Maplewood native trains for her first marathon

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Amy French has been running along the banks of the Charles River in Boston for the last few months, gearing herself up for the 26.2 miles she will traverse when the starting gun sounds on April 16 for the Boston Marathon. The Maplewood native is one of six runners representing Playworks New England, a nonprofit organization that partners with elementary schools and after-school programs in low-income areas in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire to integrate games and play into recess time.

“It’s going really well,” French said of her marathon training in a phone interview with the News-Record on Feb. 16. “I’ve gotten up to 16 miles so far, which I think is as far as I’ve ever run. I never thought I’d want to do it because it’s so many miles, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about (Playworks).”

Her run doubles as a fundraiser for the group; with $7,200 raised and two months to go until the race, French is well on her way to reaching her goal of $8,500.

French, a grant writer and marketing and communications specialist, moved to the Dorchester section of Boston in August to work for Playworks as a development associate. Prior to taking the job, French had been a runner, but in a different way. The 2012 graduate of Columbia High School played soccer for the Cougars before moving on to play at Washington University in St. Louis.

“I’ve never really been a runner; I grew up playing soccer,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of teammates do something like this. It’s nice to be working out for something instead of just doing it for fun.”

Training for a marathon is a little different than training for a soccer game, according to French.

“You’re training with a team and doing drills,” she said about soccer. “For this, I’ve been doing it myself, and I’m running at a pace that I can sustain for over 20 miles. It’s nice to push yourself like that.”

French runs in the morning and evening, and her goal is to finish the marathon in four hours with a nine-minute mile. Her time is not as important to French as the cause she’s running for, though.

“I’m not really running for the time or to win. Growing up and going to school in Maplewood and South Orange, I had so many opportunities to play and I developed really valuable relationships with my peers, teammates and coaches,” she said. “Kids who go to school in low-income communities today don’t always get these opportunities. That’s why Playworks is so important and why I love raising awareness for the work we do.”

And the support French had in her hometown growing up still exists.

“I’ve received so much support from back home,” she said. “It means a lot coming from Maplewood and South Orange and from my family and friends there.”

Though this is her first foray into her new sport, French has developed a new appreciation for what marathoners do, and said she would like to continue training to run races.

“I feel like I’ve developed a new love of long-distance running,” she said. “I would do a relay or a half marathon, or maybe a 10K or something like that. It could be a cool way to travel; there are races in a lot of different places.”

Photos Courtesy of Amy French