When Alma McMurtry needs to gain strength and inspiration during a road race, she often finds one of her favorite Bible verses running through her mind.
"I think of Hebrews 12:1," she said, quoting in part, " ... let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us ..."
No one can accuse McMurtry of lacking perseverance.
In fact, after she had her second child, she continued sometimes to train with a special jogging stroller with 20-inch wheels.
At one point, she sometimes ran with sons Titus, now 6 years old, and Aidan, now 21 months old, in a double stoller. Titus now sometimes rides his bike alongside while she runs, while she runs around Lake Padden with Aiden in her well-used stroller.
"Aidan is often trying to get out!" she said with a laugh, indicating it can often be a challenge to run several miles with a stroller. "I usually don't train with both of them, but I like to run with one or the other."
McMurtry, 32, who lives near Lynden, has even won a couple of events while running with the stroller.
She acknowledges a serious competitive streak. She shocked herself when she returned to competitive running in 2008 at age 28 after a decade out of serious races.
"I ran this 5K race in Lynden and I was shocked when I found my time was better than it was when I was the best girl runner at Meridian," she said, recalling her successful cross country and track career in the mid-1990s, when she was Alma Lawlor.
"I told myself, 'I guess I can run.' "
She hasn't stopped since, running an average of at least one race per month, except for the final four months of her second pregnancy.
"I won a race when I was five months pregnant with Aiden," she said. "Now I can't imagine not running."
She'll take another crack at one of her favorite races, the picturesque Fairhaven Runners Waterfront 15K, beginning and ending at Fairhaven's Village Green on Saturday morning, Sept. 8.
"I had top four finishes in 2011 and 2009," she said. "Now my goal is to break one hour. My best time is one hour and one minute."
She is competitive enough that she had to think for a moment when asked whether she would rather win the race or have a personal best, if she could have only one or the other.
"I'd take the PR (personal record)," she said. "I'm competitive with myself. But I'll definitely be disappointed if I'm not in the top four or five. I always try to keep the lead female runner in sight."
McMurtry feels running not only keeps her in great shape, but also "helps me get a better perspective on life, physically and mentally."
"I feel running helps you love yourself more," she said with one of her infectious grins. "I would definitely encourage women in their 30s to take up running or return to running."
McMurtry worked a couple of years in her early 20s as a flight attendant for Continental Express.
"I never really stopped running, but I didn't race competitively (for about a decade)," she said. "I accepted a dare to return to running. Now I can't imagine not running. I'll be running at long as I can."
Her eyes flashed with pleasure at the thought of winning masters titles after she turns 40.
"When my sons are teenagers, I'd love to see them cheering me on," she said. "And I'd love to cheer them on in sports, too. I really like it now when Titus encourages me in a race."
McMurtry loved numerous sports as a youngster.
"I was a real tomboy. I'd play pick-up games with the boys," she said. "I remember my first real running experience was running eight miles when I was 8 years old -- a mile for every year. And I just kept on running through high school."
She acknowledges, though, that in high school she would scarcely have believed she would be running at age 32 as the mother of two boys.
"I would have said, 'Really? When would I have the time?' "
Now that she's found time for running again, stroller or no stroller, she says she's not going to stop.