DOUGLAS — When Allie Oban qualified for the Boston Marathon on her first try, it was one of the biggest accomplishments of her life. When the in-person event was postponed, then cancelled, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it threatened to ruin the milestone she worked years to achieve. Instead, friends and family rallied around her, giving her an experience that not even Boston could provide, and all from her adopted hometown of Douglas.
As Allie Oban’s friends and family tell it, she is the sweetest person you will ever meet. So sweet, in fact, that it’s helped her establish a large support system in a small town almost 1,000 miles from her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri – and that support system was crucial in her successfully running the Boston Marathon while never leaving Douglas.
Underneath that natural sweetness is a burning competitive spirit that fueled her to being selected to compete in the 2020 Boston Marathon.
COVID-19, as it has with most everything these days, altered any plans for an in-person event. Allie has been running almost her entire life, beginning at the age of 11, and running both track & field and cross country in high school and a year at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, before transferring to a school with no team to study nursing.
She never stopped running, but the competitive aspect was moved to the back burner after meeting her husband Brandon Oban and starting a family. The couple had four kids in just over seven years, and shortly after the birth of their youngest child, Allie decided to get back into racing.
“About a year after I had her, I made the decision to race again,” Allie said. “I hadn’t raced since 2009, and I love racing. Running was always a part of my life, but I missed that competitiveness aspect of it and I really wanted to see where I could go with it. When I started, I knew I eventually wanted to qualify for Boston.”
After the nearly 10-year hiatus, Allie reignited her racing career at Bolder Boulder, a 10K event in Colorado that draws more than 50,000 people.
“Being in a race again with other people who love running was great — there’s nothing better,” Allie said.
It took her more than two years to build up to the marathon level.
“I was kind of just feeling out distances,” Allie said. “I was doing 5Ks and 10Ks, then moved to the half marathons. I kind of just wanted to move up slowly to learn what my body felt like at those distances.
“Training for a 5K, your longest run is going to be five miles, where as training for a marathon you’re going to get up to 22 or 23 miles, so I wanted to start small.”
The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious and famous marathons in the world, as well as the oldest running in the United States. Over the past five decades, it has steadily grown in popularity, and the qualifying standards have risen sharply.
Qualifying standard times drop every year, and the competition is so tight that thousands of runners are denied even after meeting them.
For the 2019 marathon, runners had to finish their qualifying event around five minutes faster than the minimum time in order to be accepted, according to the Boston Marathon website.
Many people train years and never qualify. Allie did it on her first try.
In her first marathon ever, Allie ran 20 minutes faster than the qualifying time for her age and gender group, finishing the Colorado Marathon in 3:10.
“It’s exciting and it’s inspiring,” Brandon said. “I think her pain tolerance is just higher than most peoples’. She’s had fractures in her heels and still kept running. She’s just so passionate, and she’s more determined than anyone I know. She gets this kind of tunnel vision when she’s running.”
When Allie found out she qualified for the marathon, she was ecstatic. The event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but then it seemed to be ripped away from her.
“It was a big bummer,” she said. “It was postponed from April to September at first. Learning it was going to be a virtual fun run instead of a competition in Boston was a bit of a letdown, but we’re making the most of it.”
Sally Oban, Allie’s mother-in-law, reached out to her large base of friends in the community asking for their support as Allie ran the race through her adopted home of Douglas Sept. 13.
“I just wanted her to have a good experience,” Sally said. “She was going to just stop running at the truck stop. I told her it was too big of a deal to do that. I felt like this was a reason to celebrate.”
Sally invited everyone to Blend Coffee Co. to greet Allie at the finish line and posted the route she would be running so anyone who wanted to support her along the way could. After three hours of running, Allie made her way down Richards, led by her husband who rode a bike the whole way through with her, and she was greeted to the cheering of dozens of friends and family as she circled into the coffee shop’s parking lot and broke through a makeshift finish line in a personal record of 3:08.
She immediately collapsed, as everyone surrounded her, embracing and congratulating her for her accomplishment.
“She’s very well loved and everyone was just excited to be a part of that with her,” Sally said.
Although it was initially a bummer not being able to make it to Boston, the end result was something even better.
“I was shocked by the support,” Allie said. “Just seeing everybody there was incredible. This was better than running in the actual marathon. You can’t have all those people you love come to Boston with you.
“This town is incredible. The way the community rallies around others and their accomplishments is amazing. I consider this my hometown even though I’m not from here.”
COVID may have taken her chance this year, but making it to Boston is still in her plans.
“If they cut the field size, I hope to be in the half that gets to do it next year,” she said.