If you are still up at 2am in the small town of Hesperia, California it’s not uncommon to see an enthusiastic local bounding past your window on her usual 10 to 20-mile casual morning jog.
Working full time, raising three kids and competing in monthly marathons is a delicate balance, and for 32-year-old Vanessa Kline, the very wee hours of the morning are frequently her only opportunity to hit the pavement.
“If I want to reach my goals this is what it takes,” Kline said. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead I guess.”
2am wake up calls have not always been the norm for Kline, however. A little over a year ago, she was asleep along with the rest of us.
A track athlete in high school, Kline said she was an avid runner for years but lost touch with the sport when she started a family. After a 14-year hiatus, however, she decided to train for a marathon last spring.
Training for that first marathon — the San Diego Marathon, which she completed in 4:19 — revitalized her passion for long-distance running.
“Really all I needed was to cross that finish line that first time and it lit a fire in me,” Kline said.
She has not stopped training for another marathon ever since and later this summer will face her most rigorous runs yet when she tackles the Lake Tahoe Super Triple — a weekend race series consisting of three marathons plus a 50-mile ultra.
To prepare for this brutal endurance test, Kline has followed an exhausting race schedule over the past year.
“It’s not like I’m super human,” Kline says. “I’m not just fast — I have to work.”
Soon after San Diego, Kline connected with pro ultra marathoner Cheryl Zwarkowski, who quickly became a regular running partner and eventually Kline’s unofficial race mentor.
By her second 26.2 mile race — the St. George Marathon in Utah — Kline had shaved nearly 50 minutes off her time, completing the race in three hours thirty two minutes.
The Utah race qualified Kline for the prestigious Boston Marathon, which she completed this year in three hours and 39 minutes — a half hour before the tragic bombing at the race finish line.
Kline, whose family was safe at home in California, says she was only two blocks away when the bomb at the race finish line went off. Unable to get back to her hotel, she says a stranger she met at a nearby café welcomed her and another runner into her home to shower and have dinner. On her flight home to California, she says other runners told similar stories of getting help from the Bostonians in the hours following the incident.
“It was amazing how people came together after such a horrible event,” she said.
Like the rest of the running community, Kline did not let the tragedy discourage her. This month she will complete her 8th, 9th and 10th marathon and has several more planned throughout the summer.
Last October, Kline took her long distance running to another level when she completed her first 50-mile ultra marathon — the Pioneer Saloon Ghost Run in Good Springs, Nevada.
“I thought that if I made it through this one with all these things working against me then the next one must be better,” she said.
She will get her wish — plus some — this September when she tackles the Lake Tahoe Super Triple.
The series starts with a marathon Friday, one on Saturday morning, followed by a 50-mile ultra that starts Saturday night and merges with a final marathon on Sunday morning.
“I said yes that’s ridiculous,” she said of her initial reaction to the race. “I’ll probably feel like I am going to die but lets do it.”
Last year, she and her husband both lost their jobs, Kline said, and she has since been forced to take a major pay cut.
“It’s been really tough,” she said. “We have three kids and don’t even own a car.”
To offset travel and race registration fees, Kline frequently volunteers as a pacer at races to run for free and has found several local and national sponsors to provide her with gear as well as cash donations. A local car dealership, for example, covered all the expenses for her to participate in the Boston Marathon.
Earlier this month, Polar Bottle signed on as one of Kline’s corporate sponsors — donating a dozen bottles for her to use during training, including several 12oz bottles that she plans to bring along on her longer runs.
As of now, Kline is on her own for the super triple. Most race participants choose one of the three marathons over the three days, she says. She doesn’t know of anyone yet who is signed up for all three plus the ultra — a fact that doesn’t seem to bother her in the slightest.
“I don’t need somebody else there to push me,” Kline said. “I motivate myself.”