Local Woman Readies to Run the World
A young Cumberland County woman is making a name for herself in the world circuit of marathon racing.
Kaili van Vulpen, formerly of Warren and now a resident of Halifax, finished fourth among Canadian women at the prestigious New York City Marathon with an impressive time of 2:58:35.
The New York event attracted more than 50,000 runners from 131 countries.
Van Vulpen was a multi-sport athlete during her time at Amherst Regional High School. She also played basketball with the Mystics while attending Mount Saint Vincent University.
She has run ten marathons over the last ten years, five of them with her sister, Kendra LeBlanc, who convinced her to try the sport.
“We’d always ran together to stay in shape,” van Vulpen recalled. “She asked me to complete a marathon with her. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant to run a marathon, but she educated me and we started training together. Since then, Kendra has inspired me to excel.”
A very proud father, Joe van Vulpen—former Deputy Warden of Cumberland County—says, “She has always been a fast runner and she can run forever.”
Van Vulpen received a great deal of support from the Amherst Striders, but it wasn’t until she joined the Halifax Road Hammers about four years ago that she started a more consistent training program.
The marathoner says, “I feel fortunate to have such a supportive, encouraging running group that I can run with every day in Halifax.” She added, “I have to give credit to our coach Lee McCarron, a wonderful leader who makes sure we train properly.”
Van Vulpen dreams of competing in the world’s six major marathons—Boston, New York, London, Tokyo, Chicago and Berlin—a goal instilled with some of her Road Hammer teammates.
She competed in the Boston Marathon three times, the latest was last spring but she suffered an injury setback.
“After running Boston, I had to take some extra time off,” she said. “Usually, I train about 16 weeks prior to a marathon, but because of the injury Lee helped me modify a safe training plan for New York while still completing the distances in training.”
She described the New York experience as “epic” partly because it lived up to the hype of being the largest marathon in terms of participants and spectators and partly because she got to run the race with two of her Road Hammers teammates, Meaghan Strum and Erin Poirier.
The three were selected to participate in the sub-elite category—Elites are Olympian and professional runners. Sub-elites are not as fast, but still post competitive times. She and her running mates got to warm up with the elite athletes.
The race was run on a hot, humid day – the hottest in the marathon’s history – and that took its toll on several runners, but van Vulpen did not let the heat or her injury affect her.
The trio started out strong from Staten Island. Poirier and van Vulpen had planned to run together, but Poirier fell off the pace as she dealt with vision concerns.
“Erin was key and monumental during my training, and Meaghan encouraged me throughout the race and during our training runs together,” van Vulpen said. “To experience this race with close friends was really exciting. They both finished so strong in such hot, humid conditions. I was so proud of them and all of our other Road Hammer friends who also ran in New York.”
Van Vulpen says “I’m constantly inspired by the women I’m running with. They are strong, fit and fast and very, very encouraging of one another,” she said.
She added, “I also couldn’t do it without the endless support I get from the Road Hammers and from my family and friends. Training for and running a marathon takes a very large time commitment, and I am beyond grateful for their love and support.”
As for the goal of running the big six races, her next challenge is the London Marathon, which she and fellow Road Hammer friends plan on running next spring.
After that she hopes to tackle Tokyo, Chicago, and Berlin.
Her mom and dad are already thinking ahead to sharing some of that dream.
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