Tia Pettygrue has been running toward this goal for about 12 years.
The 54-year-old New Tampa resident has qualified to run in the 128th annual Boston Marathon on April 15, 2024.
“It’s the Super Bowl for runners — because it’s the only one you have to qualify for,” Pettygrue said.
It is still a ways off, but this longtime long-distance runner’s excitement hasn’t waned since qualifying for the event while setting a personal record (three hours, 53 minutes) in her 11th marathon — the Newport News One City Marathon — on March 5 in Virginia.
“I am so excited. I’m thinking about it every day, and I was looking at when I crossed the finish line — the race photographer got the best shots, with all the emotions. I relive it every day now, and I don’t usually buy race photos!
“I’m known for doing a jump picture after my races. People couldn’t believe I was able to do it after running a hard 26.2 miles,” she said, with a laugh.
But all laughing aside, Pettygrue has finally qualified for her dream race, but only after several unsuccessful attempts. Those efforts fell short due to time, or added pressures of the situation, or occasional injuries.
That’s why she joined the new EōS Fitness gym in Lutz. It has trainers, a wide variety of equipment, and various recovery apparatuses and techniques that come in handy for avid runners.
That’s especially true for Pettygrue, who has been running since the mid-’90s.
EōS personal trainer Anya Kalnins has been working with Pettygrue to help her gain more unilateral strength.
She said Pettygrue is one of her most advanced clients.
“She’s also very positive and always keeps her head high — even if she is a little injured, she doesn’t let it get her down,” Kainins said. “As you get older, your body does slow down, so recovery is key, but her training here is very impressive — you love to see that.”
Pettygrue will run long distance, outside, five days a week and then lift weights on another two.
As for her recovery at EōS, she calls it her “spa day.”
She’ll spend 15 minutes to 20 minutes in the hot tub, 10 minutes in the sauna, finish up in the massage chairs and then put in a little stretching.
Her work and her long journey led her to being selected for the EōS Fitness’ annual “Submit Your Fit” contest, which involves members from across the nation sharing transformational stories of how they embraced fitness to improve all aspects of their lives.
Pettygrue recalls the beginning of her journey to a more fit life.
“In 2008, on a cruise, someone I hadn’t seen in a while, said to me, ‘Tia, I didn’t even recognize you — you gained so much weight!’
”That’s what I needed to hear at the time.”
From there, she got back into long-distance running and signed up for the Gasparilla 15K.
Her husband of 32 years, Johnny, also is an avid runner, and he was ready to do the Gasparilla full marathon, a race that is now discontinued. He convinced PettyGrue to run with him and they have been hooked on running marathons and long races ever since. So much so, they plan trips around runs and then explore the city and area before and after the race.
In all, Pettygrue has run 158 half marathons, 11 marathons, a triathlon and an ultramarathon.
EōS Lutz fitness manager Emory Wolf-Bielawa thinks it’s awesome that Pettygrue has achieved her goal to run in the Boston Marathon.
“Just looking at her story and seeing all the highlights and photos and races she’s run, she’s come a long way,” Wolf-Bielawa said.
As Pettygrue prepares for the biggest race of her life, she will continue her work with Black Girls Run, a nonprofit aimed at getting young and adult black women out to exercise. Through the program, she has coached thousands of women as a certified running coach.
Her devotion to the sport is apparent to others.
“Honestly, I was wondering if I should go up there and support her as her coach! I’ve never been to Boston, so maybe I can make it a work trip — and to see her cross that finish line,” Kalnins said.
Now, Pettygrue is ready to cross the Boston Marathon finish line, after years of running toward it.
“It’s the runner’s Super Bowl — my Super Bowl,” she said, “and I can’t wait to run it — finally.”
Published May 03, 2023