Bemidji runner, daughter tackle Boston Marathon

BEMIDJI -- Among the nearly 30,000 runners competing in the 2019 Boston Marathon last week was Bemidji's own Mary Walter. Walter competed in the world's oldest annual -- and arguably most famous -- marathon for the first time at the age of 65. Co...

Bemidji's Mary Walter (left) and her daughter Rebekah Mayer pose for a photo at the Boston Marathon finish line the day after running the race. (Submitted photo)

BEMIDJI -- Among the nearly 30,000 runners competing in the 2019 Boston Marathon last week was Bemidji’s own Mary Walter.

Walter competed in the world’s oldest annual -- and arguably most famous -- marathon for the first time at the age of 65. Competing alongside Walter was her daughter Rebekah Mayer, 38.

Running has been a family affair for the pair.

After running her first marathon when she was 42, Walter would run one about once every 10 years.

“My daughter was at Bemidji High School and she was a runner, and so she came and watched us run,” Walter said. “We kind of joked that someday she would run one with me.”


Mayer, who ran cross country for NCAA Division II powerhouse Adams State College in Colorado, ran her first Boston Marathon in 2008. That’s when the seed was planted that, one day, the two would run the race as mother and daughter.

“It was kind of a bucket list thing,” Walter said. “And she loves Boston. This was her third Boston (Marathon).”

Fast forward to October 2017, the duo ran the Twin Cities Marathon together and posted qualifying times to compete in Boston. Walter is a retired accountant who worked at Oak Hills Christian College, and Mayer is the national training manager for Lifetime Run in Chanhassen.

“We run the same ones so we kind of get the experience of traveling together,” Walter said. “A few of our training runs are together, but most are not because we’re not close enough to each other.”

The training Walter endured throughout the winter in Bemidji couldn’t prepare her for the weather on Patriots’ Day last Monday, the holiday on which the race has been held annually since 1897. Conditions for the 123rd Boston Marathon were hot and humid with temperatures reaching up to 70 degrees, warmer than most marathoners would prefer.

“We still had a foot of snow here when we were headed for Boston,” Walter said. “On race day it was 70 degrees, which is way too hot, especially when you’re not used to it.”

Walter did most of her training on the treadmill or at Bemidji State University’s Gillett Wellness Center, occasionally running outdoors if the roads weren’t icy.

“You’re thinking about different things than when you’re running alone,” she said. “When I run alone, I just watch where I’m running so I don’t trip and fall. But when you’re running with people, you’ve got to watch so you don’t trip and fall over people.”


Walter finished the race with a time of 4:54.42. She said the heat took its toll on her during the race’s second half, but she grinded it out and successfully crossed the finish line.

“I’ve never had a marathon before where I was afraid I was going to end up in the medical tent,” Walter said. “Because it was so hot and I wasn’t used to it, the last half was a lot slower than the first half. I was afraid I would end up in the medical tent and I wouldn’t get to finish. I dreaded that thought -- going all that distance and all that training and not finishing.”

Mayer, whom Walter admits is the fastest of the two, clocked a time of 3:04.06.

Walter has now completed five marathons: three Twin Cities races, the 2018 New York City Marathon and now Boston. Last week’s marathon was Mayer’s 10th.

Mother and daughter had plenty of family members in Boston to cheer them on for what Walter said was a dream fulfilled for both of them.

“That’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I’m running is it’s something that we share,” Walter said. “And we’d done a lot of races. … If it wasn’t that family was doing it, I don’t know that I would do it on my own.”

From left: Dan and Mary Walter, and Rebekah Mayer pose with a Boston Marathon sign. Mary Walter and Mayer competed as mother and daughter in this year's race. (Submitted photo)

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at
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