in high school, but didn’t become a serious runner until college and running long distances while in law school.

Regardless of what time the 10 area runners who are in Boston today run or if they set a new personal best, in the end they will get to walk away with another memory of running one of the most prestigious marathons in the country.

And no matter their result, that’s a memory they’ll never forget.