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Boston Marathon’s challenges met by Sacramento runner who wins age group

Jenny Hitchings compets in the 2014 Boston Marathon
Jenny Hitchings compets in the 2014 Boston Marathon Courtesy of Jenny Hitchings

Jenny Hitchings didn’t set out to run her fastest Boston Marathon time Monday. Instead, she wanted to win her age group.

She did both.

“I went into this Boston Marathon to win my age group, but that is a very hard goal,” said Hitchings, 51 ,as she waited Tuesday to board a flight home from Boston to Sacramento. “Because what I was saying to myself was that I wanted to be the fastest woman in my age group in this renowned marathon where women come from all over the world. I didn’t even know who would show up for the race.”

In windy, wet, cold weather, Hitchings won the women’s 50-54 age group Monday in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 51 seconds, finishing more than three minutes ahead of the next fastest female runner in her age group.

Last year, she was second in the group.

About 160 local runners competed in the field of about 30,000 at Monday’s marathon, based on a search of marathon results for runners from unincorporated areas and cities in the Sacramento region.

The weather was predicted to be bad: 20 mph headwinds with rain. But when the race started for Hitchings, skies were overcast, drizzly, and winds were light.

Hitchings ate three-quarters of a bagel with peanut butter and half a banana before the race. She also drank a carbohydrate energy drink 45 minutes before she ran. During the race, she consumed energy gel pouches.

As the race wore on, the weather turned windy and cold – and rain started falling harder around Mile 13. But Hitchings, running toward the front, got some shelter from the elements because she ran in packs with tall men.

Alongside friend Galen Farris, 33, the two ran steady and conservative prior to getting to Boston’s dreaded hills around Mile 16. Hitchings said if you don’t run conservative at the beginning, the hills will cause your legs to cramp.

The course has been a puzzle for Hitchings in the past.

“I have struggled with this course many times,” she said. “It is a difficult course to get right because of the hills. On paper it looks like an easy course, a fast course to run. But I always seem to seize up or have some kind of issue the last 6 miles.”

That didn’t happen this year, although she did admit that her pace was slower the final 3 miles as fatigue set in. That late tiring is par for the course, for the most part, she said.

Hitchings, a member of the Sacramento Running Association’s Elite Team, grew up in Mill Valley and lived in San Francisco before moving to Sacramento more than 20 years ago. She is married to Andy Hitchings, who has also run the Boston Marathon.

Her husband and daughter Maggie, 18, could not be with her in Boston, but daughter Molly, 22, was in attendance, shouting encouragement.

While a bit sheepish about being interviewed when there are faster female runners in Sacramento, Hitchings hopes that her effort helps people her age who jog or run to keep up their exercise routine.

“If I can be inspiring to other women my age, then that is wonderful,” she said.

An analysis of race results indicates that Charlie Brenneman, 37, of Rocklin was the top Sacramento-area finisher. Brenneman, another SRA member, was 120th among the men in 2:33.59.

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.