Some things come to us naturally, and for Satomi Sano-Abrahamsen that “thing” is running.
Abrahamsen had no idea she was good at it until some of her friends convinced her to join them in their attempt to run in a Vancouver half-marathon three years ago.
Satomi’s husband, Gary Abrahamsen, who works for the Camas School District, already enjoyed running, so they started training together.
Gary could see that his wife was naturally gifted, but what happened in her first race surprised everyone.
“When she finished, she was smiling and then we looked at the computer screen to see how she finished, and I’m thinking ‘why is there a number three next to her name?'” Gary says.
It turned out that Satomi had finished third in her age bracket. At the age of 52, she was standing on the podium in her very first race.
“My friends told me, ‘none of us are getting any younger, so why not now?'” Satomi says.
Next, Satomi ran in the Vancouver Marathon, which is a Boston Marathon qualifying race. She finished, but was eight minutes too slow to qualify for the most prestigious marathon in the country.
“I decided that moment, I was going to start training for the Portland Marathon and I was going to qualify for Boston,” Satomi says.
“So, she finishes her first marathon and is so disappointed about not qualifying for Boston, she signs up for her next marathon within 24 hours,” Gary says. “I said, ‘aren’t you tired enough?'”
His wife’s dedication inspired Gary. Soon enough, he was signed up to run the Portland half-marathon and the couple had started training together — something they now do three times a week.
“I don’t know if it’s the fact that we are just noticing things, but now we see other couples around the neighborhood starting to run together,” Gary says.
The training paid off, and Satomi qualified for Boston. However, just because you qualify for the Boston Marathon, doesn’t mean you get to go.
“Out of the qualifying group, they take the fastest and then there’s a cutoff,” Satomi explains. “So I qualified, but was 39 seconds (too) slow.”
She was disappointed, but even more motivated to finish with a faster time the following year.
In October of 2017, Satomi qualified for the Boston Marathon for real.
Now, at 55 years young, she’s off to Boston to live out her dream.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she says. “I can’t stop smiling.”
Move from Tokyo to Camas inspires healthier lifestyle
Gary and Satomi first met 28 years ago, at the University of Portland, where Gary had a job at the time and Satomi was taking a summer English class.
The two started dating, and Gary took a job teaching English in Satomi’s home of Tokyo, where the two were married. They lived in Tokyo for eight years, had their daughter and then moved to Gary’s hometown of Camas when Satomi was eight months pregnant with their son.
“We really enjoyed Tokyo, but both of us were in pretty bad physical shape. I was 230 pounds and now I’m 175 thanks to running,” Gary says.
For Satomi, physical fitness started after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 39.
“That same year, I had a slipped disc in my back and I just felt so out of shape, so I signed up for a Karate class,” Satomi says.
She quickly went on to become a black belt, but says practicing Karate two times a week, was not enough aerobic fitness to lose the weight she wanted to lose.
That’s when the couple started watching the TV show “Biggest Loser.”
Satomi marveled at how people much heavier than her could finish a 26.2-mile marathon.
“I kept thinking, ‘how come they finish marathons and we don’t do that? I want to do that someday,'” Satomi says.
She started taking Jazzercise classes, which led to friends asking her to run the the Vancouver half-marathon.
Three years later, she’s in the Boston Marathon.
Satomi competed in the vaunted running event on Monday, April 16.
Her first goal was to finish the race and her second goal was to run the course in four hours and 10 minutes, which would qualify her to return next year.
When Satomi stood in the staging area at the start of the big race Monday morning, the temperature was 38 degrees.
“I’ve heard people say it was the coldest, windiest Boston Marathon in over 20 years,” Gary says. The good news is that, despite some brutal conditions, Satomi reached her goal of finishing the Boston Marathon. She crossed the finish line in just over four hours and 11 minutes — just one minute shy of qualifying for next year’s race.
“She is really happy,” Gary said Monday, after watching his wife finish her race.
And Satomi wasn’t about to let the one minute miss get her down — not after living a dream that wouldn’t have even been possible four years ago.
Gary said Monday that the couple had already made celebratory plans: “After she soaks her muscles and rests up, we are going to an after-race party at Fenway Park.”