Against all odds
Meet Ara! Today she ran the 125th Boston Marathon. Ara has had an unusual running journey. She ran her first marathon in 2011 at the age of 45, qualifying for her first Boston Marathon. In 2012, she ran the second hottest Boston Marathon in the history of the race, but was still able to squeak just under 4-hrs.
She took some time off from marathon running and then hooked up with Run With Gina (Rwg) to train for the 2015 NYC Marathon and finished in 3:39, telling me that her Achilles Tendon had become symptomatic. She took time off from running, to only get into the 2016 NYC Marathon, so training began with her chronically annoying Achilles Tendon. She ran that race in 3:33.
After taking time off from training she started back up to train for the 2017 California International Marathon, only for her Achilles Tendon to tell her, nope. She had an MRI, physical therapy and PRP with a walking boot. She came back to train for the 2018 California International Marathon and ran 3:31, with the Achilles always giving her pain. Mercy!
She then started training for the 2020 Boston Marathon with a still symptomatic Achilles, only for the race to be cancelled a few weeks before. Likely a blessing in disguise. To run the race virtually in September 2020, the risk was going to be too great for no reward.
On January 9th, 2021 while on a phone conversation with her about her visually inflamed Achilles Tendon, she tells me that her husband has accepted a job in Boston and she would move there later in the year. What I haven't told you is that Ara is a Nurse Practitioner and her husband a physician. She has consulted with many professionals regarding her chronic Achilles tendinosis and has found it frustrating that there isn't one general consensus and more importantly, taking months off of running doesn't improve the issue. I suggest she have a virtual consultation with a podiatrist and graduate of the same kinesiology program I went through for graduate school. I was certain she would be able to fill in the gaps of information and give Ara some ah-ha moments in the direction she should go.
Some months later, the Boston Marathon opens up registration for the deferred 125th Boston Marathon on October 11th. Ara made her virtual appointment with the podiatrist and got some information that filled in the gaps and had a local surgeon treat her and back in the boot she went. After more physical therapy and the green light from the surgeon, we started with an alternating cross training/run program. I mapped out her training program to have a long run every 11 days initially, with two consecutive days of rest after long runs. In 20-weeks of training, Ara ran over 30-miles a week in training only six times, with her longest week of training coming in at 39-miles. She ran only one run of 16-miles, one Sat/Sun back to back 10-milers and one 18-mile run at a 9:30 min/mi average. We avoided hill work and speed work to not aggravate her previous injury. She did run some threshold runs later in her season.
As a coach, every decision I made for her training had the risk to reward ratio involved. It was unconventional, but I am the coach that has had runners tell me, "everything you tell me is completely opposite of what every coach or trainer has told me." If you are wondering, I am damn proud of the reputation and I will debate my training philosophies to my death bed.
So how did Ara do at the 125th Boston Marathon today as a 55-yr old runner with a history of Achilles Tendinosis on a customized, abbreviated training program? She ran 3:43, an average pace of 8:31 and by the way from the 25k to 35k (miles 15.5-21) where the Newton hills and Heartbreak Hill are located, she averaged an 8:48 min/mi through that segment. Cheers to no hill training, the coach that know the athlete and the athlete that knows the coach well enough to trust her. Thank you for your inspirational story Ara!
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