At the 2023 Boston Marathon, Kemp crossed the line in an outstanding time of 2:33.57. Not only was this performance strong enough to carry her to the trials four minutes under the qualifying standard of 2:37.00, it’s the fastest marathon debut by an American woman at Boston and makes her the fastest U.S.-born Black female marathoner of all time.
In the moment, Kemp didn’t realize she was on the way to making history. She did, however, take advantage of the incredible energy of the Boston crowd.
“Boston is such a bear of an event to take on, so during it I was not super aware of how fast I was running or what my finish time would be. I had so much crowd support just being a Bostonian for the last four years and I just really leaned into that, all the personal love I was getting.”
Even after seeing her time, it took a few hours for the success to sink in. The running world, however, knew that it had just witnessed something special. Prior to her Boston performance, only 28 American-born Black women have ever run a sub-three-hour marathon, and only eight have toed the line at the USA Marathon Trials. On February 3rd, at least two more names will be added to that list, Kemp being one of them.
“The DM’s and the tags started coming in over the next few days, and as publications started calling I realized ‘Oh, this is significant, this isn’t just like being on my school’s all-time list, this is huge’.”
Kemp uses her platform to speak about the importance of increasing diversity in the sport and, since Boston, has had the opportunity to speak with publications like the New York Times to spread her message further. Amongst the interviews and podcasts however, one moment stands out that helped her truly understand her impact as Black distance runner.
A couple months after Boston, Brooks gave Kemp the opportunity to volunteer at a camp hosted by Students Run Philly Style. Students Run Philly Style is a Philadelphia-based organization that uses running and mentorship to change student’s lives. Through the work of volunteers, Students Run Philly Style helps 1,500 students work towards their goal of completing a marathon or half marathon.
While volunteering at the camp, Kemp met a young girl who had asked her for a picture early on in the day. They sat together at lunch, chatting about school, life, and of course, running.
“She was a sophomore and had really not been into running that much,” laughs Kemp.
“After lunch she came up to me and was literally tearing up. She told me ‘I sent my mom the photo that we took earlier today and she is so happy for me and told me that she is so proud of me and excited that I got to meet you because we watched you run the Boston Marathon together. And now I want to run the Boston Marathon some day.”
Reflecting on that moment, Kemp emphasizes its impact on her.
“That’s you know, that’s the dream. You’re out there and you’re in the pro-field, and you have this platform and you have these young Black girls watching you back home that want to get into the sport now.”