Hampton graduate shines at Boston Marathon

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Hampton graduate Elaina Balouris Tabb competed in the 2021 U.S. Olympic team trials and represented her country on five continents as a professional long-distance runner.

But nothing quite like a Monday morning in Boston earlier this month.

Balouris Tabb, who was competing in her first marathon, finished second among all American women in the 125th Boston Marathon on Oct. 11 with a time of 2 hours, 30 minutes and 33 seconds.

The 2010 Hampton graduate placed 12th out of 7,602 runners and 88th overall in the 15,646-person race.

“It was neat,” she says. “The whole town, every mile in the race, was lined with people applauding. It was really special that way. It was definitely more important than any race I have ever done.

Balouris Tabb decided to compete in his first marathon after dropping from last place to 24th in the 41 field in the 10,000-meter race at the US Olympic Team Trials June 26 in Eugene, Oregon.

On that momentous day, Balouris Tabb suffered a ‘flat tire’ and lost about 15 seconds on the court when another runner stepped on her heels moments after kicking off her final competition as a American elite long-distance runner.

Balouris Tabb, former WPIAL 3,200-meter champion and Hampton School record holder in the event, picked the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon for her 26.2-mile debut.

A math teacher at Oakland Catholic, she trained by recording 22 mile runs every weekend, then two shorter, intense runs, one on the weekend and one during the school week.

Balouris Tabb was walking home one way. She raced for the Boston Athletic Association as a pro for seven years before returning to Pittsburgh last summer with her husband, Brian Tabb. Elaina had attended many Boston Marathons as a spectator over the years.

This time she was part of the field. One of the elite professional guest runners, she settled in at a reasonable early pace, running most of the race with Japan’s Shino Kaneshige out of the lead. Balouris Tabb, six-time All-American Division I at William & Mary, used his conserved energy and a powerful kick to pass 10 runners in the final eight miles. She also hit her pre-race goal of averaging 5:45 miles.

“I was happy to have run a smart race,” she said. “I think I did a really good job judging my efforts at the start. … I was training to run at a pace of 5:45 am and that’s exactly what I ended up running.

Balouris Tabb finished less than six minutes behind overall winner Diana Kipyokei of Kenya (2:24:45), and about three minutes behind top American Nell Rojas, 33, of Boulder, Colo.

But lasting memories will come from the vibe of the race, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic and then moved to the fall for the first time after a 30-month absence.

“Every mile, people were lining up the course and cheering you on,” Balouris Tabb said. “It was really helpful when things started to get really painful at the end. Your body stops and tells you to stop, but you have all these reasons to keep going and that makes it cool.

“It’s really encouraging to be encouraged by strangers to finish the race and it also made the race a lot more fun.

Brian Tabb, who cycled with his wife and helped her stay hydrated during her long training weekends, watched the race straight away near the finish line. He became moved after she ran into him in a city where they shared so many special moments.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I could see her coming and I knew it would be a great day. When she ran beside me, I was screaming and cheering her on. She turned to me, then my voice broke. … I was so happy then. It was really special.

Balouris Tabb, who is taking around 2-3 weeks off work to recuperate, expects to compete in more marathons in the future, possibly including Pittsburgh.

“Since (Boston) has gone so well, I think it could have opened doors to continue running marathons,” she said. “I could do a little more before I retire. ”

John Grupp is a contributing writer for Tribune-Review.

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