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St. Francis students will track teacher in Boston Marathon

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By Tracy Harris

A St. Francis Goshen class is learning about history, geography and sports all at once as a second-grade teacher prepares to run the Boston Marathon.

Madelyn Blue will be competing in the prestigious race for the third time when the gun goes off at 10 a.m. today (Monday).

Athletes must run qualifying times to enter the Boston Marathon or fundraise for a charity position.

Blue is integrating the event into her classroom at St. Francis, including teaching about the course’s many famous landmarks.

Blue and her students use a SmartBoard — an electronic whiteboard — to spot different landmarks along the course map.

They help Blue find the Newton Hills section of the course, a series of four climbs famous for Heartbreak Hill, which challenges many runners at mile 21.

The marathon course goes from Hopkington, Mass., a city west of Boston, and through five other cities before ending in downtown Boston.

Blue’s students find the different spots where her time will be posted live on the internet — roughly every three miles — through an online athlete tracking system.

The class also calculated what her time needs to be at the halfway point to hit her goal of 3:30.

Other math-related tasks have included tracking Blue’s mileage in training and the course’s elevation chart.

Students also learned about Patriot’s Day, the Massachusetts holiday on which the race is held. 

Because of the Monday date, Blue will be out of the classroom Monday and Tuesday.

Even an acrostic poem using the word “marathon” challenged students to come up with different words that fit the theme.

They’ve also talked about the elite runners who will be competing for the title — Blue said her students have asked several times if she’ll win or at least earn second place.

Instead, students learned about past champions and the push in recent years by American runners to place high in the race. Last year, the second place men’s and women’s finishers were both Americans. 

Blue won’t be first, although she hopes to better her own best time at this year’s event with pacing help from Prospect resident Mark Schoenegge, one of her training partners.

Blue, 30, qualified for this year’s race when she ran the Boston Marathon last year. 

She finished the race in 3:34:50, more than five minutes under the qualifying time for her age group, and set a new personal best. 

Almost 24,000 people finished the 2011 race.

However, race standards will be tougher for the 2013 event — about five minutes faster for most age groups. Women 34 and younger must run a 3:35 at a sanctioned marathon to qualify; men in the same age group must run a 3:05.

After the Boston Marathon, Blue will continue training for several triathlon events she plans to complete this year.

In June, she’ll travel to California for the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, where competitors swim 1.5 miles from Alcatraz Island to shore. Blue will then tackle an 18-mile bike race and an 8-mile run.

While the overall distance isn’t a worry, the rough, chilly ocean swim has Blue nervous.

Blue will also complete several other triathlons this summer as training for Ford Ironman Louisville. The 140.6-mile event includes Oldham County in its course and takes place Aug. 26.

It will be Blue’s fourth Ironman-distance event.

Blue enjoys the opportunity to share her training and racing experiences with her students, who are excited to see how Blue does in the Boston Marathon — one student even wore a Boston shirt to show support last week.

The Boston Marathon begins at 10 a.m. April 16. Check back for finishing times for Blue and other local runners. There are nine local runners registered for the event, including Crestwood residents and Naphtali Tate, Pewee Valley resident Dannis Hughbanks and Prospect residents Frank Cupolo, Brian Jones, Mark Schoenegge Ellen Thimme and Brooke Vernon.