Oneonta Elementary Teacher Runs The Boston Marathon For The Fourth Time - News

Oneonta Elementary Teacher Runs The Boston Marathon For The Fourth Time

by Alessandra Selgi-Harrigan | Posted: Friday, May 17, 2019 10:50 am

Running the Boston Marathon is a once in lifetime opportunity for serious runners. Lori Palmer has had the honor to do it four times.

Palmer is a teacher at Oneonta Elementary School where she has taught for 35 years. Running has become part of her life and she has brought that into her classroom where she motivates her students to be outdoors, run, and exercise. She can often be seen running around the track with them. “I truly believe to get kids outdoor and moving, playing, running, chasing. Throughout the day we get an even balance of sitting in a chair and moving around,” said Palmer. “Running is the most pure sport. I explained to them…it doesn’t matter what place you are in… you are going to finish even if you have to walk. Unless you’re hurt, you can’t quit,” she tells her students.

Inevitably Palmer has shown her finisher’s medals to her students and shared with them her experience.

“I’ve always been able to run. I love sports the outdoors and have hiked a lot. I always knew I could run. I never ran races until five years ago. I never thought of paying money to run a half marathon, marathon or 5K.” she explained. Palmer first started running when another teacher at Oneonta, Joani Stames, told her she was running with a group in Chula Vista. That led Palmer to join the Bonita Road Runners where she was encouraged to participate in races. When Stames told her she had signed up for the Silver Strand half marathon five years ago, Palmer gave it a try and she was hooked. “It was fun, there was a lot of energy…and I got a finisher’s medal,” she recalled. That race was followed by the Carlsbad Half Marathon two months later. After the race she didn’t think anything of it but a few weeks later she received a plaque in the mail saying she was a third place winner in her age group. “I was very surprised. I never thought to check my time,” she said.

For the past four years Palmer has run all the local half marathons and usually placed in the top three finishers in her age group. When someone first mentioned to her the Boston Marathon she thought it was only for elite runners. She found out that you can qualify by running a Boston Marathon approved run and finish in a certain amount of time in your age group. In the runners’ work it’s called BQ or Boston Qualify. Once she qualified she was determined to go Boston.

Palmer loves the feeling of running the Boston Marathon. The race starts at Hopkinton and goes through eight towns. Palmer said there were 30,000 participants this year. “It’s an honor to run,” she said. The race is held on Patriot’s Day which falls on the third Monday in April. Palmer usually starts training in January for the race and because the course has lots of hills she tries to run a similar course here at home alternating between hilly terrain and flat.

“I love the social aspect of running… the camaraderie. We encourage each other to keep going,” she said. In addition to the the four Boston Marathons, Palmer has run the New York Marathon in 2017 and the Chicago Marathon in 2016 where she received third place in her age group. “My goal when I go to Boston [each year] is to prequalify so I’m invited back and I try to beat my time,” she said.

The weather in Boston does not always cooperate. The first time she ran, the weather was similar to San Diego, while last year it was the worst in Boston history.

“Boston people come out in the thousands all 26 miles [of the race.] There is not a single place where people are not cheering, they act like you are the best. It’s like a parade, they are out there for you… motivating the runners,” she said.

Runners come from over 100 countries and the race has been held for 123 years. After the race usually runners wear their finisher’s medals when they go out at night and many locals stop them to congratulate them, explained Palmer. The locals ask the runners questions including how they feel and if they are coming back next year.

“I’m not anybody special. I was able to run and liked it. I hope to do many more Boston marathons,” she said. This year there was a sad note that followed Palmer to the Boston Marathon. She and Stames had planned to run the race together but the two friends did not go together as planned since Stames passed away unexpectedly.

“I’m blessed that I’m able to run it and take off from school. I hope to go next year,” she said.

At Oneonta, Palmer starts the day with her students on the track or doing aerobics indoors. “It’s a great way to start the day, then they are ready to learn. I’ve seen the difference. They are pumped up. I’ll miss that,” she said.

Palmer will be retiring at the end of the school year and June 4 will be her last day. Sometimes after her students leave, she runs to the beach and back then drives home to Pine Valley where she has lived for the past 27 years. The commute is 55 miles each way which translate into an hour but she doesn’t mind the drive.

Palmer grew up in Imperial Beach in a house on 12th Street and attended Oneonta Elementary as a child, then Mar Vista Junior High followed by Mar Vista High School. Working there has been a unique opportunity for her. Palmer was also her three children’s second grade teacher. She also taught many of her friends’ children. She still has ties to Imperial Beach since her father still lives in town. “I feel connected to these kids. I told them ‘When I was your age I was sitting here, my children sat here’ ” she recalled.

To Palmer the school is more than just a workplace. “It’s home,” she said.

While studying at SDSU she worked for the Probation Department with juveniles. “After working for five years with them I realized I wanted to get down to that grade to make a difference. Many couldn’t read or had trouble reading and that’s why they were there. I wanted to work with children so they wouldn’t end up at the probation department,” she said.

After graduating from SDSU Palmer made a conscious decision to teach at the school she had attended as a child. Although she has taught different grades in her 35 years she has been teaching second grade for the past 28 to 29 years.

“I have been blessed that I’ve been able to stay. I love to teach reading,” said Palmer.

Now that she will retire she looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren who are 1 and 2 years old.