Personal Best: Despite a late start, Babin a natural marathon runner 

In January of 2000, Joanne Babin was invited to join her neighbor for a 3-mile loop in the Presidio. After the run, the neighbor asked Babin if she’d be interested in training for a marathon.

“I asked her what a marathon was,” Babin recalls, having only taken up recreational running a year earlier at the age of 35.
Six months later, she entered the her first marathon. Babin laughs, recollecting the sign her friend Scott was holding as she completed the first mile of her inaugural distance race: “Quit now, I have coffee.”

Rather than heeding her friend’s advice, the San Francisco native and former St. Rose Academy tennis player completed the race.

“I’ll never forget crossing that finish line,” Babin said. “I just knew that it was life-changing.”

Fast forward nine years to 2009 and over 50 races later, including eight marathons, and Babin has achieved her running goal.
After missing the Boston Marathon qualifying time by 5 seconds in the San Diego Marathon, she completed Sacramento’s California International Marathon in 3 hours, 47 minutes, 17 seconds, her personal best. The time was good enough to qualify her for the Boston race.

“I crawled to the starting line and to the finish line,” Babin said of her Boston experience in April 2009 that included sleep deprivation after rooming with three snorers. “I got to mile 13, knowing that I wasn’t doing that well and could hear the Wellesley College girls screaming, and my cousin was standing out there. I was overcome with emotion.”

Babin missed her goal of 4 hours by 4 minutes, but she was elated to have completed the granddaddy of all 26-milers.
Two weeks after Boston, Babin was her age-group winner in the CPOA Memorial 10K, with all proceeds from the race going to the families of the four Oakland police officers slain in 2009.

These days, Babin, who lives where she was raised in The City’s Richmond district, is accompanying kids on shorter distance races and running half-marathons on her own.

“My little body is kinda getting beat up,” said the 46-year-old communications professor at USF and City College of San Francisco.

Babin looks forward to participating in Saturday’s inaugural AT&T Giant Race, where she’d like to run the half-marathon under 1:50, but isn’t all that concerned.

“Racing is more fun now. It’s not about times anymore. It’s kind of liberating,” she said. “For me as an amateur, Boston was my goal, and I made it.” 


AT&T Giant Race

WHAT: Half marathon and Plate to Plate 5K

WHEN: Saturday, 8 a.m.


REGISTER: or (415) 972-1800

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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