By SHELLY WILKISON
For Megan Germann, it was a defining moment.
When the University of Texas senior crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday, it was a personal victory like none other. The year before, she had trained to run the 26-mile course, but an injury kept her out of the race. From the safety of her home in Austin, she watched news accounts of a bomb exploding on the route killing and injuring runners and spectators.
As she approached the finish line Monday, she remembered how disappointed she was one year ago when tendonitis had kept her from going to Boston.
“Coming into the finish line was emotional because of last year,” she said. “But it was very satisfying, and I was finally okay with the fact that I had been hurt and unable to go.”
Ms. Germann, 22, is a 2010 graduate of Liberty Hill High School where she spent four years as a cross country runner and three years in track. Her senior year of high school, she ran her first marathon — the Austin Marathon. She has competed in four marathons including this week’s Boston Marathon.
Ms. Germann qualified for the Boston Marathon last year when she ran a marathon in The Woodlands. She qualified with a time of 3 hours and 29:50 minutes. When she crossed the Boston finish line Monday, she finished with a time of 4 hours and 20 minutes.
While pleased with her time, she said she didn’t enter the race to compete with the 36,000 other runers.
“Time wasn’t a factor for me in the race, it was more about the experience,” she said, although admitting her goal was to finish within 4 hours and 30 minutes.
“Boston is like every marathon runner’s dream,” Ms. Germann said. “It’s like the Olympics for ordinary runners. It’s a very elite race, but it’s within reach. I’m honored to have been in it.”
She described the Boston Marathon experience as “life changing.”
“It was a race completely different from anything else. The support from random strangers and the thousands of spectators along the route…it’s crazy that that many people care that much about those running,” she said.
Ms. Germann said the crowd was loud and their encouragement served as a source of mental strength.
But the strongest encouragement came from Ms. Germann’s family and friends who maneuvered through Boston traffic in cars and subways trying to catch a glimpse of her along the route.
Her parents, Doug and Janice Germann, and her LHHS friends Kyle Miller and Jackie Wattles, saw her about five times along the 26-mile course.
Ms. Germann’s younger brother, Mitchell Germann, was unable to make the trip due to classes and preparation for Regional Track Meet in Lubbock this weekend.
Her family’s efforts to navigate crowded streets and subways to catch a glimpse of Ms. Germann was in itself a challenge.
At one point along the way, she said she saw her father, Doug Germann, step out of the crowd with his camera and into the street ahead of her.
Her father is a photographer and a regular contributor to The Independent.
“Tons of people and nearly impossible to get around,” he said. “We did get to see her at five or six spots, but that was a real challenge. We ended up on the subway as we worked our way into Boston and the finish, and it was literally body to body on the subway. Each time the subway stopped, others would try to get on and not even one more person could squeeze on.”
Ms. Germann said the field of runners was not as crowded as the spectators along the route due to the fact that starts are scheduled intermittently for the thousands of participants. In fact, many times she noticed that she was out of reach of anyone else.
Ms. Germann said she prefers to pay attention to her surroundings while running rather than distract herself with music as many runners do.
“I don’t listen to music (when running). It’s too distracting. I don’t need it,” she said. “I want to pay attention to what’s happening around me.”
Unlike other marathons she has competed in, Ms. Germann said she wasn’t as concerned about her time on Monday. Instead, she wanted to enjoy the experience, which meant walking through watering stops. She also fueled herself along the way by eating electrolyte energy gel and shot bloks every few miles as she ran.
“I didn’t want to push myself so hard that I wouldn’t enjoy the race,” she said.
“It is a mental thing,” she said of the challenge to stay in a distance race as the body tires. “You have to find a way to stay focused on the goal. I imagine myself coming toward the fnish line and knowing it will be worth it when I cross. Along the way I try to think about other things, too.”
Ms. Germann said that while running, she thinks about her form and posture, as well as her stride. Paying attention to those elements makes a big difference in a runner’s stamina.
To train, she does a hard run three days a week — once at the track at UT, once around the campus and one day she chooses longer runs at Town Lake or Brushy Creek.
Ms. Germann said she started running while a student at Liberty Hill Intermediate School, and continued running in Junior High.
“I realized I was pretty good at it,” she recalls.
She said her mother ran track and cross country while in college in Kansas and was very successful. Mrs. Germann also ran two marathons before having children.
Megan said she and her brother were encouraged by their mother to run, but they didn’t feel pressured to compete.
“I think I’m the one who got Mitchell interested in it,” she laughed. “I love to watch him run, and wish I could have been that great when I was in high school. He keeps his composure and devotes all his effort toward running.”
Mitchell is a senior at LHHS and leads the distance runners for the Panthers. He finished third place at the state cross country meet in the fall. At the Area Track Meet, he finished second in both the 1600-Meter Run and the 3200-Meter Run to qualify for Regionals in Lubbock. He plans to attend UT as a freshman in the fall, majoring in mechanical engineering. He said he plans to run marathons like his sister.
In high school, Ms. Germann said she was more focused on the success of the cross country and track teams, rather than her individual success.
While she was offered opportunities for scholarships by some smaller colleges, she said she was focused on an education in engineering and chose UT. She said she will be an electrical engineer with a specialty in power generation. She said her passion is renewable and green energy and has spent summers interning for utility companies and consulting firms.
Running marathons will continue to be an important lifelong sport for Ms. Germann. In fact, she plans to participate in the New York Marathon in November — one month before she graduates in December.