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Grand Forks' Bancroft will run Boston Marathon with a purpose Monday

Robyn Bancroft runs, like most, for the physical fitness. But she also runs to cope with grief.

So the 37-year-old Grand Forks mother of two will be running with a purpose today as she navigates the 26.2 miles of the Boston Marathon.

"When I have a bad day, that's what I do, I go for a run," Bancroft said. "That's what got me started. It was the coping."

A self-described chubby kid, Bancroft wasn't an athlete growing up at Grand Forks Red River High School. She didn't even start running until she was 30.

She started to run because she had her first child. She also started in order to deal with the loss of her 37-year-old sister Renee to cancer.

"It's pretty surreal," Bancroft said. "I wasn't born to be a runner. It's not something, I don't think anyone, would have predicted for me. I found a way to become one. Some days I feel like an imposter. I don't know how I'm able to do this. I just don't give up. If I set a goal, I work as hard as I can to get there. I can be pretty focused."

Bancroft, a two-time UND graduate, is the assistant director of student services for nursing at UND. She's also the treasurer of a club called the Red River Runners, a group that just passed 100 total members.

Bancroft credits her success to her husband, Perry, and the Red River Runners, some of whom ran below their usual pace to help her train for the marathon.

"They're as supportive of a group as you'll ever see," Bancroft said.

She's needed that support.

Last June, Bancroft ran the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn., to qualify for Boston. She had trained for six months for this event.

Midway through the race, event organizers waved black flags to warn runners of weather conditions that had become too hot.

Bancroft ignored those flags. At Mile 25, with a pace easily destined to qualify for the Boston Marathon, Bancroft suffered heat stroke. Medics poured water on her body that had reached a temperature of 106 degrees.

"It was incredibly disappointing initially," she said. "I was so close. But I knew then it was possible. It was in my wheelhouse. I trained over the summer and found another race. I started to focus on that next race."

In August, Bancroft would qualify for the Boston Marathon after taking fourth place in an all women's race in Spearfish, S.D.

A month ago, Bancroft faced more adversity with the death of her father, Bob Belt.

To add to the grief, she's battling an injury. Bancroft doesn't plan to set any personal-best times at the Boston Marathon. She had to take a month off of training when she injured her soleus muscle, which is a powerful muscle located in the calf.

"I didn't think I'd make it," she said. "I was crushed. It's not going to be as fast as I wanted it to be. At least I get to run and get to the finish line. Knowing how hard I worked, it's going to be incredible."

Robyn and Perry traveled to Boston on Friday. Their two girls are at grandma Barb Belt's house, ready to keep tabs on mom online.

"I've always tried to teach my girls that if you work hard enough, you can do it," Bancroft said. "I get to live that by example and show them."

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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