Race Recap: The Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota

The 42nd edition of the Grandma’s Marathon was held on Saturday June 16, 2018 in Duluth, Minnesota.

The race was first started in 1977 by a group of local runners who planned a scenic marathon from Two Harbors to Duluth. There were 150 participants that first year. It has since grown into one of the top 15 largest marathons in the United States.

Runners come from all 50 states and from over 50 countries.

The City of Duluth

Duluth is a major port city on Lake Superior and situated in the far SE corner of Minnesota. It was originally the home of native tribes but due to the fur trade several forts were established for trading. The city was officially incorporated in 1857. It is currently the 4th largest city in MN with a population of around 86,000 people.

The city has a lot of small town charm. Duluthians are friendly and helpful. Duluth was voted Outside Magazines “Best Outdoor Town” in 2014. They have great trails and parks which provide many outside activities for the whole family. There’s also camping nearby which we took advantage of because hotel rooms sell out quickly and tend to be rather costly if you register close to the race date.

Pre- Race Meet Up

The pre-race meet up was held at Grandma’s Saloon and Grill (where the race got its name as the first major sponsor). This establishment was founded by Italian immigrant Grandma Rosa Brochi in 1869. She opened a boarding house and became affectionately known as “Grandma” by her clients. She returned to Europe to help with the war effort in 1944 and was never heard from again. In 1976 her grandson opened the restaurant in the same building.

MTA Meet up in Duluth

MTA listeners braved the torrential downpour of rain to get to the restaurant and we had a great time.

Race Expo

The expo was held at the DECC Arena (on Thurs from 4-8pm and Friday from 10am -11pm). They had 100+ booths with vendors giving out samples including beer, wine, chips, soda, chocolate milk, massages, and more. The race bibs were easy to get and race shirts were given out at the finish line. The race did send out a nice race jacket when I registered for the marathon so I was able to enjoy that a few months in advance. They also sent out regular email updates and have a helpful website.

Race expo. Can you find me?

The marathon put on an all you can eat spaghetti dinner running Saturday afternoon and had several guest speakers during the day including MN native Dick Beardsley, Carrie Tollefson, and Kara Goucher (who was running the half marathon).

Race Morning

The marathon began at 7:45 am and they don’t allow anyone to drive to the starting line. Because of this they bused approximately 15,000 runners to the start of the half marathon and marathon from 16 locations in and around Duluth. There’s also a train that the first 1,000 runners can take to the starting line. The starting line is located in Two Harbors, MN near a car dealership.

The race had a well organized bag check and rows and rows of port a pots. The weather was overcast, a bit foggy, and in the mid-40’s. They did some pre-race announcements, played music, saluted the flag with a group singing the Star Spangled Banner, and then played the song “Chariots of Fire.” The marathon had pace groups and runners lined up according to expected pace.

The Course

The course was a point to point course starting at Two Harbors and ran along the waterfront into Duluth along Highway 61. There were several timing mats located along the course along with time clocks. The course was well marked with large helium balloons at each mile marker (yellow for the marathon and teal for the half). There were marathon pace groups ranging from 3:05-5:30 and half pacers from 1:30-2:45.

The roads were moderately filled with runners but not overcrowded. After the first mile things opened up well and you could easily hit your pace. The highway was also closed to traffic.

The course starts at 740 feet and ends at 610 feet. The route is run along the world’s largest freshwater lake with a scenic point to point course along the shore of Lake Superior. There are over 32 rivers, creeks, streams and beautiful views (on a clear day). You can also take a dip in the lake after the finish to cool off. Unfortunately it was too foggy this year to see much of the lake views.

While there weren’t any big hills along the course there are plenty of gradual up and down sections. They advertize it as a fast, rolling flat course. Because of the net downhill elevation many runners find this a good place to PR and BQ each year. The weather stayed in the upper 40’s to low 50’s with wind off Lake Superior and it was mostly overcast with a brief heavy rain shower followed by some mist. Mostly, it was ideal marathon weather.

There were a good number of fans along the course, with several sections at which family members were able to see their runners. From around mile 20 on the fans were especially enthusiastic and often in costume. I saw one spot where there had to be 100+ troll dolls lined up along the course.

photo credit: #Grandmasmarathon @ocir1320

There were several local bands playing everything from gospel to rock and a senior citizen’s dance brigade. The marathon had a 7 hour time limit (and the half marathon a 3 hour time limit).

A couple of runner’s costumes that stood out during the marathon was a guy dressed in tie die and peace signs and another called the Rubber Ducky Runner who was shirtless and had fashioned some bottoms out of a yellow terry cloth towel to which he had attached a couple rubber ducks. His hat was made to look like a duck bill.

Aid Stations
They had 15 official aid stations along the course, about every 2 miles starting at mile 3 (and every mile after mile 19). The aid stations were stocked with two sections of water and sports drink so it was easy to get what you wanted.

I fueled with 1 UCAN snack bar pre-race and carried 2 bars with me. I ate ½ bar every 5 miles washed down with water. Use the code MTAGRANDMAS to save 15%.

  • According to race information they use 500,000 cups at aid stations, 30,000 sponges, and 5,000 gallons of water. 6,000 volunteers are needed during the weekend and the races have 120 sponsors.
  • The race is working on becoming a zero waste event by recycling, providing transportation, and donating discarded clothing and extra race shirts to Goodwill.
  • There were a number of unofficial aid stations along the course giving out everything from lemonade, bacon, beer, hard liquor, and candy. At one spot it looked like a frat party was going on and one runner was chugging a beer.

My experience

Overall the vibe and organization of this race were great and it would be a good location to PR if you were aiming for a fast time.

I wasn’t feeling the best going into the race because my period had started the day before and I was feeling bloated, dealing with cramps, had some muscle aches and low energy. Plus, I’d dropped a can of soup on one of my toes a few days before and it was sore and tender so I hadn’t run the week before the marathon. That probably contributed to me feeling a bit stiff (plus traveling for 6 days in our camper). Thankfully the toe didn’t bother me much during the race.

I saw our friend Eric Strand out on the course around mile 24 looking strong after running over 50 miles. He does the Grandma’s Double- a self-styled ultra where he runs the course from finish to start and then start to finish to train for the Leadville Trail 100 miler.

I felt fairly good through the half and that split was around 2:01. Then I started fading from miles 16-23. I got a second wind around mile 24 and was able to bring it in strong and I crossed the finish line in 4:21:46. It was my 53rd marathon and 42nd state.

The Finish Line Area

They were giving out water, heat sheets, nice medals, and then we funneled into the food area which had orange juice, bananas, strawberries, chips, Clif protein bars, chicken broth, chocolate milk, bagels and peanut butter, and yoghurt.

There was also a drink area and each runner got a free alcoholic drink of their choice. The changing tents were perfect because the weather was still cool and I was getting chilled in my wet clothes. Then I found a spot to meet Trevor and the boys.

I call this my bag lady look.

The total number of finishers for the marathon was 6,093.

  • The male winner was Elisha Barno with a time of 2:10:06.
  • The female winner was Kellyn Taylor with a time of 2:24:28 (and she set a new course record).

The number of half marathon finishers was 7,579.

  • The male winner was Panuel Mkungo with a time of 1:02:50
  • The female winner was Monicah Ngige with a time of 1:09:55
  • Kara Goucher finished 21st in 1:18:15

According to the race website, a prize purse of $100,000 was awarded to the top marathon finishers and $26,000 was awarded to the top finishers in the half marathon.

After the race I saw this posted on social media:

“Congratulations to John Lunz who completed his first marathon at age 80! He finished the Grandma’s Marathon in 5:26:55, won his age group, and ran negative splits!!!”

You are never to old to start running!

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Quick Tip: How the Menstrual Cycle Affects Your Marathon Training

CEP Compression Socks and Tights. Perfect for the long run, the recovery run, or speed work. Use promo code MTA to save 20% on your order.

Care/Of – a monthly subscription vitamin service made from effective, quality ingredients that are personally tailored to your exact needs. Enter the code MTA for 25% off your first month of personalized vitamins.

Sunbasket -makes it easy and convenient to cook healthy, delicious meals at home—no matter how much experience you have in the kitchen.

Pitney Bowes -The C200 lets you send mail and packages right from your desk.

Shout Out

With Academy Member Ryan Hoffman at the MTA Meet Up

I ran 3:55:39 at Grandmas Marathon with basically an even split! Sure makes a difference when you don’t go out too fast! Great conditions too. I got to run the last 3 miles with a guy who wanted nothing more than to go sub 4. It was a great feeling to cross the line with him and get a hug from a complete stranger who thanked you for keeping him on pace. Runners are awesome. Also had lunch with some celebrities at Grandmas on Friday! Great to finally meet you Angie and Trevor and everyone else there! Hope everyone had a great race! Ryan H.

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Strength Training for Runners, Interview with Jason Fitzgerald

In this episode we talk with coach and fellow podcaster Jason Fitzgerald about the wrong and right ways to do strength training when preparing for a marathon.

And in this episode’s quick tip we share recommendations on sunglasses for runners.

Jason Fitzgerald is the founder of strengthrunning.com and the Strength Running podcast which we were just on recently (Jason interviewed us about marathon training for beginners). He ran competitively in college and is a USATF certified coach. He lives with his family in Colorado.

In this interview you will hear the compelling case for why you should be doing strength training, common mistakes people make and how to do it the right way. Jason knows his stuff and we know this episode will be a huge help!

If you are interested in learning how to use weight lifting for strength and power Jason has a great program called High Performance Lifting. There are four phases he works you through and it’s all demonstrated on video.

Quick Tip: Sunglass Recommendations for Runners

Since I don’t usually wear sunglasses while running I turned to the awesome people in our private Academy Facebook group to get their advice.  Here are their top suggestions:

Roka! Stylish and highly functional! I have two styles. My husband uses his pair for every day outdoor activities in addition to running. Emily

It’s a love hate for me…haven’t found a brand that doesn’t collect sweat on the inside of the lenses eventually blurring my vision during long runs….that said usually wear Spy Optics….somewhere in the range of $40 – $60 cuz I can’t stand spending more on sunglasses. Tom

I wear prescription glasses and mine are Ray-Ban wayfarers. When I have races or long runs that start before the sun is out they ride on top of my head nicely without me worrying about losing them. Marty

And we had numerous runners recommend the brand Goodr! I didn’t even know I needed/wanted running sunglasses until I received these as a gift – they’re super lightweight and come in fun colors!

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Honest Sport – Made with Less Calories and Sugar and Sea Salt for Electrolytes, Honest Sport is the perfect everyday fitness drink.

Pitney Bowes – Start saving today and get a free 60 day trial of a Pitney Bowes C200 – Visit online at pb.com/MTA

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Spartan Race – With over 60 races all around the country, Spartan is an obstacle course racing company with races for every athletic ability and skill level. Visit www.spartan.com/marathon for an exclusive offer, to find a race near you and view training and nutrition tips.

About Trevor Spencer

Trevor Spencer is the producer of the Marathon Training Academy Podcast. He loves to inspire people to take action in their fitness and life.

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Interview with Deena Kastor -Let Your Mind Run

In this episode we speak with Deena Kastor, three time olympian, author, and American Women’s record holder in the marathon. And in the quick tip segment, we recommend some post-run recovery sandals that feel like walking on clouds.

Deena Kastor might be the most decorated female American runner of all time. Not only does she hold the fast marathon time (2:19:36) she also holds the record in the Road 10 mile, Road 15k, Road 8k, and formally held the record in the half marathon, 10k and 5k. She has won the Chicago Marathon and the London Marathon once, and she earned a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic games. She also currently holds the U.S. Women’s Master’s marathon record when she ran 2:27:47 at the age of 42. Her new book is called Let Your Mind Run -A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory.

In this episode you will hear how Deena’s positive attitude during training propelled her forward and the mental strategies she used to get through tough spots in her races.

Kastor family. photo credit: Deena Kastor

Here’s my favorite quote from the book, (see page 86)

It took tremendous effort to control those thoughts. My brain easily slipped back into negativity, and I found I had to stay on top of my thinking in the same way I had to remain conscious and diligent about my pace in a workout. “Oh, you’re doing it again”, I said to myself when I became aware of negativity, being careful not to rebuke myself and therefore wind up being negative about being negative. I told myself: Find a thought that serves you better.

Just a heads up that you can watch the video version of this interview inside the Academy member’s site along with our interview s with Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan, Tim Noakes, Sean Astin, Gretchen Rubin, and others.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Deena Kastor’s website: http://deenakastor.com

Deena’s book: Let Your Mind Run

Spenco Recovery Sandals -In addition to being waterproof and antimicrobial they have arch and heel support that provides heel to toe cushioning, a forefoot pad which reduces pressure at the forefoot, a metatarsal dome which optimizes foot function and provides increased comfort beneath the ball of the foot, and an anatomically designed heel dome to reduce pressure in the heel area.

CBDMD Freeze Roller -uses all-natural CBD Oil to help your body to heal and recover fast. Use coupon code MTA20 for 20% any of their products.

The Juneau Alaska Marathon -Angie will be running this beautiful race on July 29th 2018. To see photos from our adventures follow us on Instagram @marathonacademy

RX Bar -a protein bar made with 100% whole ingredients. Angie loves the chocolate coconut flavor. For 25% off your first order, visit RXBAR.com/MTA and enter promo code MTA at checkout. -For a limited time, every order will receive free samples
-Free sample offer ends June 30th.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

Shout Out!

Hi guys! I’ve been listening to your podcast for quite a while now, and I can finally say I’ve joined the marathon club. I ran the Cleveland Marathon in May and I couldn’t have done it without your tips, stories, and constant motivation. I listen to the podcast all the time while training and, in the spirit of not trying anything new on race day, had it playing for approximately the first half of the marathon. It felt amazing to prove everybody wrong, including myself, as I was having doubts as race day approached. I am injury free and feel so much more confident in my ability to change my life as I see fit. I cannot thank you enough. -Avery

About Trevor Spencer

Trevor Spencer is the producer of the Marathon Training Academy Podcast. He loves to inspire people to take action in their fitness and life.

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How to Avoid Overtraining as a Long Distance Runner

In this episode we speak with Dr. Ben Shatto about overtraining -which is a leading cause of injury and burnout in long distance runners. And in this episode’s quick tip, Angie answers a listener question about how Boston qualifying times work.

There aren’t a lot of books focused specifically on overtraining out there. That’s why we are excited to have Dr. Ben Shatto on the podcast to answer questions on this important topic. He just authored a book called Preventing and Treating Overtraining Syndrome.

Dr. Ben Shatto, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS is a physical therapist who specializes in managing orthopedic conditions and strength and conditioning. Ben has been running since 2005. He is co-creator of the Resilient Runner Program for Prevention and Self-Treatment of Injury.


Also Mentioned in This Episode

Dr. Ben Shatto’s website: www.thephysicaltherapyadvisor.com

SteadyMD pairs you with a primary care doctor, online

NuNee– a revolutionary new product designed to prevent and relieve that dreaded knee pain. Available today at NuNeeShop.com. Use code MTA30 for a 30% discount.”

Boston Marathon cut off times article

The Resilient Runner course for running injury prevention and self-treatment

About Trevor Spencer

Trevor Spencer is the producer of the Marathon Training Academy Podcast. He loves to inspire people to take action in their fitness and life.

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Interview with Laura Vanderkam, Time Management Expert

Laura VanderkamIn this episode we speak with time management expert and runner Laura Vanderkam about how you actually have more time in your week than you might realize, which is great news for busy runners!

In the quick tip segment, Angie answers a listener question about underwear for runners.

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including Off the Clock, I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours. She loves running half marathons and has also been doing a running streak (at least 1 mile per day) since 2016. Laura lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and four children, and blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.

Through the years listeners have told us that the hardest part of training for a marathon is finding the time. So, we’re excited to bring talk with Laura about how to reframe our thinking about time, because we all have the same 168 hours in a week.

Laura Vanderkam at TEDWomen 2016 -San Francisco, California. Photo credit: Marla Aufmuth / TED

What Time of Day Do You Run?

Quick Tip: Underwear for Runners

Here’s a question we received from a listener named Jen . . .

Hello Angie and Trevor, I’ve been listening to your podcast for about a year now and I’m so grateful for all of your support around running. I look forward to each new episode! This question may be best directed to Angie. I wondered if you can help me with a running dilemma I have not yet been able to solve: I have not been able to find a comfortable pair of underwear. I have tried about a half dozen with no success. I wear leggings and find that mid run, my underwear seem to be one of the biggest challenges and distractions. Chaffing, wedgies, rolling and twisting waistbands and moisture issues due to sweating all contribute to my challenges. I have appreciated your product recommendations in the past and would love it if you had any ideas about this one. Thank you so much for all you do for our running community and for personally contributing to my running endeavors! -Jen

While training for my first two marathons I struggled with the underwear dilemma too. It seemed like I was spending too much of my time thinking about my underwear or yanking it back into place. I didn’t find any great solutions so I decided to go commando and haven’t looked back since.

If you’re used to wearing underwear at first it seems a little weird to go without but I’ve discovered that the majority of runners don’t wear underwear while running. Most running shorts/shirts have some type of built in liner and even those without typically work just fine. If your leggings or capris have prominent inner seams they may not be best for long runs or you may want to use some anti-chafe ointment in any areas that seem to be rubbing.

Someone in our members Facebook group asked this same question a few months ago and one lady said she wears compression shorts with a built in cotton liner. A couple other suggestions were invisible line underwear from Soma and a brand called Runderwear from the UK (I haven’t tested either of these). Hope that helps. -Angie

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Laura Vanderkam TED Talk about ‘How to Gain Control of Your Free Time’.

Fully -standing desks and collection of active chairs that give you the freedom to sit, stand, perch, or lean yourself into healthy, comfortable positions that work for your body’s unique and changing needs. I have the Jarvis standing desk and the Back App chair by Fully and absolutely love love love them!

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Sun Basket -makes it easy and convenient to commit to healthy eating. Get $35 off your first order through our link.

About Angie Spencer

Angie is a registered nurse and running coach who empowers new runners to conquer the marathon, run faster, and take their health and fitness to the next level. Join the Academy

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Race Recap: Road Races Newport + What I’ve Learned from 10 Years of Running Marathons

In this episode I recap my most recent marathon in Newport, Rhode Island. Plus we look at the 2018 London Marathon, and in the quick tip segment, I will share 3 lessons from 10 years of running marathons.

The 3rd annual Rhode Races Newport Marathon, half marathon and 5k was held on April 14, 2018 in Newport, Rhode Island. The race is put on by Rhode Races which also does a variety of other events in the area throughout the year. There is also another marathon in Newport held in the fall which is not affiliated with this company. Since I registered in late March the fee was $100. I was impressed with the amount of information available on the race website and the amount of email communication they sent out. Interestingly enough the race isn’t listed over on Marathon Guide although it is over on Running in the USA. The race allowed transfers to another race in their series, deferrals and switching to another distance.

Pre Race:

I drove the 7+ hours to Newport, RI on Friday (the 13th) and was excited to discover that the place I was staying was even closer to the start/finish area than I thought. Packet pickup that day was held at the Newport Storm Brewery which had a bit of a chaotic parking situation. There wasn’t an expo but simply a packet pickup line which went smoothly (thankfully since it was chilly outdoors). They had race and gender specific shirts but I did find out later that they gave me the shirt for the half marathon. There really wasn’t much other swag other than the ads and brochures normally given out besides a granola bar and a pack of band aids (hopefully not a sign of what’s to come). The race also offered packet pickup on Thursday and race morning at the start/finish area. The races coincided with the town’s Daffy Days festival and there were some glimpses of beautiful yellow daffodils around the area. After getting my packet I drove to a local beach and walked along the water for a while before finding a place to have an early dinner.

Race Morning:

Since I had the great fortune of being less than a 5 minute walk from the start area I was able to sleep in until 6:15 in the morning and get ready fairly leisurely. They didn’t allow parking at the start/finish area which was at Easton’s Beach. Many runners were getting dropped off and they also offered shuttle service from Second Beach which was a few miles away. The start area had plentiful port-a-pots and there was a large pavilion where many runners were standing. Many other people were walking along the beach and taking pictures of the water. The weather forecast had changed for the better and temps were in the mid-40’s and clear. I had prepared for colder temps by wearing tights and arm warmers with my singlet and my throw away jacket really wasn’t needed. They had gear check available as well.
The morning announcer didn’t seem to be much of a runner because she kept making comments like “you don’t look like a runner” and “you people must be crazy to do a marathon.” I was able to see my friend Rhonda Foulds before the start and meet a couple of her friends. Just before the marathon start at 7:30 there was a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and we were off. The half marathon started at 7:45 and the 5k started at 8am. They offered pace groups ranging from 3:30-5:00 for the marathon and 1:40-2:45 for the half marathon.


The marathon course is USATF certified and is a Boston Marathon Qualifier. After the start at Easton’s Beach with lovely views of the sun rising above the water we ran into the town of Middleton and out to more areas of ocean views. In the early miles we ran by Fort Adams and then along Ocean Avenue. The course is advertized as “moderately hilly” with overall ascent of 750 ft and it was somewhat windy at times. But the temps never got above mid-50’s so it never felt cold. The marathon and half followed the same course until the halfway point during which the half finished and they had dividers set up where the marathoners had to run right by the finish and out again for the rest of our miles. That was a bit discouraging since we came so close to the finish and runners getting medals and hitting the food and beer. But overall the course was so beautiful with frequent ocean/water views, nice neighborhoods and running by many of the historic mansions and architecture that it stayed enjoyable even with a few out and backs. One thing they were very strict about was respecting the native environment and staying off the dunes. In fact, information repeatedly said that you could be disqualified if you went on the dunes. In later miles we ran by the Norman Bird Sanctuary and into Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. This is not a marathon with many spectators (pretty much only at the start/finish area) but there were a fair amount of runners spread out along the course. The course time limits were 6 hours for the marathon and 3.5 hours for the half marathon.

Aid Stations:

The aid stations were located approximately every 2 miles and staffed by friendly volunteers handing out sports drink and water. There were a few aid stations handing out other fueling options and bananas. Port a pots were located at every aid station as well. For my fueling I used UCAN snack bars and ate one 30 minutes pre-race and carried two during the race (I ate half a bar at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20). I usually carry the liquid mixture but decided to try the bars because I didn’t want to carry anything in my hands due to some neck problems. The UCAN snack bars worked great and my energy levels were solid and my stomach felt good.


The finish area was nice and had an enthusiastic announcer commenting as runners crossed the finish line. They had a nice nautical themed medal but were out of heat sheets by the time I finished. The food area was a disappointment and seemed to have been totally decimated by previous runners. There were bottles of water, sports drink, what looked like dry rice cakes and cold pizza (which I passed on). They did have a beer garden with local RI brew so I headed over there to get my free beer. I talked to Jodi & Tracy who are fellow Marathon Maniacs over there.

The first place male finisher was Adam Crombie (age 32) with a time of 2:54:07. The first place female was Heather Cirka (29) with a time of 3:16:31. There were 335 finishers for the marathon, 1121 for the half marathon, and 309 in the 5k. The race offered live tracking and free photos (although there weren’t many photographers along the course).

My Experience:

My finish time was 4:23:21 (a solid positive split 2:01:19, 2:22:02). This was my 52nd marathon and 41st state. I realized that this race was almost 10 years to the date from my first marathon in 2008. A decade has gone by fast.

My training for this marathon was a bit different. As many long time listeners know I started struggling with my health just over two years ago and have been dealing with hormone imbalances, weight gain, and energy issues. Because of this I stepped back my running from the summer of 2016-2017 and didn’t do any races for a year in an effort to give my body more support. Then last September I did a come-back marathon and did two more to finish out 2017.
I purposely didn’t schedule anything this spring to let my body tell me when it was time for another marathon. I just ran the mileage I felt like during the winter (my long run was never more than 6 miles) and was dedicated to strength training. After doing the Mount Dessert Island Marathon last October I came away feeling like I had some definite week areas and knew it was because I wasn’t being very dedicated to core and strength work. So I signed up for several sessions with a personal trainer to work on my strength and that gave me enough momentum to continue on my own over the winter. I also got a TRX system for Christmas and have integrated that into strength and mobility work. I’ve been doing one upper body + core, one lower body + core and another yoga + core day per week.

In February I did a spontaneous 10 miler just because I felt good, and then did a 12 miler, a 16 miler, and 20 miler. They went well so I signed up for the Newport Marathon with the goal of finishing healthy and strong. All was going well until two days before the race when my neck froze up and I could hardly turn my head (and my chiropractor’s office was closed). I decided to drive to RI on faith and just do the best I could during the race. I felt good for the first 13 miles and after that whenever my neck started to spasum I just slowed to a walk and tried to loosen up my shoulders. This was the main reason I didn’t want to carry anything in my hands and cause additional tightness. I also listened to an audio book during the marathon which helped take my mind off the physical discomfort. And I can honestly say that I enjoyed the marathon and felt healthy and strong. The fact that the course was so beautiful and the weather was nice was icing on the cake.

You do you.
What works for other runners may be different from what works for you. Don’t feel like you’re less-than as a runner because you don’t follow the same training routine, do the same amount of races that others do, run a large number of miles, look different from other runners, or run at a different pace. I’m reminded of the great quote by Teddy Rosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is something I have to battle in my own life. Social media can be a great thing but if you’re not careful the perfectly polished lives that some people present can lead to discontentment with your own life. Remember that no one looks perfect 100% of the time. They also don’t always have perfect training cycles, run in beautiful places all the time or PR at every race. It’s important to keep learning and growing as a runner but to also keep in mind that you’re an experiment of one.

Don’t neglect the little things.
It’s often not the big decisions that make the most difference over time but the little things. The little things may include practices like: focused cross training to prevent injury, regular strength training to build up support muscles and address body imbalances, eating healthy, balancing rest with training, building back slowly from injury or time off, using stress management techniques like meditation, and being prepared with tested gear for your marathon. Even tiny things like bringing safety pins to a race can decrease your anxiety level (true story- I didn’t get any safety pins for my bib at this marathon. I was able to borrow one from the hotel clerk and had two pinned to my race hat). Being diligent about the little things can go a long way to success in your running goals. Remind yourself that next time you’re struggling to find motivation to do your core work.

Aim for progress, not perfection.
This is a theme that I always come back to. You’re likely to struggle in certain areas, we all do. I can get down about the fact that I can’t run high mileage without getting injured or I can be thankful for the miles I am able to run. I could wish that I had the body type of an elite runner or I can be thankful for the strong body that I have. Keep your goals in sight but know that progress is not always linear. The decisions we make now don’t always pay off immediately (like those little things I talked about previously) but our actions do go a long way to helping us progress in the right direction. Remember that your goals and even physical and mental capacity for training and running will change over the years so it’s important to keep a long term perspective in mind. We fall down (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) and we get back up. Setbacks are just part of the overall journey and can help mold us into stronger people. I’ve changed so much since I did my first marathon 10 years ago and I know that I’ll continue to change in the next decade.

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Boston Marathon 2018, Staying Tough in Brutal Conditions!

Elite women at the 2018 Boston Marathon

Condistions were completely miserable at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Rainy, cold, and winds hitting the runners at 25 mph! In this episode we give you an overview of this year’s race, plus we’ll tell you how to stay strong during tough marathon conditions.

The 122nd edition of the Boston Marathon was held on Monday April 16th (Patriot’s Day) and was the coldest on record in 30 years. Along with the cold came headwinds of up to 30mph, constant rain, temps in the 30’s, puddles on the course, stores selling out of jackets/rain gear, hundreds of runners treated for hypothermia and other cold weather conditions, and 23 elites dropping out including top runners such as Deena Kastor, Galen Rupp, Philemon Rono, Lemi Berhanu, Lelisa Desisa, and Caroline Rotich.

Shalane Flannigan said it was the most brutal conditions she’s run in. She and Molly Huddle went in as top contenders but struggled with the cold and were just thankful to finish. At one point her teeth were chattering so hard that she bit her tongue. At around the 12 mile point Shalane had to make a bathroom stop and Des Linden slowed down to help pull Flanagan back into the lead pack. After the race Shalane speculated that this might be her final Boston attempt.

Looking at the pictures from the starting line you know when the elites are running in jackets that it’s cold out there.

  • The medical team of 1,800 people along the course were extremely busy.
  • 25 elites needed medical attention,
  • 81 people were taken to the hospital,
  • 2500 people were treated at the finish line.
  • A number of hotel rooms near the finish line were reserved for runners needing to warm up
  • A church near Wellesley (around half way along the course) opened its doors for runners to warm up.

I’ve also heard reports of people along the course opening up their homes to runners and even giving them jackets to wear. There have been other tough years of race weather like in 2012 when the heat peaked at 89 degrees, in 2007 a Nor’easter brought heavy winds and rain early in the morning, and in 1976 temps topped out at 100 degrees and there weren’t nearly enough aid stations causing 40% of the field to drop out.

But these challenges really allowed us a glimpse into the perseverance and toughness of marathoners and made it an exciting day (especially for those of us watching from the comfort of indoors). It became a race where the very toughest who weren’t brought down by the conditions would finish.

Women’s Race

Desiree Linden
Most exciting was Desiree Linden age 34 who broke a 33 year drought where an American woman hasn’t won in Boston. She took home the victory with a time of 2:39:54. Over the past 11 years Desi Linden has started 15 marathons, finished 14 of them, is a two time Olympian and has come in second three times (one time by only 2 seconds at Boston 2011). But until this year she had never broken the tape. Her story is one of perseverance. After graduating from Arizona State University she had no major sponsors and talked her way onto the Hansen-Brooks training group in Michigan. Last year after finishing 4th in Boston she took the summer off from running and didn’t do a fall marathon. At a press conference post-race she said, “This is hands down the biggest day of my running career. If it hadn’t been difficult, I don’t think it would mean as much.” Early in the race, Linden said she felt horrible and was considering dropping out. She chatted with Flanagan, who won New York and was one of the favorites, and offered to help block the wind or do anything she could to ease Flanagan’s path. Linden drifted back from the pack while Flanagan made a pit stop, and together they ran back to catch the leaders. Taking the focus off of her own pain and offering an assist to the other Americans got Linden out of her own bad patch. (3) So even though it was a bad day for elites overall (especially the East African runners) it was a good day for Americans with seven women finishing in the top 10.

Sara Sellers (USA) (2:44:05)-
In fact, the 2nd place woman left the world wondering where she had come from. She’s a 26 year old nurse anesthetist from Arizona running her 2nd marathon. She competed well in college at Weber State University but took time off to heal from injury. When she began training again she ran around her work hours, often at 4am or 8pm and didn’t put in as high mileage as many of the elites (although 100/week is still a lot). Her first marathon was in Sept. 2017 in Huntsville, UT where she got first place and set a course record. With her Boston race she also qualified for the US Olympic Trials and came away with $75,000 of prize money. “I think I’m going to wake up and this will be a dream,” Sellers said. “It was a like a hurricane out there.”

Men’s Race

Yuki Kawauchi
The top spot on the men’s podium was also a surprise and went to Japanese runner Yuki Kawauchi (the first Japanese man to win Boston since 1987). Born in 1987, he started to be well known in his home country after running the 2011 Tokyo Marathon in 2:08:37. The 31 year old is often called the “citizen runner” since he works full-time as an administrator in a high school and runs in his spare time. Despite his busy schedule he has run 79 sub-2:20 marathons, including his 2:08 PR and 25 sub-2:12 marathons.(5)

He’s also set records while running in a 3 piece suit and panda costume. Clearly this is an accomplished runner who doesn’t take himself too seriously. He trains differently than most top athletes by only running once a day and making up the most of his mileage on his days off from his job. He’s aiming to run 100 marathons under 2hr 20 before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He has run four so far this year, winning all of them.

Because of his job he’s not allowed to take sponsorship money but will come away from Boston with $150k in prize money. During the marathon he started out strong with a 4:37 first mile and then dropped back into the pack. Kawauchi, who was running alone in second place, saw Kirui with less than one mile to go. He surged once more, this time dropping Kirui for good. He said that with 100 meters to go that he didn’t know he was truly winning. After the race he said,“ I’ve been running for 26 years & this is by far the best day of my life. I never gave up. I knew he was up there. I could see him. I ran my own race and I ran him down.” The American men also had a good day with 6 in the top 10.

Wheelchair Division

In the wheelchair race the first place man was returning champion Marcel Hug with a time of 1:46:26. First place woman was Tatyana McFadden with a time of 2:04:39. She trailed the leader for a large portion of the race but eventually passed her competition. When asked after the race how she was able to win from behind she said that she trusted her training and her coach and just did her own race at her own pace. This was her 5th Boston victory. Another inspiring story was 85 year old Katherine Beiers who was one of the last runners to make their way through Newton. Big kudos to all listeners who ran Boston this year and to all the volunteers and spectators out there who braved the conditions.

Academy member Rhonda Foulds finished her 5th Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner.

How to stay strong during tough marathon conditions

  1. Be as physically prepared as possible for the weather conditions: whether it’s cold weather or hot it’s wise to dress in layers that you can discard if necessary of hang on to for later on, staying dry as long as possible when it’s raining and cold. Things like a warm hat, gloves, poncho or rain jacket can go a long way to helping you be able to finish.
  2. Mentally prepare by thinking back to other times that you’ve overcome hardship whether it be during training, other races of in life. Draw on the experiences and mantras of other people who have overcome tough things or races (like Lisa Smith Batchen during Badwater). Some of the key factors in those who finished Boston this year was having an attitude of mental toughness and being prepared. Another strategy is to think about the experience in the third person like, “wow, Angie is cold and tired but she’s continuing to move forward and is determined to finish.” You can think about the race recap that you’ll tell later (and obviously in your version you finished strong).
  3. Break the race into segments and conquer one at a time. Like Coach Dom one segment was seeing her husband and then taking it a mile at a time as she counted down the single digits.
  4. Realize that this is a shared experience of suffering so encourage and draw inspiration from those around you. Smiling and offering a word of encouragement or help can go a long way to boosting your attitude and performance (like Desi Linden did to her teammates).
  5. Be prepared to let go of time goals in extreme cold, wind and heat, especially if you didn’t train in those kind of conditions. Your body is going to be spending extra energy on keeping your temperature balanced and it will take more out of you to run at your normal pace. Reframe your goals by deciding to be proud of yourself no matter what and finish strong. I’ve read so many Boston recaps from this year where the runners said that they certainly didn’t finish with the time they previously wanted but that they were happy and proud of themselves for finishing without drowning.
  6. Appreciate how ludicrous it all is and keep your sense of humor. The ability to laugh at the irony might be your secrete weapon on a day like Boston 2018.

Most runners can handle rain or wind or cold temps on their own, or even a combination of any 2 of those. But when you put all three together, things get pretty miserable pretty fast. Everyone was soaked and shivering before the race even began. Good thing misery loves company; there was plenty of both. We had rain and a 25 mph headwind every step of the way. What stuck out most for me this year was the spectators and the volunteers. Crowds were understandably lighter, maybe down 25% or so from normal, but the ones who did show up were hardcore marathon aficionados. They had to have been just as uncomfortable as the runners, maybe more so. But they were loud, they were super encouraging and I didn’t see a single one of them who wasn’t smiling. In fact, most of the runners (at least the ones not going hypothermic) were smiling . . . it was all just so ludicrous that you couldn’t help but laugh. -Eric Strand

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Coach Dominique Hamel -ran this year’s Boston Marathon after qualifying at the Steam Town Marathon.

Mental Toughness Episode -Mastering the Endurance Mindset

Karia Modjadidi Episode -Marathon Success Story + What it Takes to Qualify for Boston

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Sun Basket -makes it easy and convenient to commit to healthy eating. Get $35 off your first order through our link.

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Interview with Amelia Boone, The Barkley Marathons

Amelia BooneAmelia Boone is a world-class obstacle racer and full time corporate attorney. In March of this year she competed in the infamous Barkley Marathons -the race that eats it’s young. Since the race was started in 1986 only 15 people have successfully completed all 5 loops of the course.

Amelia Boone is a prolific obstacle course racer with 30 first place finishes to her name. This includes winning the Spartan Race World Championships, The Spartan Death Race, and the World’s Toughest Mudder (3 times)! She lives in San Francisco and is an attorney at Apple.

The Barkley Marathons 2018

Just three weeks ago Amelia ran the Barkley Marathons in Tennessee -which many consider to be the hardest ultramarathon around. So tough, that only 15 people have successfully completed the course before the 60 hour cut off. The race is limited to 40 runners a year and even getting in is a closely guarded secret. This year (2018) some super tough runners were there like Gary Robbins, Mike Wardian, and Amelia Boone but the course won and there were exactly zero finishers.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Amelia Boone website and social media: www.ameliabooneracing.com | Twitter @ameliaboone | Instagram @arboone11

Barkley Marathon documentary: The Race That Eats Its Young. You can get it on Amazon Prime.

Spartan Race – With over 60 races all around the country, Spartan is an obstacle course racing company with races for every athletic ability and skill level. Visit www.spartan.com/marathon for an exclusive offer, to find a race near you and view training and nutrition tips.

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Fully -standing desks and collection of active chairs that give you the freedom to sit, stand, perch, or lean yourself into healthy, comfortable positions that work for your body’s unique and changing needs. I have the Jarvis standing desk and the Back App chair by Fully and absolutely love love love them!

Listener Question: What About Foot Numbness While Running?

I am so frustrated with my running right now. The toes on the outside of my left foot have been going numb. This started happening a couple weeks ago, and it happens on every run now at about 1.5-2 miles in. It goes away as soon as I stop running. At first I thought it was my shoes as they have about 400 miles on them. So I got new shoes yesterday, a different brand/model and now the numbness is slightly more medial and on the bottom of my foot, but just as bad. I tried tying my laces looser, still numb. So I made them as loose as I could stand, still numb! It’s not painful, but it’s affecting my form, and it makes running exhausting and kinda miserable. Has anyone dealt with this or have any ideas or suggestions? I’m thinking of bringing my old shoes back and getting another pair just like them… maybe I just need a fresh pair of the same shoe. -Logan

I feel your pain! I had a similar problem with a pair of trainers a few years ago and realized that for some reason that particular model just didn’t work with my foot. Actually when I look back on my early running days I dealt with uncomfortable shoes a lot because I wasn’t buying the correct size and I thought that foot pain and numbness was part of the process. How wrong I was!

I was also running with a friend a few months ago and she told me that one of her feet was getting numb. Thankfully I knew to tell her to stop wearing that pair and get back to the running store for a better fit.

Many times you need to size up a half or whole size in running shoes for a comfortable fit. Usually numbness is due to a shoe being too small, either in length or width (sometimes both) or due to tight lacing. Feet size and shape change based on the time of day, menstrual cycle for women, weight loss/gain, aging and other factors and having shoes with enough room is key for comfortable running.

I have a wider foot so brands like Altra tend to work better for me. And I’ve found that for some shoe brands I can absolutely love them for shorter run and hate them for long runs. It can be a frustrating process to find the right shoe but don’t be discouraged if it takes trying a few duds beforehand.

Shoe companies often make changes between different versions of the same model that just might not work for you. Make sure the place you buy your shoes has a generous return policy so that you can get a pair that works well for you. -Angie

About Angie Spencer

Angie is a registered nurse and running coach who empowers new runners to conquer the marathon, run faster, and take their health and fitness to the next level. Join the Academy

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The Science of Endurance -Interview with Alex Hutchinson

Alex HutchinsonIn this episode we bring you a fascinating interview with Alex Hutchinson, author of the new book Endure -Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance.

In addition to being a endurance science geek, Alex was one of the few journalist allowed access to the Nike Breaking2 project in Italy where Eliud Kipchoge ran the fastest marathon in history at 2:00:25.

Alex Hutchinson writes the @sweatscience column for Outside Magazine. He’s also a contributor to The New Yorker, Popular Mechanics, and Canadian Running magazine. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge and worked as a researcher for the U.S. National Security Agency. He represented Canada internationally in track, cross-country, and road racing. Alex currently lives in Toronto.

In this conversation with talk with Alex about The Central Governor Theory, the mind body connection, how to effect your race by smiling more, why more people don’t die in the marathon, and the Nike Breaking2 project -he was one of the few journalists allowed behind the scenes. You’re going to enjoy this conversation!

photo credit: Alex Hutchinson

Also Mentioned In this Episode

Alex Hutchinson Website: http://www.alexhutchinson.net

Rhode Island Rode Races, Newport -Angie will be running this marathon on April 14, 2018.

Acer -Go to Acer.com, click on “Store”, and enter coupon code TRAINING at checkout to receive 10% off, plus free ground shipping on a Swift series laptop – Including already discounted models.

Omax3 Ultra-Pure -the purest Omega-3 supplement on the market, containing nearly 94% high- quality Omega-3s. Omega-3s are amazing at alleviating joint pain and muscle soreness—and making you feel your best, post-workout. They can also improve focus and memory, boost cardiovascular health, and more. Use our link to get a free box.

Sun Basket -makes it easy and convenient to commit to healthy eating. Get $35 off your first order through our link.

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

About Trevor Spencer

Trevor Spencer is the producer of the Marathon Training Academy Podcast. He loves to inspire people to take action in their fitness and life.

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Heroes of the Marathon [Part 2]

In this episode we bring you part 2 of our heroes of the marathon series -stories of people who set records, defied conventional wisdom, and and helped shaped our sport into what it is today.

Women’s marathoning has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time considering we weren’t allowed into races until the 1970s. There are hundreds of women who deserve to be featured in a podcast like this but for the sake of time we we be discussing five women who have made history and inspired millions.

To the best of our knowledge a woman named Stamatis Rovithi became the first woman to run a marathon when she covered the proposed Olympic course from Marathon to Athens in 1896. Later that year, at the first modern Olympic marathon, a woman named Melpomene snuck into the race. Race organizers had previously denied her the opportunity to compete so she warmed up for the race out of sight and when the starter’s gun sounded began to run along the side of the course.

Eventually she fell behind the men, but as she continued on (stopping for a glass of water along the way) and passing runners who dropped out of the race in exhaustion. She arrived at the stadium about an hour and a half after Spiridon Louis won the race. Barred from entry into the now empty stadium, she ran her final lap around the outside of the building, finishing in approximately four and a half hours.

Women’s 100m race 1928 Olympic Games

Despite strong resistance woman slipped onto marathon courses for the next 70+ years before they were officially allowed to run in 1972. Women were allowed to participate in track and field events in 1928 but 800 meters was deemed too strenuous and not allowed again until 1960.

Violet Piercy of Great Britain was the first woman to be officially timed in the marathon, when she clocked a time of 3:40:22 in a British race on October 3, 1926. Due largely to the lack of women’s marathon competition, that time stood as an unofficial world record for thirty-seven years.

On December 16, 1963, American Merry Lepper ran a time of 3:37:07 to improve slightly on Piercy’s record. Still, no highly competitive times were recorded simply because there was not women’s competition in the race.

On August 31, 1971 Adrienne Beames of Australia became the first women to run a sub-three-hour marathon, smashing that barrier with a time of 2:46:30.

In 1972 the Boston Marathon officially allowed women to run and the first winner was Nina Kuscsik in 3:10:26. She had first unofficially run Boston in 1969 and went on to PR with 2:50:22 and set a 50 mile record. Now in her late 70’s she has finished 80 marathons or beyond in her life.

1972 Boston Marathon photo credit: Boston Globe Archives

On October 28, 1973, the first all women’s marathon was held in West Germany. It was a success and the following year the Women’s International Marathon Championship was held in West Germany. Forty women from seven countries competed in the event and two years later it was even more popular and pressure mounted to have the women’s marathon at the Olympic Games.

At the time there were two main reasons that women were excluded:

  • First experts claimed that women’s health would be damaged by long-distance running. This theory was proved false not only by medical studies, but also by the success of women marathoners during the 1970s.
  • Second, the Olympic Charter stated that to be included in the Games, a women’s sport must be widely practiced in at least twenty-five countries on at least two continents and women’s marathoning, was not popular enough to include.

As women’s marathons gained popularity in the late 70’s the theory that women’s marathoning was not popular enough to become an Olympic sport was dramatically disproved. After a long battle the committee approved adding the women’s marathon to the 1984 games in Los Angeles.

Roberta Gibb

Bobbi Gibb was born in the US in 1942 and grew up around Boston. She loved to run as a child saying, “I loved the sense of running, one foot in front of the other, on this earth. When I run, I feel alive and part of the universe.” She later started running longer distances with a long distance runner named William Bingay (her first husband). She studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Tufts University, the University of California, and the New England School of Law. Her running consisted of a daily 8 mile commute to school in white leather Red Cross nurse’s shoes (because there wasn’t any women’s specific running gear at the time). She trained for 2 years to run Boston, covering 40 miles one day. On another beach run in CA she accidently strayed into Mexico and was detained by US Border Patrol.

When she applied to enter the Boston Marathon at age 23, director Will Cloney informed her that women were not physiologically capable of running marathons and couldn’t run more than one and a half miles competitively. On race day in 1966 she wore her brother’s clothes over a black bathing suit and hid in the bushes until about half the pack of runners had started and then jumped into the race. The other runners and crowd were very supportive and the press started to follow her progress. Like many runners of the day she didn’t drink any water or take in any fuel. The governor of MA was even at the finish line to shake her hand when she finished in 3:21:40 (ahead of 290 men). Her feat would make front page news the next day and she went on to run it in 1967 (the same year Kathrine Switzer had a bib number). In 1996 she was officially recognized as having won the race in 1966-1968 during a time when women weren’t officially allowed to enter (until 1972).

She said,

“I hadn’t intended to make a feminist statement,” said Gibb. “I was running against the distance [not the men] and I was measuring myself with my own potential.”

She was denied a place in medical school but went on to practice law, studied neuroscience, and work as an artist creating sculpture and painting. She also wrote a memoir called “Wind in the Fire: a Personal Journey”, has been given many honors over the years and is a sought after speaker. At age 73 she continues to run an hour several times each week and has one son.

Kathrine Switzer

photo credit: AP PHOTO

Kathrine Switzer was born in 1947 in Germany on a US Army base. The family returned to the US in 1949 and she attended Lynchburg College and Syracuse University studying journalism and English Literature earning a master’s degree. During her college years she ran long distance, often with the men’s cross country team.

In 1967 she entered the Boston Marathon as K.V. Switzer and was given bib number 261. At 2 miles into the race official Jock Semple tried to physically remove her but was blocked by her Syracuse teammates. She finished in 4:20, nearly a full hour after Roberta Gibb. Switzer and many other women runners petitioned the Boston Athletic Association to allow women to participate in the marathon. In 1972 women were officially allowed to run Boston. She says,

“I knew if I quite, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26 plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I’d never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win. My fear and humiliation turned to anger.”

She went on to win the 1974 NYC Marathon in 3:07:29 and her PR is 2:51:37 in Boston in 1975. She became a television commentator for marathons, continued to be active in journalism, and wrote two books. She ran the 2017 Boston Marathon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her historic marathon and her bib number was retired. She is currently married to Roger Robinson. You can hear more of her story on episode #211.

Grete Anderson Waitz

Grete Waitz was born in Norway in 1953 and showed potential in running early on setting national junior titles. She ran in the 1972 Olympics in Munich competing in the 1500 meters and also competed in distances up to 5,000 meters at many other championships.

She was invited to run the NYC Marathon by race director Fred Lebow in 1978 and in her first marathon got first place and took two minutes off the women’s world record. In 1979 she was the first woman to run under 2:30. She went on to win the NYC Marathon nine times. She also won the Stockholm Marathon and the London Marathon twice with her PB of 2:24:54 coming in 1986.

She competed at many other different distances on the track, road races, and cross country and took the silver medal in the 1st women’s Olympic Marathon in 1984. She completed her last marathon in NYC in 1992 with her friend Fred Lebow. Grete helped organize corporate races, coached, did charity work, was a popular motivational speaker, and the author of several books. She died of cancer in 2011 at age 57 and was buried with government honor in Norway and has been recognized in many ways since around the world. She was survived by her husband and there is a NYRR race called “Grete’s Great Gallop 10k” in her honor.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

photo credit: Los Angles Times

Joan Benoit was born in 1957 in the United States and resides in Maine. She began running to help recover from a broken leg suffered while slaloming. She attended Bowdoin College and North Carolina State earning all American honors. She won the Boston Marathon in 1979, setting an American and course record of 2:35:15. Despite undergoing Achilles tendon surgery she won the Boston Marathon again in 1983, this time breaking the world record.

In March 1984, Benoit injured her knee severely during a 20-mile training run, forcing her to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery just 17 days before the United States Olympic Marathon Trials were scheduled. However, she recovered from the surgery much more quickly than expected, and showed up at the trials as the woman to beat. She is best known for winning gold in the 1st women’s Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles in 1984 with a time of 2:24 at the age of 27. She took the lead 3 miles into the race and held on strong.

In 1985, Samuelson won the Chicago Marathon with an American record time of 2:21:21 (her PR). A decade later in 1998 Samuelson founded the TD Bank 10K as a way to give back to the sport which has given her so much and to benefit children’s charity. On October 10, 2010, she ran 2:47:50 for 43rd place at the Chicago Marathon—the site of her American record a quarter century earlier— and recording the fastest-ever performance by a woman over 52. She says,

“For me, running is now about storytelling. As long as I’m passionate about the sport and as long as I’m capable of running, I’ll stay with it.”

She and her husband have two children and she continues to work as a coach, motivational speaker, and sports commentator. Now at age 60 she wants to be the first woman in her 60’s to run sub-3:00 in the marathon.

Paula Radcliffe

Paula Radcliffe was born in England in 1973. She took up running at age seven influenced by her father who was a marathoner. Despite suffering from asthma and anemia she ran cross country while in school. At age 10 she accompanied her father to watch Ingrid Kristiansen run in the London Marathon and that inspired her to become an athlete. She attended Loughborough University and got a degree in modern European studies while competing in track. Despite foot and ankle injury she continued to do well at the 5,000m distance.

She made the move up to the marathon distance in 2002 and won the London Marathon. She set the current women’s world marathon record at the 2003 London marathon in 2:15:25.

She also won the NYC Marathon in 2004 and the London Marathon in 2005. She suffered from injury over the years and took a break from running to rehab and have her first baby. She returned to competition and won the NYC Marathon in 2007 and 2008. Injury continued to plague her and she took 19 months off to heal and have her second child. Her final professional marathon was in London in 2017.

Throughout her career she competed in the 3,000 meters to the marathon and personal bests include 14:29 in 5,000m, 30:01 in 10,000m, 1:05:40 in half marathon and 2:15:25 for the marathon world record (which has stood for 16 years). She represented Great Britain in the Olympics four times and has received numerous awards over the years. She has been an outspoken voice against doping, has written two books, is a BBC commentator, and currently resides with her family in Monte Carlo.

Paul Radcliffe is a good person to end with because she shows just how far women’s marathon running has come in just a short time. When Abebe Bikila set the world record at the 1960 Olympic marathon his time was 2:15:16. Did anyone imagine that a woman could run that fast too? Just 43 years later in 2003 Paul ran 2:15.25! Her time was only 10 minutes slower than the men’s record at the time.

Cited in an article in the Guardian, Hugh Brasher, the London Marathon’s elite director describes the “the Paula effect” upon female runners in his country.

“After her world record, you could hardly buy a pair of women’s running shoes because most shops had sold out . . . Paula made something that was slightly eccentric for women to do entirely normal.”


Since I was born in 1978 it’s easy for me to not even think about the wide variety of running, racing and gear that’s available to women. But looking back at the women’s marathon history is a good reminder for us not to take running, racing and the opportunities we have today for granted. It seems crazy that it wasn’t until the 70’s that women were actually allowed to run in marathons. Unfortunately there are still people who have the mistaken notion that long distance running is damaging to women. I remember a FB question that we got about 3 years ago from a listener whose mother was trying to dissuade her from running because she was afraid it would affect her uterus. So, in some parts of the world there are still mindset shifts taking place.

Things like women’s specific running clothes, shoes and sports bras weren’t available just over 40 years ago. For example: The first commercially available sports bra was the “Free Swing Tennis Bra” introduced by Glamorise Foundations in 1975. The first general exercise bra, initially called a “jockbra”, was invented in 1977 (it was literally two jock straps sewn together). Lisa Lindahl and her friend Polly Smith were trying to come up with a supportive bra for runners when as a joke Lisa’s husband put a jockstrap around his chest and said, “Here’s your jockbra ladies.” Today sports bras are a 7 billion dollar industry worldwide.

Even though running shoes or trainers have been around since the late 1860’s the first women’s sports shoes were not invented until the 1920’s and basically look like torture devices. It was during the 1920’s that women were first widely allowed to participate in sport but the big dilemma was, “wouldn’t it detract from their femininity?” Enter the high heel “athletic” shoe (pictured here).

It wasn’t until 1976 that companies would begin to manufacture women’s specific running shoes.




It’s also remarkable how these ladies continue to inspire! We just heard news that Kathrine Switzer is running the London Marathon for the first time this year. “Now aged 71, she will be coming to run the London Marathon for the first time in the same year that the UK celebrates the suffragettes who 100 years ago helped convince Parliament to agree that women should be allowed to vote”.

Also Mentioned in This Episode

Fully -standing desks and active chairs that give you the freedom to sit, stand, perch, or lean yourself into healthy, comfortable positions that work for your body’s unique and changing needs.

Molekule -complete air purification experience with breakthrough science that is finally capable of destroying air pollutants at a molecular level. Use the code MTA at checkout for $75 off your first order.

RX Bar -a whole food protein bar made with a few simple, clean ingredients, which all serve a purpose: Egg whites for protein. Dates to bind. Nuts for texture. Use the code MTA for 25% off your first order.

Healthiq.com -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.

Easy Ways to Carry Your Phone While Running
Recommendations from MTA fans . . .

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