Posted by: Susan Loken | May 3, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016: Teamwork, Training and Long-Term Goals

2016 Boston Brad Pic

2016 Boston Marathon Photo Credit Brad Rogers

To experience the fullness of life, we all need to dream big and set goals just beyond the horizon–we need to challenge ourselves to be better each day, at every stage of our lives. Sometime those big goals take longer than a few weeks, several months or a couple years.

It took my athlete Kimi Sherrill five years and seven marathons to qualify for the Boston Marathon with enough cushion to be guaranteed entry into the race. Her marathon progression went like this, 4:15, 4:16, 4:09, 4:00, 4:00, 3:54, 3:47. During this time, she not only grew faster and stronger, but developed lifelong friendships, boosted her confidence, supported a healthy lifestyle, and learned to overcome setbacks. Most importantly, she’s a shining example to her daughters, family, and friends of big dreams, hard work, patience and refusing to give up.

Every goal will be trailed by challenges, setbacks, and sometimes failures, so it’s important to be persistent and stay the course. I’ve been working towards the same Boston Marathon goal for over three years, and I’m not ready to give up yet!

Year: 2014

Age: 50

Goal: Break the Boston Marathon Veterans Course  record (2:50:36), held by Joan Benoit Samuelson

Challenge: Calf injury

Result: Ran a 2:55 with a calf injury, finished 1st in my age group, and missed the course record

Year: 2015

Age: 51

Goal: Break the Boston Marathon Veterans Course record (2:50:36), held by Joan Benoit Samuelson

Challenge: Hamstring injury

Result: I didn’t make it to the starting line because of a hamstring injury

Year: 2016

Age: 52

Goal: Break the Boston Marathon Veterans Course record (2:50:36), held by Joan Benoit Samuelson

Challenge: Staying injury free

Result: Made it to starting line fit & healthy, keep reading for details

2016 Boston Elite Kit(1)

Ready to ROCK the 2016 Boston Marathon in my new Elite Running Kit, compliments of Brooks

Training to Prevent Injury

Since injuries have held me back from reaching my Boston Marathon goals over the last few years, I decided to take a new preventative approach. I worked hard with my amazing physical therapists, Nicole Armbrust and Renee Hodges, to concoct the perfect recipe for staying injury-free. I look at physical therapy as the nuts and bolts that hold me together. Though far from glamorous, addressing my weaknesses before they become issues is allowing me to continue my hard, endorphin-filled workouts without fear of injury

After tightening my nuts and bolts in physical therapy, I worked with Kyle Herrig at Triplex Training on functional strength training. Along with daily PT exercises, I’ve added three functional strength workout per week to my weekly training plan. Functional strength training emphasizes the body’s natural ability to move across three planes of motion, promoting better joint mobility, more stability, and more efficient motor patterns. The benefits of functional strength training are so evident to me that I’ve joined forces with Kyle to help other runners reach their goals through BTB/Triplex Running Groups!


Triplex Training workout with Traci Rogers and Coach Kyle Herrig

Before training for the 2016 Boston Marathon, I spent the summer training with coach John Reich and the Sonoran Distance Project for the Monumental Marathon, with the goal of qualifying for my 4th USA Olympic Trials. Truth be told, I knew that running a sub 2:43 was out-of-reach, but I had to try. If I shot for the moon and missed, I knew I would still be amongst the stars!

In the fall of 2015, I ran the Monumental Marathon in 2:53, broke the Veteran’s Course record for that course, but missed qualifying for the Olympic Trials. Though it was great breaking the course record, I knew it was not the prestigious Boston Marathon. Following this small win, I was 200% focused on Boston, and on running a sub 2:50. I was committed to do whatever it took!

Setting Goals

Let’s talk about goals for a minute. There’s no foolproof formula for choosing the perfect goal, but I’ve found what works for me. You want to select a goal that:

  1. Inspires you
  2. Motivates you,
  3. Means something to you, and
  4. Is very, very hard to achieve, but
  5. Is also very, very possible with lots of hard work

If your goal is completely out-of-reach, your efforts will be half-hearted and your inevitable failure will be especially disappointing. I experienced this feeling when training for and running the Monumental Marathon with the goal of running my 4th Olympic Trials. That experience reminded me that you’ve got to believe in yourself, and in your dreams before you can achieve anything!

After completing the Monumental Marathon, I was excited to chase a realistic dream–a goal that I knew with every ounce of my being was possible. Because I believed in myself 100%, I was willing to work hard and make sacrifices to achieve my goal. I felt so alive, excited, and ready to kick butt!

With age and experience, our priorities and physical capabilities change, so it’s important to continually reevaluate what you want out of life. At every decade and with each new day, discover the goals that make you excited to wake up in the morning and become the best version of yourself, and commit to making those dreams a reality!

After reflecting on my goals, I quit the Sonoran Distance Project, though I still serve on the board of directors. It’s a phenomenal group, but I was wearing too many hats and wanted to fully engage myself into my training for Boston and fully represent the BTB/Triplex Training running group.

Developing an Unbeatable Mind

My training journey for the 2016 Boston Marathon began with a 3-day Unbeatable Mind Retreat, organized by former Navy Seal, Mark Divine. After my son completed a life-changing, 3-week intensive immersion program (similar to SEAL hell week) and emerged realizing his power to achieve anything, I wanted a taste of that. I wasn’t willing to physically punish my body the way my son had, so I opted for the retreat and the opportunity to expand my mind, my focus, and my self-motivation. As athletes, we must obviously train our bodies, but it is just as important to have a strong mind. At the retreat, I learned the 5 Mountains of Self-Mastery: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Intuition/Awareness, and Kokoro Spirit. Though it was expensive, the retreat gave me a new arsenal of mind tools to help me step up my game for Boston. Hooyah!

Unbeatable Mind Retreat

Unbeatable Mind Retreat. Getting out of our comfort zone and working out in the COLD surf.

After the retreat, I was fired up and ready to roll! In my opinion, every runner is better off with a coach, even if the runner is a coach themselves. A coach offers support, accountability, and objectivity when you either need to be pushed harder or hold back. Knowing this, I contacted Olympian Andrew Lemoncello about coaching me for Boston; he agreed. Whoo-hooo!

2016 Boston Marathon Coach Andrew(1)

Me and Coach Andrew Lemoncello

Training was fantastic and I nailed almost every workout! I performed my hardest workouts with my BTB athletes, all of us faster and stronger. I set my eyes on the prize and laid out my regimented schedule. I went to functional strength training (Triplex Training) 3x per week, did my physical therapy exercises (from Renee Hodges) 4-5x per week, dialed in my nutrition, ensured 8 hours of sleep per night, practiced mental exercises and breathing learned at my Sealfit retreat, received weekly massages from Stephanie Del Giorgio and Shauna Brown, and got weekly scraping from Courtney Warren PT at Triplex Training.

The Power of Teamwork

Together We Can is the motto for the merging of Triplex and BTB. It takes a collaborative team to succeed, and I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by a team filled with great friends and wonderful resources!


Success is NOT a solo journey! Together We Can!

In January 2016, I ran the PF Chang’s Half Marathon in 1:22. In February 2016, I ran the Phoenix Half in 1:22 and 20 miles of the LA Marathon at a comfortable 6:30 pace. I’m a one-speed marathon runner; based on my history, you can double my half marathon time, add 2-4 minutes and voila! This formula puts me at a realistic marathon time of 2:48! I was fit–both physically and mentally!

Four weeks before Boston, my friend Renee Sacco told me about Cerulean, a Scottsdale establishment that offers Cryotherpy and Hypobaric Therapy, among other unique body conditioning programs. Wondering whether Cerulean’s cutting-edge technology could offer me an extra boost, I took an extensive medically practiced V02 test and went 3x per week for four weeks to sit in the hypobaric pod, cellular repair and do cryotherapy. I will take a follow-up V02 test in a couple weeks to compare my LT & V02 max. I’m eager to see the improvement and share the results with you! It would take an entire blog to talk about the benefits of all the services and high altitude classes offered at Cerulean and I will write this blog soon. For not, I urge you to check out their website and stop in for a tour and information! You will be HAPPY you did!


At Cerulean, trying out Cryotherapy and the Hypobaric Pod

Boston, Here I Come!

After months of preparation, the day has arrived–Boston Marathon 2016! Not only did my training and preparations set me up for success, but I was going to run as an Elite in the Boston Marathon! What an honor, and priceless experience. Yes, I’ve ran as an Elite many times before, but never at the world’s most prestigious marathon, and at the age of 52! I felt like a little kid on Christmas the night before the race, anxiously awaiting the experience of a lifetime–I knew in my soul that it would be the race of the decade! On top of that, Brooks kindly sent me an Elite racing kit; so, I was not only lining up with the world’s best at the Boston Marathon, but I had a very fast and cool-looking outfit to carry me to the finish. Seriously, pinch me! This is dream stuff for a girl like me!

The morning of the race, my husband walked me to the Elite bus that was being police escorted to the start. We arrived at a church full of yoga mats, water bottles, sport drinks, bathrooms, and a street to warm up on. The weather seemed perfect 68 with sunshine!

2016 Boston Elite Bus

Getting onto the Elite Bus! I was so excited and eager to start the race!

It was special to share the moment with two of my friends–Katie McGee and Theresa Lowery! I dialed in my nutrition with a big carbo-loaded lunch the day before, a lighter carbo dinner (pasta, chicken, bland red sauce, and UCAN electrolyte drink), a peanut butter sandwich, banana and UCAN drink at 3:00 am, and 1.5 scoops of UCAN powder with 6 oz of water and UCAN electrolyte before the race.


UCAN is my fuel of choice!

At 9:25 am, we marched to the starting line in front of a huge cheering crowd. Just thinking of that moment gives me goose bumps! I didn’t want the moment to end!

At this point my heart was leaping all over the place because while I knew I had to be SEAL Strong for the next 26.2 miles, I also knew that everything in training went according to plan, the weather was almost perfect, I had two fast friends to work with, I was fit, I had a goal that made my sing–I was running not for my own personal glory, but to inspire others to believe that they can be the best version of themselves at any age! The older I get, the more passionate I am about inspiring others to live healthy and fit now so that they can live young and active lives as they age. Seeing my mother–at a young 72–suffer declining health, due to 50+ years of smoking, unhealthy eating habits, and little exercise breaks my heart. My purpose in life it to encourage and inspire everyone I encounter to change their bad habits, develop healthy lifestyles, and chase dreams that make them feel young and alive!

At 9:32 the gun goes off. I look down at the bracelet on my wrist and think of my mom, wearing the same bracelet on her wrist. It reads: I STILL GOT A LOT OF FIGHT LEFT IN ME. She uses it as daily inspiration in her fight to extend her life and I use it to remind myself that I can continue to  chase my dreams with passion and purpose. We both have a lot of fight left in us!


2016 Boston Marathon Elite Women’s Start


We began running. My goal was to run 6:20-6:30 average pace for the first 13.1 miles, being cautious not to expend too much energy on the uphill and not getting carried away on the downhills. We had a nice little pack and I was comfortably tucked in, not feeling too much wind nor too much heat. The miles clicked away, and I was right on pace.

By Mile 10, our pack had broken off. I had no idea if they were right behind me, or far behind. I had a goal and I was on a mission, so I knew I had to focus on myself. My splits continued to slow, although my effort continued to increase. My half split was 1:25, a couple of minutes slower than I had planned. In my mind, I thought “Perfect! I’ve saved extra energy for the final 10K kick, and I still had a lot of fight left in me!” I have no idea why people say that the first 10K of the Boston Marathon is downhill because, to me, it’s a nonstop roller coaster–a never-ending up, up, up, and down! I kept repeating in my head that what goes up must come down to keep me strong on the uphill.

I took water at every water station and alternated with sport drink. I took one gel every 5 miles. I was dialed in and doing everything right! Yet, I just kept getting slower and slower. My body was working very hard–much harder than it should have been at this pace, and at this point in the race. It was admittedly a bit warm, but I never felt especially warm and there was a nice headwind the entire way to keep me cool. Something was taking its toll on my body, but I couldn’t figure out what. The headwind didn’t feel too strong, and I wasn’t hot. However, my body was working too hard to keep up my goal pace into the wind. I was slowly getting  dehydrated from the combination of slight headwind and slight heat. It was just enough to push me over the edge.


I must have repeated my mantra about one million times during the marathon!! I am now a proud ambassador for Momentum Designs

The Final Push

I kept telling myself to give 100% until mile 21, and then you must give 120% for the last five miles in order to finish under 2:50. I was not ready to give up! I was fighting with every ounce of energy I had!! My effort kept increasing, but my pace continued to slow. I stopped looking at my watch and just told myself to FIGHT until the very end, giving it my all with every single step. At my Sealfit retreat, I learned the power of focus and just how much our mind controls our body. So, I told my knees to lift, my arms to swing and my glutes to fire! My body desperately wanted and needed to stop, but I dug deep told my body to fight, and that rest would just have to wait. 

When I turned on Boylston, I heard the crowds roaring and saw the finish line. I told myself, “You still got a lot of fight left in you! Fight for it! It takes a fight to be your best! FIGHT!”

I finished in 2:57, far from my 2:48 record-breaking goal. I placed 2nd in my age group, 5th Elite Master (women over 40), and 55th overall female. However, the second I crossed the finish line, I was so proud of myself for staying in the fight when my body so badly wanted to quit. In my heart, I knew that I had given it my ALL for the day, and there was nothing I could have done better. I was proud of my effort, proud of my fight and proud of my 2016 Boston Marathon finish.

2016 Boston Finish Line

Crossing the finish line of the 2016 Boston Marathon!

I was escorted to the Elite Tent, where my calves and feet cramped up so bad that I wanted to scream (this never happens to me!) After the cramps subsided and I saw Theresa and Katie and gave them huge hugs. Sharing this day with them was priceless. I made my way back to the hotel where I was meeting my husband. My first call was to my mother; she was so proud.

2016 Boston with Theresa

After the race with Theresa Lowry. We may have missed our big time goals, but we didn’t miss out on what’s important…the moment, the experience, the journey, the friendships!


At this point, enough time had passed that I was still proud of my effort, but disappointed to miss a goal that had meant so much to me, a goal that I was ready to achieve and a goal that I knew was possible. It was not a selfish goal, but a goal that I hoped would inspire other 50+ women to believe that they can live young lives at any age. Within a few hours, I was already letting go of my disappointment and dreaming of 2017 and running a sub 2:50!

I asked my husband what he thought of my trying again next year, as he knows the time and dedication it takes to do your personal best. Without hesitation, he looked at me and said, “Of course I support you! I wouldn’t expect you NOT to go back and try again.” Best hubby EVER!

My BTB athletes had a mixed day, as the marathon brings for most running groups. A few ran personal bests, a couple just enjoyed the experience, some tried hard and missed their goals, and one had the worst experience of her life. This, my friend, is the marathon.

boston group

Team BTB post race celebration of victory, defeat and most importantly friendship, moments and the journey!

It took my runner Kimmie Sherrill five years and seven marathons to reach her goal of qualifying for Boston, but along the way she achieved far more than she could have dreamed. Her five-year journey was priceless, not because of her final achievement, but because of her new friendships, milestones along the way, lessons learned, and the realization of her own personal potential. The look on her daughters’ faces when Kimmie finally reached her goal was incredible, and the same awe and pride was reflected on Kimmie’s face. And her journey has only just begun!


Kimmie Sherrill after achieving her dream goal of qualifying for the Boston marathon in 3:47:56 and her ridiculously proud coach!! Priceless Moment!!

Sometimes our goals can take longer than we anticipate, and require more effort, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. It may take me five years to achieve my goal of breaking the Boston Marathon Veterans Course record (2:50:36) but, like my amazing runner Kimmie, I’m going to enjoy, learn, and cherish every step of the journey. I can’t wait until next year when I cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon and call my mom to share the moment with her–to tell her I fought hard, accomplished my goal, and am already dreaming up my next goal!

Keep on Believing, Keep on Running & Keep on Chasing your Goals,

Susan Loken

2016 Boston Award

Accepting award for a hard earned 2nd place


  1. All I can say is I JUST LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Kelly

    From: Believe Train Become To: Sent: Tuesday, May 3, 2016 1:54 PM Subject: [New post] Boston Marathon 2016: Teamwork, Training and Long-Term Goals #yiv8486735838 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8486735838 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8486735838 a.yiv8486735838primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8486735838 a.yiv8486735838primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8486735838 a.yiv8486735838primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8486735838 a.yiv8486735838primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8486735838 | Susan Loken posted: “To experience the fullness of life, we all need to dream big and set goals just beyond the horizon–we need to challenge ourselves to be better each day, at every stage of our lives. Sometime those big goals take longer than a few weeks, several months ” | |

  2. Susan, thanks for all that you do for so many. Thanks, especially, for reflecting on this particular journey with so much heart, detail, and generosity. We are all blessed that you share your wisdom and talents and energy. You are an irreplaceable leader in our community. Best of luck next year!

  3. THANK YOU TRISH!!! I appreciate your kind words!!!

  4. Right back at you Kelly LeCours!! xoxoxoxo

  5. Loved this!! Thanks so much :))

  6. Hi ☺

    This is a terrific post, so well written. I love what you wrote about goals – but on the other hand that is so tricky b/c who are we to say what our limits are, what we can accomplish? So often I put a goal in my head, and achieve JUST that. Now had I lowered time, or upped the number, would I have gotten that? Such a fine balance. But as I write this I realize that its your gut telling you what you can go get – and so ignore this whole email, I figured it out while talking out loud ☺
    Anyways, You’re a studdette. Never forget that.

  7. Hey CB, I truly believe we should set our goals HIGH and we often achieve more than we ever thought possible! I’ve set high, what seems out of reach goals, and achieved many over the years & still plan to hit many more!! However, I’m not sure it was realistic or possible for me to run a sub 2:43 marathon, one of my best times ever, at age 52. I know my body very, very well and even with all the training in the world I really think it was unrealistic and very frustrating training for a goal that in your heart and soul you know isn’t going to happen. I would LOVE to be a beautiful singer and I could take all the voice lessons in the world and that will never happen. When runners come to me with HUMONGOUS goals that seem way out of reach, I’m crazy excited to help them achieve this goal and most of the time they do! We simply break the big goal into little baby step goals that build confidence and set the journey up for success and learning. I agree with you that often times we do not know our limits, but sometimes we do. Love you!!!

  8. Hi Susan, Your blog is extremely inspiring. I am a 42 year old runner with a 3 year old and a one year old having kids later in life due to athletics & well life! I was a runner who switched to triathlon for several years racing the ironman distance and then switched back to running after having kids. I have a totally newfound love of the sport and reading your story has been inspiring to know that as a masters athlete and mommy, one can accomplish anything they set their mind to. I find that training and racing is authentic now and makes me a better mom and person. Previously, I thought it would be selfish to set personal athletic goals after having kids but after a year back racing I find I need to have these goals in my life as I always had them and then took them away from myself. I also feel its a great example for my children to see mommy at the finish line. Im actually starting to get faster in my 40s than I was 10 years ago. I have recently set a huge goal to try to qualify to the 2020 marathon trials and came across your story after trying to research masters women that have been in the trials hoping that some 40+ year old ladies have raced and your name kept re-appearing! While Im not sure it will happen, I am slowly creeping away working my way back to fitness and setting a multi year goal. I appreciate reading your insights and experience & that retreat sounds amazing! Thank you and congratulations on all of your successes.

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