‘It’s just unheard of’: Meridian woman beat every male runner at Boise marathon

Rachael Arends came in first overall at the 2018 Onward Shay! Boise Marathon ahead of all the male runners, an almost unprecedented accomplishment.
Rachael Arends came in first overall at the 2018 Onward Shay! Boise Marathon ahead of all the male runners, an almost unprecedented accomplishment.

In a sport mostly dominated by men, one Idaho woman is well ahead of the competition.

Meridian insurance agent Rachael Arends — or Rachael Powell on her race records — took first place overall at the third annual Onward Shay! Boise Marathon on Sunday with a time of 3 hours, 13 minutes and 54 seconds.

In the three years the marathon has been operational, Arends was the first woman to come in first overall, beating everyone to the finish line, male participants included.

“It’s pretty unusual for a woman to break the tape at a marathon,” said Bart Yasso, a well-known writer with Runner’s World magazine.

Yasso, who has finished races across all seven continents, was impressed with Arends’ performance and waited with her at the finish line for her twin sister, who also ran the marathon.

George Hirsch, chairman of the New York City Marathon and husband of the late Shay Hirch, for whom the Onward Shay! Boise Marathon is named, also said Arends’ win is nearly unprecedented in the world of marathon racing.

“I can’t remember anything happening like this in a race,” Hirsch said. “There were even lots of good runners from out of town running the race. It’s just unheard of for a female runner to beat every other male runner.”

Despite her impressive feat, Arends reflected on her victory with a distinct tone of humility.

“There are some really fast runners around here,” Arends said. “But it’s the luck of the draw — marathons are funny like that. It’s like a big puzzle, and you have to have all the pieces fall into place to have a great race.”

While Arends did not run in last year’s Onward Shay! marathon, she came in first place in 2016 for the female category with a time of 3 hours, 33 minutes and nine seconds. Her victory came in spite of a mix-up in which a marathon volunteer sent her and several other runners down the wrong path — a detour that cost her two miles.

“It definitely threw me off, but I decided to channel that frustration,” Arends said. “I ran a little bit angry and got my place back.”

After this win, Arends plans to take the 2019 2 Big Sur Challenge, in which participants run in the Boston Marathon on April 15 and the Boston Big Sur Marathon on April 28.

“Normally people wait longer than this to run another marathon, but it’ll be interesting to see how I do,” Arends said.

The Boston and Big Sur marathons will be her 24th and 25th marathons, respectively.

Until then, Arends plans to carry on with her life in Meridian, running in the early morning hours between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. so she can still make her kids breakfast before taking them to school before heading off to her own full-time job.

“Running is a very personal thing to me,” Arends said. “It’s very meditative and a way to stay on top of the anxiety that comes with having such a busy life. I’m sure a lot of parents can relate to that.”