WALLA WALLA - In the 1970s, Ellen Camp was a student at Wellesley College.
The brick-hued, tree-lined campus is at the halfway point of the Boston Marathon, and known for the "screen tunnel," where Wellesley students line up to cheer. According to one Web site, the campus is also the best spectator point for friends and family.
Back then, when Camp was cheering those runners on, she never guessed she'd someday be one of them.
Now 54 and living just outside of Walla Walla, Camp hits the Boston streets and Wellesley campus again Monday, this time in running shoes and with a number on her back.
This time, with her husband cheering from the sidelines.
"This is one of those bucket list things," Camp said, a week before flying to Boston. "I cheered the runners on when I was at Wellesley. I never thought I'd be one of them. So to go past my alma mater - yeah, that will be really cool."
Camp is an accountant in Walla Walla. Her husband, David, is the president and CEO of Key Technology. Both her children are grown, - her daughter is living in Washington, D.C. and her son lives in Hawaii.
All of them are active. Her husband bikes, her daughter has run half-marathons and her son competed in an Iron Man competition in China.
And although she's been running, off-and-on, for most of her life, Camp thought her marathon days were over.
"We moved to Walla Walla, and I started drinking too much wine," she said, ruefully. "And with wine, you eat more food. I was still running, but I wasn't happy. I'd put on weight."
A visit to her son in Hawaii - and some exasperation - got her thinking.
"He had to have surgery, and so he was stuck listening to me for two weeks," she said. "I was really unhappy, with gaining weight, and not being as active as I'd like. I was just complaining a lot. He got sick of hearing it and told me to go do something about it."
So, she did.
Upon returning to Walla Walla, Camp contacted Christy Martin, a personal trainer at StudioFit. Martin added stretching and weights to Camp's exercise routine, helping her lose weight and build endurance. Camp has reported to Martin's studio at 5 or 5:30 a.m., five days a week, for more than six months, and been training for the marathon for four months.
"The thing about a marathon is that it's not just running," Camp said. "It's also about not getting hurt. I was able to build up so that I'm in better shape overall, not just as a runner. Christy made me do the things I don't like to do - like weight lifting."
Adding the variety to her routine - stretching and weights, for example - helped Camp build her fitness beyond cardio.
"Christy gets on my case," Camp said. "Sometimes I don't want to get out of bed to go work out, but I know she's waiting for me. She's always there and she helps with planning the routine ... I have to plan my runs, but I can just show up and ask Christy, ‘What's the plan?'"
Camp ran her first marathon in 2001 when she lived in Arizona, and most recently in the Tri-Cities Marathon in October, when she qualified for the Boston Marathon.
In a run filled with Olympians and top athletes, celebrities and fitness enthusiasts, Camp doesn't plan on standing out. She hopes to run the 26.2 miles in 3 hours, 30 minutes - about an eight-minute-mile pace - but finishing will be enough of a reward.
"There's always somebody who's faster and stronger than you," she said. "Unless you're the top in the world, there's always someone better. It's not about comparing yourself to other people. You need to ask, ‘What can I do for me?'"
For Camp, it wasn't about the finish, or the marathon, or the undoubted emotional high she'll get crossing the Wellesley campus. The marathon, and the training, was about herself and her own life. And the marathon wasn't even the hardest part.
"The first mile is always the hardest," she said. "Just getting going. If you can't run, you walk. If you can't walk, you can bike, or something. There's got to be something you can do. Anything is better than nothing, and you do what you can do. That's what I tell myself - some days are better than others. But you do what you can."
In a town filled with runners, Camp doesn't think she stands out.
"There are a lot of people around here who are very active," she said. "I'm nothing special. There are faster runners, and cyclists, and people who've done a lot more marathons."
And with that premise in place, Camp is following her own advice - doing what she can, while she can.
And the finish line on this particular bucket list item is in Boston.