Marshall at LC2BQ

Elizabeth Marshall stands with her medal after finishing with a time of 3 hours, 53 minutes at “Last Chance 2BQ” in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

FORT KNOX, KY—At the age of 54, Cocke County native Elizabeth Marshall is preparing for the run of her life.

Marshall started running when she and her husband, a fellow CCHS graduate, lived in Germany. He was stationed there in the military.

“It astounds me, you know? Where did this come from, why did I start this?” Marshall said.

She was never a runner growing up, but at this point in her life she’s got eight marathons and five half-marathons under her belt.

She picked up running as a hobby, which became more serious once her two children were out on their own.

“When I turned 50, Boston got into my head. You know, could I do that?” she said.

Her goal became to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon before she turned 60. She had ten years to get it done. She would only need four: two to earn a qualifying time, and two more to wait.

Elizabeth’s friend put her in touch with a trainer. Not long after she started working with the trainer, Elizabeth posted a time that met the Boston Athletic Association’s benchmark for her age group.

For the Women’s 50-54 year age bracket, the benchmark to qualify is 3 hours and 55 minutes.

On September 7, 2019, in Grand Rapids, MI, Elizabeth ran a marathon in three hours and 53 minutes at an event that was aptly named “Last Chance 2BQ” (to Boston Qualify).

This time would have made her eligible for the 2020 Boston Marathon, but due to COVID-19 concerns, the event was postponed from April to September, and then eventually canceled.

In 2021, Boston Athletic Association announced that the competition field for that year’s iteration of the race would be cut from 30,000 to 20,000, meaning it would be much harder to be accepted, even with a time that was faster than the “benchmark.”

Each year, there is a “cut-off” time, or an amount of time by which applicants must surpass the benchmark time to be accepted. This cut-off time is usually on the lower end of a one to five-minute range.

In 2021, due to the smaller field, the cutoff time was seven minutes and 47 seconds. This meant that for Elizabeth’s age range, she would have needed to run a 3:47:13 to have been accepted. For the second year in a row, her would-be Boston Qualifier was taken away by COVID-19, a disease that had not yet been discovered when she ran her 3:53.

In late 2021, the BAA announced the Qualifying Window for the 2022 Marathon, the period in which the runners’ qualifying time had to have been recorded. The earliest date in the window was September 1, 2019.

After more than two years of pandemic, postponement, and a whole lot of waiting, Newport’s own Elizabeth Marshall would be eligible to apply for the 2022 Boston Marathon...by six days.

All she had to do was beat the cutoff time. And there was none.

“The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) proudly announced today that all qualified athletes who submitted applications during the 2022 Boston Marathon registration window (November 8-12) will be accepted into the April 18th race, provided their qualifying time is verified. For the first time since 2013, the “cut-off” time is 0 minutes and 0 seconds,” reads a November 18 update on baa.org.

She’s in. The official email came in early December.

It reads, “Dear Elizabeth Marshall, Congratulations! Your entry into the 126th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2022 has been accepted, provided that the information you submitted is accurate.”

Now Marshall, a graduate of the CCHS class of ’85, a military mother of two, will be representing her hometown of Newport, as well as Fort Knox, where she now lives with her husband, on a national scale.

A Newport native will toe the starting line in Hopkinton.

“That’s God,” Marshall said. “God made this happen. It feels like a dream.”

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