Karen Sanders – Marathon Mom
I’m Karen – A mom, a wife, a runner and a fitness instructor.
I first started running when I was 22. I wanted to lose weight and I realized that running was the easiest way to do it. I did my first 5K when I was 26 and my first marathon when I was 27. I trained mostly by myself and ran 4:03 at Grandma’s Marathon despite the high humidity and heat. I was disappointed as my goal was to run under 4 hours.
Then I had Jack and I didn’t run another marathon until 2011 when I was 31. I ran 3:49:57 at the Fargo Marathon. Again, I was disappointed as my goal had been to run under 3:40 to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The silver lining was that my time did qualify me (by 3 seconds!) for the London Marathon, a marathon that was close to my heart for a number of reasons. Obviously, being from England, I had always wanted to run the London Marathon, but the other reason was that this was the marathon where my dad had got his 2:29 PR. I made a plan to run the 2013 London Marathon.
In March 2012, Grace was born. She was an incredibly easy baby and I was able to start running again just 3 weeks after she was born. I was running 10Ks by August and a half marathon PR by October. In December, I started training with the Lifetime Fitness Boston Marathon training group, as the London Marathon was only 6 days after Boston. This was when my running performance really started to improve.
In March 2013, I ran 1:13:28 in the 10 mile, which even included a 10K PR! (And very nearly a 5K PR!). But then came London. The goal was to run under 3:35, again going after that Boston qualifier (which had lowered by 5 minutes since Fargo). Everything on paper said I could run faster than 3:35. On the day, however, it didn’t go my way. I ran it the right way; I didn’t go out too fast, but by 10 miles I was hurting. By 18 miles, I was walking and I felt like I was going to throw-up. By 22 miles, I was feeling really sick and was guided off the course by medical staff. I spent 2 hours in the St John’s Ambulance, waiting for Jeff and the kids to come and get me. My disappointment was bigger than ever before. If there was one marathon that I wanted to finish, it was London. I was embarrassed.
I told Jeff that I never wanted to run a marathon again. He told me that he thought that it was a mistake. He said that I’d put in too much work to give up and that I had potential to fulfill. When we returned to the US, I started training again. This time for Grandma’s Marathon in June.
In May 2013, I ran 1:36 in the half marathon, coming 1st in my age group. I also ran 21:19 in the 5K, another big PR. I was ready to kick some butt in the marathon. The stats told me I could qualify for Boston, but my experience made me worry. At the last minute, Jeff decided that he would run with me as my pacer. My running coaches said I was the one to watch and the pressure and expectation was really high. We talked in depth about pacing and what the real goal should be. The stats said I could run 3:30 and I agonized over whether 8 min/mile would be doable for me, given my experience in London. Finally, I told Jeff, “let’s do it.”
June 22, 2013 arrived – Grandma’s Marathon. The weather was perfect (unlike that day in 2007, which was about as bad as it could get). There was even a slight tail wind! Right from the start, I knew it was my day. Jeff carried the watch and paced me perfectly. I wore the heart rate monitor and he could see on the watch if I started to struggle. He told me when to tangent left or right; he grabbed my water at the water stops and handed me my energy gels at the right time. He did everything for me and all I had to do was run. At 18 miles, I started hurting and told him that I needed to slow down. I saw the frustration on his face. I knew he was thinking, “here we go again.” But, all I needed was one mile to recuperate and that mile was only 15 seconds slower. I picked it up again. At 20 miles, Jeff told me that if I continued at that pace, I would run 3:32. I said that was fine with me. At 23 miles, Jeff told me that I had really picked up the pace and if I ran 7:50 pace all the way in, I would run under 3:30! I said, “OK, understood. I’ll do my best. Just let me run in it.” And I ran the race of my life. I averaged 7:40 for the last 3 miles (the fasted 3 miles of the marathon) and crossed the finish in 3:29:32. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to finally fulfill my potential – with my husband at my side. I couldn’t have done it without him. Not only did I qualify for Boston, but I killed it. 5.5 minutes under the qualifying time, which meant that I would get to register for Boston before it opened to everyone.