Running in her first marathon ever — and her first run more than 18 miles — 2017 Homer High School graduate Lauren Kuhns exceeded the expectations of any rookie distance runner. Not only did she finish Sunday’s Anchorage Runfest Humpy Marathon straight through without stopping, she won it. In the women’s event, Kuhns finished with a time of 3 hours, 17 minutes and 37 seconds, almost 14 minutes ahead of second-place winner Hannah Booher.
The youngest child of Bridget and Lary Kuhns, Lauren said one of the biggest thrills of winning was a congratulatory phone call she got from her family.
“Just to hear your family tell you how proud of you they are is an accomplishment in itself. Family is your number one priority,” she said. “Just making them happy and knowing they’re proud of you is super heart warming.”
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Kuhns said that when she got to the race start, at first the group of elite women runners intimidated her.
“All of them looked like those crazy runners who live, eat, breathe running marathons. I was like, ‘Oh my God, Lauren. What are you getting yourself into? These girls are ridiculous,’” she said.
But she decided not to be intimdated, Kuhns said.
“When you’re in Rome, do like the Romans do. I’m going to act like they do.”
That might have meant putting on even more of an act. Kuhns considers herself primarily a long-distance swimmer, and took up track and long-distance running with the Mariners to help her swimming. For her daily training, she swam, ran and did weight training before going to work at Carmen’s Gelato, alternating distances.
“Then wake up the next morning and do it again,” she said.
Swimming helped build up strength with less impact on joints, Kuhns said — something that made the Anchorage marathon on hard pavement less painful. Still, Kuhns said she felt the impact. Enduring the marathon meant psyching herself out, she said.
“Since I’m a swimmer, and I’m a distance swimmer, I have a lot of endurance and a high pain tolerance. I’m able to like kind of shut off that part of my head that says ‘Lauren you should probably stop. That hurts,’” she said. “It’s like thinking about something else. Let’s think about dogs or what you’re going to eat after you finish this race. Think about things you’re going to do and other goals other than my quadriceps are going to seize up at any time now.”
Lauren credited her success to something her mother told her.
“My momma always said I have the heart of a horse,” Lauren said.
Bridget Kuhns also has been her daughter’s biggest fan. Before the race, Lauren said her mom fussed over her. A runner and swimmer, Bridget Kuhns also has been a role model for her daughter and a strong supporter, driving her to training and races.
“It’s like watching Seahawk fans,” Kuhns said of her mother. “All of sudden I hear this person half way in the race screaming ‘Go Lauren.’ Who is it? It’s my mom.”
Training and competing also has been easier for one reason, Kuhns said: the simple joy of athleticism. She varies her running routine by finding new locations, like running from Homer to Anchor Point or driving to Soldotna to run on the Tsalteshi Trails.
“A lot of people will ask ‘How do you do that? Why do you that. It sounds horrible,’” Kuhns said. “To me, running and swimming and being active is what makes me happy. It’s the funnest thing. I enjoy doing these things.”
Kuhn’s marathon time comes with another win: it qualifies her to run in the Boston Marathon. She will be closer to doing that next spring — at least geographically. On Wednesday, Kuhns left to start the fall semester at Assumption College, Worcester, Mass., where she competes on a scholarship with the swim team. Kuhns’ Assumption College swim coach said the track coach heard about her running prowess and asked her if she wants to run long-distance track there. She’ll do that, too. There’s one thing Lauren Kuhns won’t get, though. Working at Carmen’s Gelato, she’s surrounded by the delicious tastes of owner Carmen Ricciardi’s artisan dairy treat — but she can’t eat it, she said. Kuhns is allergic to dairy products.
Reach Michael Armstrong at email@example.com.