It was about a year and a half ago that the physical therapist that Amber Morrison and Kristen Carter share suggested that they consider training together.
Morrison, who grew up playing soccer and came to Bellingham in 2000 to attend Western Washington University, was just getting into distance running, while Carter was still new to Whatcom County and had recently set her sights on running marathons. Both had aspirations of not just running marathons, but eventually getting to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
They've been nearly inseparable ever since.
"We really enjoy working together," Morrison, 32, said in a phone interview. "It's really easy going between the two of us. We chat about whatever while we're training - the boys, our husbands, life, whatever. It just makes the miles go by easier."
But on Monday, April 15, Morrison and Carter will have to cover the 26.2 famous miles of the Boston Marathon on their own.
Carter, 26, has earned a spot among the top 50 women in the elite division and will get to start first at 6:32 a.m. (PDT), while Morrison will start about a half an hour later in Wave 1.
"That's the hard part for us, because we've trained all this time together," Morrison said. "Now when the race comes, we'll be running about a half hour apart and starting in separate areas. We haven't had to do that yet."
It's not a hurdle either thinks will hold them back, though, as they are part of a Whatcom County contingent that includes 21 entries in this year's running of the world's oldest annual marathon.
It's unlikely any of those 21 are entering the race with bigger goals than Carter and Morrison.
"Amber and I are both hoping to hit the times we would need to make for the 2016 (U.S. Olympic) trials," Carter said. "That's the goal. ... The qualification window doesn't open until this summer, I believe, but we each want to hit the times. We're both trying to get PRs (personal bests). We're training for the PR and to build confidence, that yeah, we can make it. I'm hoping for an A qualification standard, and she's hoping for a B standard. We're using Boston as a benchmark to see how realistic those goals are."
Making the U.S. trials is something Carter actually already has done, as she competed in the 2012 trails after posting a qualifying mark in the first marathon she ever ran. The trials represented only her second marathon.
"I was very happy with how the trials went," she said. "I came in ranked 185th, and I placed 112th."
Now she would like to get back and have her training partner and friend running right beside her.
"I think training together has been mutually beneficial," Carter said. "I bring in my experience of running for a number of years, and she helps push me and encourage me to run faster. We push each other in workouts. We also keep each other sane. Right now we're getting ready for Boston, and there are a lot of nerves for each of us. When they creep up, we just call each other or text each other, and the other one is there to calm us down."
Though Morrison won't be there to monitor her on Monday, Carter said her running mate has made her promise to not run the first mile in less than six minutes to avoid starting out too quick - a common pitfall that has sunk many Boston Marathon hopefuls.
Unlike Carter, Morrison knows from first-hand experience.
Though this will be the first time Carter has run the Boston Marathon, Morrison actually ran it in 2010.
But she expects this time to be completely different.
"Last time, I was injured," said Morrison, who was battling back from a hip ailment in 2010. "I didn't run for about nine weeks, so I actually just did it for fun. ... I enjoyed the experience of being in Boston. There wasn't the pressure to succeed. I just got to take it all in - the thousands of people that come out to run the crazy event, the party atmosphere, the parties people were holding on their front lawns. They had music everywhere and people handing out beers. When you have a time goal, you miss all that. You don't get the full experience because you are so focused."
Now that she has enjoyed the experience, Morrison said she would like to enjoy a good time on the course - say "something under a 2:49, or better."
Though she said she is much healthier than she was in 2010 and Carter has helped her learn how to better listen to her body, Morrison is again working her way back from an injury.
She suffered a stress fracture in her foot during her second-place run in the September Bellingham Bay Marathon.
"That was probably my own fault," Morrison said. "I was supposed to run the half marathon, but two days before I decided to jump in. Kristen and I were talking Boston, and my time wasn't good enough to get there, so I needed a new qualifying time. So I jumped into the full, and it ended up costing me a little bit."
She was able to resume training in late December and said she feels ready to go on Monday.
As great as that news was for Morrison, it was just as big for Carter to get her training partner back.
"She really pushes me every time out," Carter said. "For our workouts, we often start with some two-mile repeaters, where we'll have her start a minute before me. We have this little game, where I'll try as hard as I can to catch her, and she'll run as hard as she can to hold me off. When we're running on the track, it really helps me to look over and see her working so hard. It really motivates me to put in the effort."
And all that hard work in training could pay big dividends on Patriots Day.
"I think Kristen is capable of finishing among the top 10 American women," Morrison said. "If she has a right day, I think that's something she really can do. ... I'd just like to be a top 25 American woman. Actually, running a good race and coming out injury free would be pretty good for me."
No matter where she finishes, Morrison at least knows she should have a good friend waiting at the finish line to celebrate with her.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
BOSTON MARATHON LOCAL COMPETITORS
TV: 6:30 a.m. (PDT) on Universal Sports
Runner Age Sex Hometown
Dwight Baker 47 M Bellingham
Keely Barten 28 F Bellingham
Kelly Bird 29 F Bellingham
Kristen Carter 26 F Bellingham
Charles Claassen 42 M Bellingham
Kristen Good 31 F Bellingham
Kathy Herndon 51 F Bellingham
Amy Jensen 44 F Bellingham
Patrick Lawlor 35 M Bellingham
Erika Lombardi 45 F Bellingham
Meghan Manaois 32 F Bellingham
Lindsay Mann-King 29 F Bellingham
Bob Marvel 49 M Ferndale
Dorene Marvel 52 F Ferndale
Patrick McBride 38 M Bellingham
Melissa McCreery 47 F Bellingham
Amber Morrison 32 F Bellingham
Arlane Olson 54 F Bellingham
Bill Pech 63 M Bellingham
Jeff Sanders 36 M Bellingham
Neal Saxe 45 M Bellingham
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.