Scott Mansch, Great Falls Tribune Published 5:01 p.m. MT April 16, 2019 | Updated 5:12 p.m. MT April 16, 2019
Ever since Kim Ray and her twin sister Kris grew up in Chinook they’ve been running around together.
On Monday the Great Falls women were once again doing just that at the world’s most famous road race.
“There’s nothing that quite compares to Boston,” said Kim. “It’s the iconic race that everyone wants to do.”
Kim, the principal of Loy Elementary School, and her sister Kris Harrison, a U.S. Bank employee who recently moved back to the Electric City, were among four Great Falls residents who on Monday finished the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon.
It wasn’t the first time the 45-year-old twins from the Hi-Line were hiking the hills together.
“We run one marathon a year together and have done it since Kris started running about 10 years ago,” Kim said.
Kim, a former multi-sport athlete at Chinook who is married to former highly successful Montana State-Northern wrestling coach David Ray, had a pretty good run of success about 20 years ago when coaching the girls’ cross country team at Havre High.
Kim led the Blue Pony girls’ team to a pair of state championships from 2000-2004.
“I was really fortunate,” she said. “I had some good runners and some girls who worked super hard to be successful.”
The coach also worked hard. She ran every day with the athletes she coached, having started her own marathon career in 1996 at the Governor’s Cup in Helena.
Kim, a mother of four, has completed one marathon a year ever since, which means Monday’s little jog in Boston was the 24th 26.2-mile trip of an amazing running career. This year’s 123rd Boston Marathon was the second time she’s completed the famous event.
Of course, 24 marathons translates to a lot of pain.
“It’s a heck of an accomplishment when you’re done,” Kim said. “You get in your car and you drive 20 miles, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I just ran farther than that.’”
On Monday Kim completed the marathon in 3:37.11, a bit ahead of her twin sister.
“It was an OK time,” Kim said. “February is when you do a lot of long-distance training, and you know how that (winter weather) was here. So I had to do a lot of it on a treadmill, which I don’t really like.”
She wasn’t a champion runner in high school at Chinook.
“The longer the race the better I do,” Kim said.
Wrestling, where her husband starred as both a competitor and a coach, is a grueling sport. Marathon running? Well, that’s another story.
Turns out coach Ray learned that once from Mrs. Ray.
“After my first marathon in Helena, he had some advice for me,” Kim said. “So I said if he thought he knew how to run one then he should do it the next year with me. Which he did. He didn’t train for it, so it was quite a ways behind me.”
She laughed softly.
“He said he’d never do another one,” Kim said.
The twins aren’t stopping now.
“My sister and I were talking about which one we want to do next,” Kim said. “I don’t know. I’d like to do several more. I like it.”
If the Boston Marathon experience is unforgettable for fans, it’s just as memorable for the runners.
“There was never a situation where you had no crowd to cheer you on or offer you support and whatever else: oranges, licorice, water, whatever,” Kim said. “There are stations set up with that, but all the people on the sidelines are also offering things.
“It’s the one race where there’s a wall of runners the whole way, no matter where you are on the course.”
OTHERS FROM Great Falls who completed the Boston Marathon were Juli Brandvold, a sight-impaired woman whose courageous determination and infectious attitude is well-known in Great Falls, and C.M. Russell High educator Chad Olson.
Both were running a marathon for the first time.
“It was quite an experience, pretty overwhelming actually,” said Olson. “To have 30,000 running and a half-a-million running, it was really pretty cool.”
Olson, 44, graduated from CMR in 1992. He’s a former Russell girls’ basketball coach who still helps coach with the school’s softball program.
His Monday was not without some trouble.
“I felt good the first 16 miles and maybe ran a little too fast, then my left knee acted up,” Olson said. “The last 10 miles were not very comfortable.”
Olson has always been in decent shape. Last fall he ramped his conditioning up a notch with his sights set on Boston.
“I’m really glad I did,” he said. “It was a pretty cool experience. I had to be disciplined, push myself and eat right. And I got in pretty good shape. Overall it was a good experience.”
Are there more marathons in Olson’s future?
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” he said.
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