Hi Jennifer, thank you for sharing your Boston Bound story on my blog today. First, let’s meet you!
Jennifer, 28, Marin County/San Francisco. It is such a hilly area, which is great for training, but sometimes I just want to run somewhere flat lol!! I am lucky because I am 2 miles from a gorgeous state park, and my boyfriend’s place is about 4 miles from the Golden Gate bridge, so I have some pretty beautiful places to run. I also have the cutest dog that ever existed (not that I’m biased).
Tell us about your running background. How many marathons have you run?
I started running mostly in college to be healthy & escape from my roommate. Although I struggled with an eating disorder and obsessive exercise in college, running was always my happy place and somehow separate from the obsessive over-exercising. Eventually, my love for running was what finally made me want to fuel my body the right way. I decided I wanted to try a half marathon in 2014 after my best friend did it, and I was living so close to San Francisco – where the Nike Women’s Half Marathon was held. I wanted that Tiffany & Co necklace! Once I had crossed the finish line, I was hooked, but unconvinced my body could hold up for 26.2 training. Still, I wanted to try. I signed up for the San Francisco half marathon in 2015, but couldn’t run the full thing due to runner’s knee. I was crushed, but not ready to give up. So I got stronger, got help for the runner’s knee and signed up for the California International Marathon. I ended up with IT band syndrome shortly after, and that was how I found Active Release Therapy. It has been a huge key in keeping me running.
As I trained for the CIM, I started to dare to believe I could Boston qualify. I didn’t tell many people, but figured I might as well give it a shot. When the day came, I was terrified, but just focused on my plan and ticking each task of the morning off my list. Get dressed, eat, stretch, get on the bus, etc. It helped keep me from freaking out over what I was about to do. During the race, I worked very hard to focus on completing each mile. I didn’t want to think about my overall race and mentally fatigue myself before I got to the miles ahead. The last 6.2 miles were the most excruciating run I’ve ever had. I have never wanted to stop moving more in my life. I was worried I had lost it all in that final section of the race. When I turned the corner and saw the clock, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My parents & boyfriend were there and two friends had surprised me. My dad asked me if we could go to Boston now. Telling him, “YES!” was the best feeling.
Compare a typical week of running when you first started out to now for us.
When I first started out running, I really didn’t track mileage. Before I signed up for the half marathon lottery, I remember I tried running 8 miles and was shocked I could do it. In that first half marathon cycle, I started out with 25-30 miles a week and built up to 40 miles a week. In my first marathon cycle, I peaked at 50 miles a week. I used to think more is always better, but I have learned you have to do all the little things to stay healthy as you build mileage. Only running won’t get you where you need to go to run a marathon. Lifting weights, nutrition and mobility/stretching are also necessary.
You qualified for Boston at your very first marathon, which is so awesome!! Tell us about that.
It was pretty special. That being said, I didn’t know qualifying at your first marathon was not super common until the morning of the race. I’m glad that was the case because otherwise I might have been too scared to try. I know a lot of people say not to have goals for your first marathon except to finish. I think that is great advice, except also don’t be afraid to go for what you want. If you are training and running times that translate to a BQ, and you want that goal and the pressure that comes with it, go for it!
At what point did you think, “I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon!”?
I think I started seriously thinking I wanted to qualify after the first week of marathon training. My dad had wanted to plan a family trip to Boston anyway, and here I was training for this marathon, and the Boston Marathon seemed like the penultimate race. I learned that you had to run about 2.5 minutes faster than the qualifying time (which was 3:35 for me). I decided I would train for my marathon with the goal of a 3:30, but didn’t tell many people.
Anything you did that helped you qualify for the Boston Marathon?
I think the biggest help was running with a pacer and getting a pace band. As it was my first marathon, it was very helpful to have a pacer to run with. I also picked a course that is advantageous to Boston Qualifying – although that was sort of by accident. It is a good proximity to where I live and the timing was right for getting over my injuries. I did get lucky that it is a fast course.
Any advice for someone who wants to qualify for the Boston Marathon?
Don’t be afraid to try. The worst that happens is you don’t pull it off. At the end of the day, you will have still run a marathon. That is amazing, and don’t let anything take away from that. At the Chicago 2016 marathon, I had a pretty rough race, and missed qualifying for Boston 2018 with a 3:37. But I didn’t let that take away from my work and race. I signed up for another marathon a month later and qualified with a 3:30:51.
Do you have any goals for the 2017 Boston Marathon?
I would like to run another qualifying time. Even though I am already qualified for Boston 2018, I would still like to run another qualifying time when I’m in Boston. I also want to enjoy the experience. I know that it is a challenging course, and the weather is very unpredictable. After my experience in Chicago where the race did not go at all how I planned, I know that sometimes you just have to adjust your expectations. Still, there is nothing wrong with trying! A PR in Boston is almost too much to hope for, but why not hope? Just as I learned with my first marathon, you never know what you might accomplish if you just try.
Anything else you want to share that would be beneficial to us runners out there?
When I first started marathon training, I ran on the treadmill a lot. I just felt more comfortable that way. I get lost easily, I run early in the morning when it is dark, and running outside just seemed daunting to me. I did commit to doing my long runs outside, but that was pretty much it. I had plenty of people tell me that I would never get fit enough treadmill running. But I think you have to do what works for you. Maybe its not the best way to do it, but sometimes I think you have to let go of perfect, and just do what you can.
Also, don’t be afraid to be protective of your training time. If training makes you happy, don’t let anyone make you feel bad for waking up at 5:00am on a Saturday to get your long run done.
You can follow along with Jennifer’s running adventure on her blog and instagram.