Posted by: Susan Loken | May 5, 2014

How I Prepared for the 2014 Boston Marathon

I always tell my runners to begin with a goal and work backwards.

My goal for the 2014 Boston Marathon was to break the Women’s Veterans (ages 50-59) course record, which is currently held by running legend and Olympic Gold Medalist, Joan Samuelson.

TIP: Goals are a MUST. Set a challenging, yet achievable goal.

I set my goal, but knew that I also needed support. It’s true what they say: It takes a village to raise a child or, in my case, run a strong race. In the 2008 Olympic Trials, I worked with the brilliant running coach Jeff Messer and ran a 2:42! With another big goal before me, I asked my trustworthy and respectable coach to train me for Boston.

In order to achieve any marathon goal, you must stay healthy and injury-free. With age, the importance of PRE-HAB has drastically increased. Two important neighbors in my “village” are Nicole Armbrust (Bio Mechanical Specialist & Physical Therapist) at JS Running and Watus Cooper (Strength Coach) at No Excuses Training.

I began working with my physical therapist, Nicole, after the 2012 USA Olympic Trials. I ran the Trials with hamstrings that were almost completely pulled from the bone and I feared that might never run fast again. Nicole worked tirelessly to strengthen my biomechanical weaknesses. She took time to understand  the injury and prescribe the best strength exercises for my issue, and now my hamstrings are a non-issue, as long as I continue my exercises. By focusing energy on improvement, my weaknesses have become my strengths.

My strength coach, Watus Cooper, keeps my aging body strong and agile. With his expertise and guidance, I am able to keep my 50-year-young body in top shape to run every mile and achieve every goal.

When you find something that works for your body, you make it a habit. I have been visiting Dr. Michael Akerson at his Sports and Family Care Clinic since I began running 15 years ago. He has been there assisting me through every injury, answering all of my questions and celebrating my accomplishments.

TIP: Build your Village of Support. Pre-Hab is so much better than Re-Hab!

If you’re not sure where to begin, ask for referrals. Talk to friends, family and fellow runners and join existing networks of support. If you find a doctor or coach who is 100% supportive of your goals and dreams, keep them close!

Once you’ve found your team, it’s time to begin training. Wondering what it takes to run the Boston Marathon?

Here’s an overview of my regimen:

  • Average Weekly Miles: 65-75
  • Strength Training: Twice per week
  • Biomechanic Check: Once per week (Nicole and I call it my weekly “pit stop”)
  • Physical exam and blood panel: At least once per year (I recently completed a full blood panel with shocking results, which I’ll share soon.)
  • Allergy Testing: Once, with possible follow-up (Following my test, I have eliminated several foods from my diet and feel better than ever!)

TIP: Have a PLAN. Care for you body and take steps to enhance your physical and mental well-being.

Along with my team of supporters and healthy lifestyle, I also believe that it’s important to run training races. This will get you into the proper mindset, offer long-distance competitive running practice and help you estimate your full marathon time.

My Training Races leading up to Boston:

  • 2013 November 3rd, won the Women’s Half Marathon in 1:22:07
  • 2014 January 19th, placed 7th overall at the PF Chang’s Half Marathon in 1:22:36
  • 2014 March 1st, placed 4th overall at the Phoenix Half Marathon in 1:22:36

Fun fact: Based on a pattern from my past race results, I can calculate my full marathon time by doubling my half marathon time and then adding 3-4 minutes. According this formula, a realistic marathon goal for me would be 2:48-2:49. This was PERFECT for my goal of sub-2:50!

TIP: Training Races are extremely important for tracking progress and for helping you set a realistic marathon goal.

Life is full of beauty and success, but the victories are also sprinkled with challenges. The key is to view the challenging circumstances as opportunities to learn and grow.

Challenges leading up to the race:

  • In early April, I tweaked my right ankle and caused a some damage while doing a single leg balance exercise.
  • On April 6th, I was enjoying a beautiful day boating with my family and friends when we hit a big wave. The impact tossed me into the air and dropped me back down, causing terrible tailbone and rib pain.
  • Due to these injuries, I had to cut back on training and instead receive treatment for my foot and tailbone. Perhaps most importantly, I had to find a way to stay positive and avoid stress in those weeks leading up to the marathon.

Life is full of challenges, but they can help us if we view them as lessons rather than disasters. My lessons were to stick to balancing exercises on the floor (not the Bosu Ball) and to stay off boats in the weeks leading up to a BIG marathon. The most important lesson of all was to work from where I am and always do my best!

TIP: Behind every great marathon is a story of the ups and downs during training. When you step on that starting line you have to believe in yourself, believe in your training, not make excuses, keep your thoughts positive and make yourself a promise that you will BE YOUR VERY BEST & NEVER GIVE UP!

Keep on Believing,

PS…Race Day Recap Next!!


  1. Great post. Say hi to Jeff Messer for me! Go Wesleyan!

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