VALPARAISO | For many runners, qualifying for the Boston Marathon signifies the accomplishment of a lifetime goal.
It didn't take Valparaiso resident Jessica Greiner, 37, a lifetime to qualify. She just started running marathons eight years ago and didn't understand all the hype.
"I didn't even know what the Boston Marathon was," Greiner said. "I had no idea."
That was back in 2005 after Claudia Miller, a long-time member of Valparaiso's Opportunity Enterprises marathon team, convinced Greiner to run the Taltree 10-mile race in April.
"I had never run more than a mile before, and then she convinced me to sign up for the OE team," Greiner said.
Greiner, a 1993 Crete-Monee graduate who played tennis and soccer during her high school years, spent that summer of 2005 training with the OE team for the Chicago Marathon, and she finished her first 26.2-mile effort in 4 hours, 10 minutes. That time is 30 minutes slower than her Boston qualifying time of 3:40.
The next year she broke the four-hour mark at Chicago. She ran Chicago three other times (2009, 2011 and 2012), taking time off a few years while she was pregnant for the youngest two of her four children.
Running partner Tom Wyatt, whom she met while training with the OE team in 2005, gave Greiner the confidence to realize she could run fast enough to qualify.
"I always doubt myself, but Tom always thinks I'm a much better runner than I am," Greiner said.
Wyatt ran with Greiner during last year's Chicago Marathon. The weather was perfect, and Greiner hung on during the final stretch to finish in 3:37:25.
"I felt great and then I didn't feel great," Greiner said. "At mile 19 or 20, I did not want to run any more. I wanted to go home. I wanted Tom to stop talking, or just keep running without me so I could stop the misery. But he coaxed me into going on."
Greiner is one of 20 Northwest Indiana runners who qualified for Monday's 117th Boston Marathon. She won't be the fastest finisher, but she's excited about making the trip with her husband, Charlie, and four kids.
"I'm not nervous at all. Just getting there is the whole thing," Greiner said. "I don't have to worry about winning. I haven't set a time - everyone keeps asking me what is your goal - I just want to enjoy it because it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Greiner normally follows an 18-week training schedule, the key being a long weekend run. She squeezed in weekday workouts between being a full-time mom of kids ranging in age from 2 to 12, and met Wyatt almost every weekend throughout the past cold winter to prepare for Boston.
"Jessica's commitment to the training and her will to qualify for Boston are what got her to the finish line," Wyatt said. "I was just there to give her a little nudge at the end (in Chicago), although she probably wanted to slug me at times.
"I was so happy for her when she finished within her qualifying time. She truly earned it."