Marathon woman

With a mile and a half to go, Kristen Henehan passed the woman in second place and knew victory was in sight. A few minutes later, she sprinted through the red victory tape to win the Marine Corps Marathon.

The feeling was overwhelming, hard to describe. “It felt great to be in first place,” Henehan, a lobbyist with Evans Capitol Group, said of last weekend’s race. “It felt just great to be done with 26.3 miles.”

Henehan, 28, is a well-known face on Capitol Hill, where she lobbies each week on behalf of a range of clients that include nonprofits, trade associations and corporations.

“I think I am a competitive person by nature,” she says, “but it’s never the same type of competitive spirit.”

Running came naturally to Henehan early on in her life growing up in Alamo, Calif., outside San Francisco. She calls it her “therapeutic time for herself.” During gym classes, she recalls, she always beat the boys. “I always knew I had a talent,” she says. “It was fun to beat the boys.”

In high school, her running became more competitive. She ran cross-country and was a member of the track team.  During her senior year, she won the national championship in cross-country.

After high school, Georgetown University took her in on a running scholarship. So she moved to the East Coast and ran competitively there for four years. After graduation in 2001, she spent time traveling in Europe and waiting tables back home. Then, through her alumni network, she landed a job at a D.C. communications firm, followed by a lobbying gig at Evans Capitol Group.

In October of last year she got married. In January of 2007, as she wrote her New Year’s resolutions, she included this one: to run a marathon. It was something she had always wanted to do.

In July, the training began. First it was on her own, then with a group of 10 women through the Pacers store. The women met on Sundays for a long run, starting at Fletcher’s Boathouse and running along the C&O Canal. The long Sunday runs involved one 22-mile run and three 20-mile runs in preparation for the big race.

In addition, the women met Wednesday nights for interval workouts at the track at Washington and Lee High School in Arlington.

“I enjoyed meeting new people, and it made the training seem like not a lot of work,” she says.

When Henehan first decided to run a marathon, she was not running to win and did not believe that she would win. As her training progressed, however, people began teasing her about the possibility and she let herself start to believe it.

“But I didn’t go into the race thinking I was going to win,” she protests. “I thought, ‘Just see how it goes.’ As the race progressed, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I have a chance.’ ”

Five miles into the marathon, she was in the lead pack of women. “It was so amazing, to be honest,” she says. “Maybe I just had a first-time marathon experience, but I just had a blast out there. You actually have to calm yourself down and not go too fast. You feel like you’re going through a tunnel and everyone is screaming for you. You see all the Marines there and it’s all very inspiring.”

At the moment, Henehan is sore and struggling to walk down steps. Soon, though, she will return to her glorious morning runs and training with the women she prepped with for the marathon.

Are the Olympics in her future? The qualifying time for the Olympic trials is 2 hours and 47 minutes. Her marathon time: 2 hours, 51 minutes and 9 seconds.

Henehan plans to run her next marathon in January, in Phoenix’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. For now, she rests.

“I got a massage yesterday, which helped things,” she says. “It’s just hard when you walk down a flight of stairs. [But] I’m back on the job, back to reality, actually.”