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    For Pippig, chance put her on path to success

    NATICK — Despite the limited freedoms she had growing up in what was then communist East Germany, three-time Boston Marathon winner Uta Pippig said her childhood was a happy one.

    Speaking last month at the Natick Community Center, she appeared to see herself in the members of the Strivers Running Club for Girls before her.

    She talked about her life and accomplishments, held a lengthy question-and-answer session, gave tips on proper nutrition and training methods, emphasized the importance of other sports and cross-training, and even analyzed the running styles of members.


    And she sounded a cautionary note.

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    “Don’t be in such a hurry to try the marathon,” she said. “I ran my first one when I was 19, but it would have been better to have waited until I was 20 or 21. You have to let your body mature.”

    At 13, she tackled a trail behind her home. Her first competition was a school meet when someone was needed to run the 800-meter event. She finished third out of five runners, but she was hooked.

    “I really loved running,” she said. “I loved to be with the other kids.”

    Pippig was supposed to run in the BAA 5K in Boston on April 19, but she ended up stuck in an elevator in the John Hancock Tower and missed the race.


    She was not an official entrant in the Boston Marathon this year, but she was most definitely a participant. Pippig escorted Natalie Morales for roughly 14 miles of the “Today Show” host’s 3:34 finish.

    A longtime friend and admirer of the legendary father-son team of Rick and Dick Hoyt, she then ran back onto the course to find the Hoyts and the 40 members of the Hoyt Foundation Marathon Team, whom Pippig coached, and escorted them to the finish line.

    She estimated when all was said and done, she had run 48 kilometers, or about 29.8 miles.

    Pippig held up the Hoyts as an example of where running meets community service, since one of the tenets of the Strivers is community service.

    “They have raised money for families with disabled children and, by their participation,’’ she said, “have inspired a new category for the Marathon.” Like the Hoyts, duo teams have one member pushing the other in a racing wheelchair.

    Rich Fahey can be reached at fahey.rich2@gmail.com.