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Creve Coeur resident finishes her 15th Boston Marathon at 77

Creve Coeur resident Bonnie Bence finished her 15th Boston Marathon in just over 6 hours.
Kevin Wiles, Jr.
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Creve Coeur resident Bonnie Bence finished her 15th Boston Marathon in just over 6 hours.
042122_EW_BonnieBence.jpg
Bonnie Bence
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Bonnie Bence celebrates completing her 15th Boston Marathon with her sons, Chris Bence (left) and Rob Bence.

Bonnie Bence came to running late in life. The former nun, retired Catholic school teacher and mother of four started running in her early 60s, but she has made up for lost time.

She’s now completed 31 marathons — including her 15th Boston Marathon earlier this week. She finished in just over six hours at 77 years old.

“I love the challenge,” she told St. Louis on the Air. “My favorite part, believe it or not, is really having a plan, following the training plan. … It's what I tried to teach my students — it's the work you put into it, and it's not necessarily the prize at the end. It's how you feel after you put all this into it.”

Bence, of Creve Coeur, said her physical training, mental strength and religiosity were all instrumental when it came to making it to the finish line.

“To me, it's a spiritual experience,” she said. “In those 26.2 miles, I had already prepared what I was going to be thinking about for each section.”

Bence cited one section in particular — the legendary Heartbreak Hill around mile 20 of the Boston Marathon. She planned to remember a former student of hers who died in a car accident while taking on the steep incline. Afterward she credited the reflection for making it through.

Bonnie Bence joins St. Louis on the Air

“I ran every minute of that hill, and people were saying, ‘Stop making it look so easy.’ But it was easy, because I had that experience in my mind — that spiritual strength,” she said. "When I run a marathon, it's all a prayer, in a way."

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Emily Woodbury, Kayla Drake, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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