BOSTON — At a recent gathering of past champions and current contenders for the Boston Marathon, someone raised the subject of altitude training to prepare for the world’s most famous 26.2-mile footrace.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the Olympic and two-time Boston winner, put forth a thriftier idea, one that would not require a home base in Boulder, Colorado, or Iten, Kenya.

“Who needs altitude,” she said, “when you have a Maine winter?”

She was kidding. Probably.

Samuelson, 57, will be one of more than 200 runners from Maine lining up for Monday’s 119th running from Hopkinton to Boston – and she’s not even among the four Mainers in the elite field. Samuelson will wear bib No. 1999 and start in the first of three 10,000-runner waves, probably alongside her daughter, Abby.

Rob Gomez, 31, of Portland earned an elite bib along with three female masters from Maine: Kristin Barry, 41, of Scarborough; Christine Irish, 40, of North Yarmouth; and Sheri Piers, 43, of Falmouth. (Mary Pardi, 45, of Falmouth is also entered but does not plan to run.)

Competing as an elite means special transportation from Boston to Hopkinton on Monday morning and access to a climate-controlled environment inside a church near the starting line. Gomez, however, said he’ll opt for a crowded area near Hopkinton High School with a more festive feel to it because he doesn’t plan on racing.

“The weather was really tough for marathon training this winter,” he said. “Some people were able to get theirs in – and I commend them for it – but I wasn’t able to do it. So rather than pound my head against the wall, I decided to take the focus off Boston and maybe do a fast marathon later in the year. But I love Boston and still want to go down and run it as a hard workout.”

This will be the sixth Boston for Irish but her first as an elite, a status she also earned at the Philadelphia Marathon last fall and at the recent Gate River Run 15K in Jacksonville, Florida – where she finished third among masters.

“When you’re standing there and you see Ryan Hall a couple of people over, it’s rather surreal,” Irish said in reference to U.S. half-marathon record holder. “When you start running cross country in junior high, you never think you’re going to start with the elite women at the Boston Marathon. So it’s just a dream come true.”

Irish ran at Greely High in Cumberland and for two years at Colby College before becoming injured. Not until after medical school and having three children did she get serious about running again.

She finally broke through the three-hour marathon barrier while winning the 2013 Smuttynose Marathon in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, with a time of 2:56. Because the elite women’s field is scheduled to start at 9:32 a.m. Monday – 28 minutes ahead of the elite men and first wave – her journey to Boston could be a lonely one.

If not for Kara Waters.

“My mother and her mother shared a room at Maine Med when I was born,” Irish said. “She ran for Falmouth, I ran at Greely. We both ran at Colby and went to Dartmouth Medical School together.”

Last year at Boston they finished 10 seconds apart, and each received an elite number for Monday.

“I’m hoping our paces are similar,” Irish said. “We’ll at least keep each other company on the bus ride and to the starting line. Who knows what will happen after that.”

The knowledge that you have only a 28-minute head start on some of the world’s fastest marathoners can provide incentive in itself.

“The goal for me,” said Piers, who has finished among the top 10 women overall and in 2012 was the first American woman to cross the line, “is to see how long I can hold on before the herd catches me. If it’s at 20 (miles), that’s not so good. If I can hold on ’til 22 or 23, that’s good.”

Because of Maine’s unusually snowy winter and her duties as a youth basketball coach for one of her children, Piers rarely ran outside. She even took a six-month break from racing.

“We used the treadmill a ton this year,” she said. “I’m usually pretty confident going into this race, but without racing, it’s hard to gauge where you’re at. I really have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Barry, meanwhile, is enjoying her longest injury-free stretch since she began training with Piers.

“It’s certainly been very challenging for training,” Barry said of the winter. “We’re both a little nervous. Our legs have not been conditioned enough for the hills.”

As for Samuelson, not until Thursday was she able to run her familiar training route on trails through Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport and Recompence Shore Campground near her home.

“And I was still running across some snowpack,” she said. “I have to go through a mental checklist every year before I come to Boston, and that’s part of it.”

Samuelson turns 58 in May. She said her goal Monday is to run 2:57, followed by 2:58 next year, then 2:59, and finally break three hours after turning 60.

Later, remembering that this year marks the 30th anniversary of her then-American record 2:21:21 in the Chicago Marathon, Samuelson said, “I’d like to run, with conditions being fair, within 30 minutes of my time 30 years ago.”

Only one woman in Boston history has run a marathon under 2:51:21 after reaching age 50. Samuelson did it two years ago, but only after having trained on those trails in Freeport.

“We’ll see,” she said. “Whether it’s possible remains to be seen.”

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