It’s been a while since I ran a feature on an awesome runner, and I couldn’t think of a better person to help me kick the Running Shoes series back into gear than Laura. See, I knew Laura before she had a cool running account on Instagram (renegade cow!). I’ve followed Laura’s training for over two years, and she is definitely the portrait of hard work and training that has paid off.
Laura is a 3 x Boston Qualifier, wife, and mom to toddler Lincoln. She also works full time in marketing; yet, she still finds time to log HEAVY heavy mileage weeks. It’s astonishing that Laura gets up, drags herself onto the pavement at 4 am, and almost always nails her workouts. So, of course I wanted to hear about her road to Boston.
Laura wasn’t a high school track star or any type of athlete in high school. She actually didn’t start running until age 24, and her reasons were to lessen her anxiety and begin losing weight. Before then, she was the party girl. “Sober Laura decided running would be a ‘cheap’ way to easy my anxiety and also lose some weight. Several thousand dollars later, here we are.”
Her first run was a lot like mine: Intermittent thoughts of “I can’t breathe,” “what the heck am I doing,” and “hey I think I might love this.” Laura says that while she thought her “lungs would disintegrate,” she started to feel better and felt the anxiety begin to drift.
It’s arguable that the first run, first mile, first 5k is the “gateway drug” to longer distances, but for most of us, that’s absolutely the case. However, many of us choose to run a marathon. Laura received her first marathon entry as a gift from a relative who was into running and triathlons. While she admits that looking back on it she didn’t train as much as she could have, she finished the race with an amazing time of 3:38.
As many of us know all too well, when a training cycle and race ends, there’s a bit of a grieving period. Or, as Laura titles it: The marathon blues. “My husband and I had just moved to Michigan a few months [before the marathon], and marathon training was a way for me to connect with the city I lived in. Once it was over, and it was obvious for financial reasons I probably wouldn’t be doing another marathon any time soon, I crashed hard and figured, I’d done one. I never have to do this again. But I kept running.”
We all know where this is going – how many of us have sworn off marathons for one reason or another, only to find ourselves training again?!
Even with her time of 3:38 in her first marathon, Laura didn’t consider training to Boston qualify until about a year later when she realized that she was very close to BQ qualification time. Her lottery-attempt at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015 was a bust, and shortly after, she discovered Lincoln was on the way. She continued to think about running. “I knew it was going to be quite some time before I was going to be able to train again. My first postpartum training cycle was a disaster. I didn’t do speed work or tempos. My mileage was extremely low.”
She got back into the game by running the Grand Rapids Marathon in 2016, only to finish with a 3:44, which remains her slowest marathon to date. Despite the frustration and disappointment, Laura turned it into a lesson and motivation as she trudged forward to the next step in her running career. “[Grand Rapids] was the turning point in my training to really put in work. My first attempt [to Boston Qualify in] Lincoln 2017 was not successful (3:39). During the Youngstown Marathon a month later, I ran a slightly faster time on hills (3:38!) and experienced what it was like to not bonk. That was everything!”
And after years of hard work and mental and physical training, she did it. “I turned around less than 3 weeks [after Youngstown] and ran my first BQ in Charlevoix [with a time of] 3:26.”
You’re reading that correctly – Laura ran three marathons in about two months, and for those of your reading this, she officially doesn’t recommend that. “I’m lucky I’m not injured,” she said – but noted that other than some shin splints, she felt great and was in amazing shape during this short-but-impactful marathon tour. “I’m continually amazed by what my body can do,” said Laura, and she has seen BQ times on the finish like clock three times as of today.
Off to Boston she went for the 2018 race. The conditions were less than “not ideal” from the perspective of most runners – constant rain, cold temperatures. She managed to hold up, and cites the meaningfulness of her journey as her motivator, despite the weather conditions. “My biggest fear was hypothermia, honestly. I overheat like crazy, even in cold weather, so shorts and a tank with arm-sleeves and gloves was quite enough for me, but it was a thin line to walk on. The rain was the worst part, and we were soaked even in the village pre-race. All I could think was, ‘Just keep going. You’re going to be a Boston Marathoner regardless of what time you cross that finish line.'”
Obviously, Laura didn’t ride a rainbow of luck to the start line of the Boston Marathon. It took time, dedication, and sacrifice. As a mom myself, I wanted to know how she juggles it all: work, being a mom, training hard. Turns out, she doesn’t have a super-power; she makes time for what is important to her when the rest of us may be tempted to make excuses. Her advice to moms who want to get to Boston or achieve other lofty running goals: “Prioritize and be ready to give up some things, especially if you’re a high mileage runner. I don’t watch a lot of TV. I don’t have much of a social life. I’m terrible at juggling everything and multitasking, but sometimes you have to half-ass some things in order to just get by.”
One of those sacrifices is sleep, but Laura’s favorite running conditions are darkness and winter. So, as a runner living in MI, she’s got it made most of the year! Oh, and of course, coffee on coffee on coffee.
If you’re in the back or mid pack and feel like “this will never be me,” Laura has some advice for you: “It’s redundant, but still relevant: keep showing up. I know so many people who started as 4:30 marathoners and are now even faster than me. If you really want Boston, I strongly suggest investing in a coach. For me as I try to take my marathon times to another level, it’s been instrumental in shaking up the type of quality session work I’m putting in. My body is learning new ways to work and increase speed. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also helped alleviate the stress of ‘am I doing this right?’ Take the stress off your shoulders and let someone boss you around a bit. They are there to help.”
I’ve been following Laura’s most recent training cycle and I can’t wait to see what she achieves next. Thank you for being an inspiration to all of us, Laura, and for your final advice of: “Never outrun your love of running.”
You can follow Laura’s training journey on Instagram: @nebraskarunner.
If you’re looking for a running coach, I am RRCA certified and am taking on athletes for Spring race training! Please fill out this application and I will be in touch with your shortly: https://goo.gl/forms/0m7VQYE9MvmNTsX62
Moms who run! Streamline your training with a training planner and journal designed with you in mind: Run Like A Mother Training Planner & Journal
Want to be featured on the blog via interview?
Running Shoes is an independent series that is not endorsed by any major race, including the Boston Marathon.