FALMOUTH — As Sheri Piers put mile after mile behind her on April 16, Kristin Barry raced around the Boston on four wheels to keep her training partner updated on her position in the Boston Marathon.
So by the time Piers crossed the finish line, she knew she was the first American woman to complete the 116th annual road race. She finished in 2:41:35 on a sweltering day that led many runners to skip the race. She finished 10th overall and second in the master’s division.
“It felt great. It was not something I expected to do,” the 40-year-old nurse practitioner and mother of three, said after she returned home to Falmouth.
Piers trains with Barry, who lives in Scarborough. She said she has run the Boston Marathon five or six times and says it is “good motivation” to keep up her training through the winter.
“It’s probably one of the hardest courses to run,” Piers said. “It beats you up a bit physically. (But) I seem to go back to it every year.”
There was some confusion after the race when results posted by the Boston Athletic Association incorrectly listed Mayumi Fujita as a U.S. citizen, which would have bumped Piers out of the top American woman position. Race officials later determined Fujita is a Japanese citizen.
Piers was unaware of the confusion until well afterwards, but said it wouldn’t have mattered to her either way.
“I just felt happy to be there,” she said.
Barry said she was also happy to be in Boston for the marathon, even if that involved a slightly hectic race around the city to keep her friend updated. With her father, Larry Pierce, driving, Barry was free to hop out of the car at various points, sprint onto the race course and wildly wave her arms to get Piers’ attention.
“Each time she just kept moving up,” Barry said. “When you’re in a race you don’t always have a sense of where you are.”
“She ran a tremendous race,” she added.
Piers said she coped with temperatures that reached the high 80s by running under hoses and dumping cups of water on her head to stay cool.
“I think I hit every water stop out there,” she said.
Barry said “it was almost like the heat was a good thing” for Piers.
“She does well in grueling conditions,” Barry said. “She just takes it in stride.”
Piers said she runs up to three marathons and six or seven shorter races each year. In January she traveled to Houston to participate in the Olympic trials, where she finished 24th overall and first in the master’s division. Locally, she frequently tops the field of the annual TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth.
While she may travel out of state for races, Piers covers much of the greater Portland area on her regular early morning training runs with Barry. During peak training, Piers logs 100 to 120 miles a week, most of them on outdoors. She occasionally runs indoors on a treadmill while she catches up on the news or listens to music.
Piers and Barry said their training is more valuable and fun because they do it together. Barry prefers short, fast races, while Piers favors longer distances.
“The things she enjoys the most, I enjoy the least,” Barry said.
“It’s really a good balance,” Piers said. “We just work so well together. We’re great company for each other. We’ve developed a strong friendship through this.”
Barry said she also enjoys coaching the Cheverus High School boys’ cross country team with Piers.
“It just makes it a lot of fun,” Barry said. “We’re always laughing and joking. We’re working hard, but having fun while we’re doing it.”
Sheri Piers, left, of Falmouth,and Kristin Barry of Scarborough cross the finish line together at the 2010 TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth. Piers, the fastest American woman at this year’s Boston Marathon on April 16, said she and Barry have developed a close friendship while training and coaching together.