Irene Taylor has a special wardrobe for days when she competes in marathons. At age 75, the Anchorage resident estimates she’s run around 25 in total.
“I always wear an Alaska T-shirt and a hat with Alaska (on it),” she said.
And when Taylor raced to a top finish in her age division Monday in the Boston Marathon, the throngs of race fans noticed her race attire.
“I bet there were thousands of people cheering, yelling ‘Alaska’ and cheering me on,” she said.
Taylor’s 4 hour, 41 minute, 27 second finish put her at the top of the heap in the 75-79 age group. The last time she ran in Boston, she finished 10th in her age division. Although she’d set a top five goal for her finish, strong winds slowed her time and she was shocked to find out she’d won the division.
“My goal in 2018 was to finish in the top 10 U.S. and I think I was in fourth and this time I just wanted to finish again in the top 10 (of U.S. runners),” she said. “I was very surprised. I had slowed down so much. The wind just really got me.”
It wasn’t until Taylor was in her 40s that she started to run marathons. Her husband, Randy, himself a triathlete, was the one who got her marathon career started.
In the mid-’90s she ran her first qualifying time for the Boston Marathon, but her first trip was in 2003, when she and Randy both ran.
The race didn’t turn out great for Irene Taylor, who ended up spending some time in the medical tent after an allergic reaction before finishing the race.
When Taylor turned 65, she went skydiving. The race in Boston was a late celebration of her 75th birthday.
“(Randy) made plane reservations and hotel reservations before the race was even open,” she laughed “I said, ‘What if I change my mind?’ ”
Once she found out she’d won the division, Taylor was notified she had been invited to the VIP champions banquet at Boston’s famed Fenway Park.
“It was nice,” she said. “I got to see all the top winners sitting at different tables. Being there at Fenway Park, Randy thought that was pretty neat too. We all got glass trophies. Everybody was filling it up with beer but I didn’t go there. I wouldn’t have made the plane the next day.”
The Taylors sat at a table with some visually impaired runners who ran the race. One asked Irene Taylor if she’d be a guide for a future Mayor’s Marathon race in Anchorage.
Taylor, who has Tlingit ancestry, said she is proud to continue a tradition of Alaska Native runners.
“I would like to be able to encourage Alaska Natives to run,” she said. “I’d love for somebody to see that it doesn’t matter whether you win. You don’t have to win races, it’s not the important thing.”
Although she isn’t likely to return to run in Boston, Taylor said this will not be her last marathon. Although the Mayor’s Marathon may be a bit too soon.
“I don’t have any knee problems and I recover really fast,” she said. “I’m going to go as long as I can.”