PINE BELT (WDAM) - Three Pine Belt runners are proudly wearing their Boston Marathon medals after completing the 26.2 miles for the first time.
Dan Vega and Jane Kersh, both from Hattiesburg, and Susan Dobson, who calls Petal home, trained for over a year to take part in the 121st Boston Marathon. The three runners sat down with WDAM 7 Sunday to share their experience in one of the most famous marathons in the world.
"Last week, I was completely nervous, scary, I didn't know what to expect," Vega said. "But today, people make me feel like a celebrity."
Vega completed the marathon in three hours and ten minutes. Kersh finished in four hours and 24 minutes and Dobson followed at four hours, 53 minutes.
But, when it comes down to it, the runners say it was more about the experience than trying to set a goal.
The three Pine Belt Pacers said qualifying for the marathon was tougher than running it. They said getting across the finish line took months of physical and mental preparation, plus that final push to get those last miles in.
"It's more than I expected. You run races, the people around, the encouragement, you feel good," Vega said. "But, when you see Boston and the people of Boston and the runners that have come from everywhere in the world. It's something beyond."
Kersh said she was a "squeaker," which meant she just narrowly made it through to qualify for the Boston Marathon. She said she was late to running and just picked it up in the last ten years or so.
"I have always been an exercise hater, if anyone knew me in the past, they would not know who I am now," Kersh said. "When your running, you're out here by yourself. I have a lot of time to think, I can solve problems, I can pray. You have time to yourself and it's easy to work through problems when your doing that."
Dobson said she loves the small group of women she runs with, who have turned into some of her best friends. But, running is also about connecting with yourself.
"For me, it's always been a really spiritual experience. I just find it's a great way for me personally to connect with god in a spiritual way," Dobson said. "Especially in marathon running, when I'm most broken, is when I can lean on my faith and spirituality."
Vega said he started running after a doctor suggested he pick up the exercise to get rid of headaches in college. Now, Vega said he was able to join a community of friends and family running through the Pine Belt.
The three runners said they are giving their legs a break, but are already looking forward to registering for more marathons in the future. Vega said he has his eye on marathons in Chicago, New York and even Tokyo in the coming years.
"I'm kind of like the little kid on the ride that's like, again, again again! It's kind of addictive that way," Kersh said.