The Road to Boston

For some of us, running wraps its tentacles around us, and though we may not notice them, the draw is always there. For some of us, it takes a serendipitous meeting, an accidental registration and a lot of miles to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Sarah Henry ran cross country and track in high school. Medical school and life put the kybosh on her asphalt efforts until after she had children. She said she started running "again to lose baby weight after my second son was born. It was about a year later, and I couldn't lose the last 10-15 pounds!" (Can I get an amen?) Around this same time, Sarah met someone who would become a close friend, happened to be an accomplished runner, and encouraged her to start running again. "My first 5K in 18 years was with her at the Tulsa Zoo run. I actually registered for that run by accident as I thought it was the Tulsa Run that everyone seemed to be doing."

To get back in the groove, Sarah asked her running friends for advice, and she followed the Hal Higdon 5K program on her own. It wasn't long before she became interested in longer distances. The same friend who encouraged Sarah to lace up encouraged her to try half training with Fleet Feet. "I started in H2 with Sidney Flack as a coach, which was great! He takes coaching seriously and is very supportive. I enjoyed getting on the track with other people at TU track Tuesday, and running tempos with friends on Thursdays from Blue Dome."

Like many who join training programs, Sarah met "the majority of my close friends from that initial half training program." Maybe it was destiny. Maybe dumb luck, but during that season, she heard about Fleet Feet's AHT/AMT (Advanced Half and Marathon Training). What appealed to Sarah about AHT were the "specific workouts...I also liked having set paces to run at." Even then, she had no interest in running a marathon (too long! too much time!), "but a friend from AHT convinced me to switch to AMT so we could train together. Luckily, Kathryn let me do it despite my lack of experience at that distance! Then I got hooked on marathons."

The distance bug took a big bite of Sarah:

Although the training is difficult, both from a time perspective and physically, the reward and sense of accomplishment is great. I have run with Fleet Feet for every training cycle. I often run by myself during the week (scheduling), but really enjoy the Saturday group runs. It's fun to meet new people and talk during the run. It's also nice to have planned water stops and not have to navigate.

Sarah was running way back when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the spokesman for the Presidential fitness test, and she recalls his poster hanging in her 7th grade locker room. She experienced her first "runner's high, and realized it was something I was pretty good at." She claims that otherwise, she had no coordination for athletic endeavors. She said she made the varsity team freshman year and had a strong "career" as a high school runner and competed at state every year.

Her earlier experiences with running were helpful as she returned to the sport.

I remembered why I liked running so much and wish I hadn't given it up for so long. Going to my first 5K felt like going to a cross country meet. Although I couldn't understand why people were wearing knee socks. A lot had changed since the days of oversized cotton T-shirts and shorts along with that $5.00 bag of white socks from Wal-Mart.

Since those budding days, Sarah has finished 5 marathons in a year and two months and qualified for Boston on her first marathon (Cowtown in Fort Worth, February 2014). She credits all her success to Kathryn. Sarah said that she "didn't realize how big a deal Boston was until I started training with more experienced runners. Kathryn thought I could do it, and I trusted her judgment and experience, so I decided to go for it."

Mere mortals who run marathons usually set a goal to finish. Turns out, those goals align with how a BQ (Boston Qualifier) might think. Sarah's "major goal in Boston is to get to the finish line without bonking so that I can enjoy the race. It is more about experience than time for me... I mainly want to not make the rookie mistake of going out too fast on the first five downhill miles and saving it for the Newton hills/heartbreak hill during miles 16-21."

Other than that, she is "really looking forward to taking part in a historic event in which the entire community is involved. I have never run a big race before, and am interested to see what it is like running with so many people around....I can't wait for the screaming Wellesley women. I just can't wait to experience the energy!"

AMT has been crucial to Sarah's success.

I was completely clueless on how to train for a marathon and it seems like such a daunting task. I also had no idea what goal to shoot for. Both the structure of the program with specific workouts and goals based on time trials was very useful. Kathryn has been a great source of inspiration and convinces me I can do things that I think are out of reach. She has really made me surprise myself. I love the group aspect of AMT. Running track and tempo workouts week after week can really become a grind, but it is nice to see your friends and running with others always makes the time go faster. It is a wonderful group of runners who really support each other. I have also met people at my pace through the program and it is nice to have a crew to train with in the off-season rather than always running by myself.

 For those of us who weren't born with wings, we can cheer on Sarah and other speedsters at the Fleet Feet Boston Marathon Watch Party.


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