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Before the sun rises, a group of eight women, five of whom qualified for the Boston Marathon, train together at the track at Brattleboro Union High School, in Brattleboro, Vt., on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

BRATTLEBORO — Fifty-five years after Kathrine Switzer became the first female to officially complete a Boston Marathon, seven area women are about to run on the 26.2-mile trail that she blazed.

“I have to say, I am very fortunate when it comes to my marathon training. I train with my good friends — a group of really fun and strong women,” said Maxine Stent, 58, of Brattleboro.

Hank Lange has been preparing Stent, Brattleboro’s Nicole James, Guilford’s Nancy Johnston, Vernon’s Lois Sparks, and Elizabeth Bianchi of West Chesterfield, N.H., for the April 18 race. They work out every Tuesday morning together on the Freeman Track.

“They have been rising to the occasion to train through the winter in the pre-dawn chill,” noted the popular personal coach.

James, who will run in the Patriots’ Day race for the first time despite being diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, likes how Lange keeps it fun.

“At the beginning, he had us running up and down the parking lot at Hannaford while pushing shopping carts. It was hilarious,” she explained.

Sparks has been trying to simulate the course, which is known for its challenging Heartbreak Hill.

“I have been focusing on some long runs that have a downhill start and finish with a climb,” said the veteran, who is readying for her 25th marathon.

There are a couple of things that Johnston has really enjoyed about the training.

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“I appreciate Hank’s expertise, along with the time spent running with friends who are also preparing for Boston,” she noted. “The second thing I appreciate about my training is my solo long runs on the beautiful dirt roads in Guilford.”


Bianchi believes that her crew is well prepared.

“What I like about the training is that most of our runs are in very challenging Vermont weather. There were so many runs that were in wind, snow, and rain storms, or very frigid temps close to zero degrees. It helps me to think, if we can do that we can do Boston,” the Granite Stater known as E-Biz mentioned.

Halie Lange, who anchored Brattleboro Union High School’s state championship Nordic skiing relay team in 2011, recently moved to Boston in order to study at Tufts University. Her goal is a personal best time of under 3:25.

“My favorite thing about marathon training is being able to share in the process with my dad. We exchange emails about training plans at 5 a.m., including our scores for our daily Wordle competition, and debrief hard workouts over the phone.”

Nancy Heydinger witnessed the bomb blasts four minutes after finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon and completed the race four years later following brain surgery. She is hoping to run from Hopkinton to Copley Square with her six friends this year despite a recent pain in her heel that has limited her to walking.

“How lucky is this group of friends, who have been running and training together for years, to all be going to Boston together? It’s dreamlike,” said the 61-year-old Vernon resident.

Shane Covey can be reached at or 802-254-2311 X163. On Twitter: @ShaneCovey.