Danica Patrick Says Running the Boston Marathon Is 'Only Bucket List Item I Have' — How She Prepared

The retired pro race car driver will run her first-ever marathon on Oct. 11

Danica Patrick is about to check off perhaps the only item on her bucket list.

The retired pro race car driver, 39, will run her first-ever marathon on Oct. 11 when she competes in the 125th running of the historic Boston Marathon.

"The fact that I have a good foundation of running made me think to myself, 'I think I'd like to run a marathon someday.' And it's really the only bucket list item I have," Patrick tells PEOPLE.

The athlete says she has "always enjoyed running," but running a marathon, especially the famed Boston Marathon, is a different story. Her biggest motivator, she says, has been "pride."

"I always had a lot of confidence that mentally I could do it and that I could go run the marathon tomorrow and my mind is strong enough, it would pull me through," she shares. "However, my muscles tell me different stories. My feet, calf, knees and my hips and all those things that just get jarred for hours, those things don't listen once they fully fatigue."

Danica Patrick
Will Bucquoy Photography

Patrick will run the historic race alongside sister Brooke and friend Erin Buntin in support of the Light Foundation, created by former New England Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light. The foundation — which focuses on teaching kids how to be responsible, ethical and accountable through outdoor activities and exercise — "sits so much in line" with what Patrick personally believes in.

"It's extra motivation," she says, "because what they're doing is stuff I really resonate with."

The trio has raised over $30,000, according to Patrick, which is "far exceeding" the required amount to participate in October's event.

Patrick says the threesome have leaned on one another during training and have been constantly communicating with one another — no matter how well training was going. The group recently completed their longest run, 20 miles, together in Napa, California, where Buntin was on a trip and Patrick's new wine, Danica Rosé by her company Somnium, was featured at one of the dinners.

"Training together has been nice," Patrick says. "It would be a lot harder by myself for sure."

Maintaining the proper diet and hydration levels, Patrick adds, has been "a really big deal" as well. "Dialing in how often, how much what products to use — that become the science at the end."

As a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, the "brutal" summer heat became difficult to train in. Patrick spent a month in Colorado while doing her eight-to-13-mile training, though the altitude itself was "really brutal."

Patrick has more than one goal in mind for her first (and possibly only) marathon. One coach told her and other charity runners to have three separate goals for the race.

"The 'A' goal is when ideal things happen. But you're spanning such an amount of time — three, four hours-worth plus, maybe — and you're body, the elements, the weather, anything. Those play a part and so having an 'A' goal only is a really narrow spot to hit with so many factors," she explains.

Goal A is finishing under four hours and averaging around a nine-minute mile. Goal B is to run "something respectable," such as 9½ minutes per mile and goal C is to simply "have fun," Patrick shares.

"I think if A and B happen, fun will be a part of that," she says. "But the ultimate goal is just that I have fun."

Though she doesn't plan to run any more marathons after Boston, Patrick does hear that it can get addicting. "I don't know if that's the case [for me]," she adds. "We'll see."

For now, Patrick says she is focused on enjoying the present day. "I just wanted to run one marathon in my life, so if I do, the last thing I should do is be criticizing myself and judging and angry and upset and frustrated," she says. "I need to enjoy it. I need to have fun. I need to take in the fact that I'm going to have 26 miles of stadium around me. And that will be so special."

Patrick is especially looking forward to the "energy" that will be there with fans back, something she currently sees across athletics as spectators return to sporting events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When you take the fans out of it or you take events away, you forget what happened when you put a lot of people together for something happy and joyful and fun," she says, adding, "the energy multiples and expands and elevates" in such settings.

"We didn't have that for so long as a globe," she continues. "So it's imaginable that people are excited and energized."

Personally, Patrick is excited to be in a race where she is able to hear the crowd. Most of her fans' cheers are typically drowned out by 750 horsepower. "Normally, when I'm on the track, I can't hear them," she says. "So it will be really cool to hear the fans."

Ultimately, Patrick is looking forward to proving her body is "very capable" of successfully completing the Boston Marathon. "And that's something to be celebrated," she notes.

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