#BostonStrong, #TMTStrong

By Lainey Younkin, RD

Just over four hours into the 117th Boston Marathon, the exciting festivities and celebrations of the day were cut short by two explosions at the finish line. The exhaustion and exhilaration from running soon turned to fear and chaos as runners scrambled to find their loved ones.

In the aftermath of the tragic event, the city of Boston has come together stronger than ever and the phrase #BostonStrong has echoed throughout the city. There are few people stronger, though, than those who choose to partake in the Boston Marathon. Each year thousands of people flock to the start line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. This year over 26,000 people participated in the race.

Tufts University has close ties with the Boston Marathon as each year a number of people from across the University’s various schools join the Tufts Marathon Team (TMT) to train and run together. The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy has especially close ties to the marathon, as part of the money raised through the TMT supports childhood obesity research at Friedman.

As if training for a marathon isn’t challenging enough, many of those on the TMT train amidst a schedule of classes, term papers, exams, and part- or full-time jobs. Not to mention Boston’s brutal winters. They are a strong bunch for sure, and they should all be proud.

The Sprout wants to celebrate the Tufts team members for all of their hard work throughout their training and the marathon itself. While I could not speak to everyone on the team, I asked a few of the runners from Friedman to share their training tips and experiences from the marathon this year. Take note because you just might be inspired to join the TMT next year!

Laura Carroll

Graduated from Friedman December 2012 with an MS/MPH and currently works at ChildObesity180 in the JHRC.

Alonso Nichols (left), Laura Carroll (center), and Tim Dugan (right) walking to the corrals at the beginning of the race. (Source: Tufts Photography)

Alonso Nichols (left), Laura Carroll (center), and Tim Dugan (right) walking to the corrals at the beginning of the race. (Source: Tufts Photography)

What is your running history? Prior to this year’s marathon, had you run a marathon before?

I didn’t really get into running until about a year and a half ago. I ran a 4-mile road race when I was 20 and would have told you then that that was going to be my first and last road race. During the summer of 2011, I was encouraged by a friend to run a half marathon with her in October. I started running a little bit (I wasn’t running at all prior to this instead I mainly did the elliptical, biked, and swam to stay active). When I hit 6 miles, I became hooked. I finally experienced that endorphin rush everyone talks about. Since that first half marathon, I have run two other half [marathons]. This was my first full marathon.

Why did you decide to run the Boston Marathon this year?

One of the things I enjoy about running is the challenge of it. After my third half marathon I felt ready to take on a new challenge and greater mileage. I knew Tufts had a marathon team because several of my friends and classmates had run with the team. With last fall being my last semester at Tufts, I knew that if I wanted to run the Boston marathon, running with the team this spring was my best chance. I grew up in the Boston area and watch the marathon every year, so I knew that if I was going to do a marathon it would be Boston.

Coach Don Megerle cheers on Laura at mile 9. (Source: Tufts Photography)

Coach Don Megerle cheers on Laura at mile 9.               (Source: Tufts Photography)

When did you start training and what was your training regimen like?

It’s hard to say when I exactly started training. I ran the Boston half marathon in October and I started running with the Tufts team pretty much immediately after that. Don, the Tufts’ team coach, holds training runs 3x per week. Tuesdays is intervals, Wednesday is medium length runs, and Sundays are long runs. I went to the interval trainings in the fall but due to my work schedule I could no longer attend them starting in January- I did do interval training on my own time, though. I was running four times per week: Wednesdays and Sundays with the team and twice on my own. I also did yoga once per week as well as cross training and strength training once a week. Monday was always an off day. The max mileage I did was 18. Don follows the philosophy that less is more to avoid over exhaustion and to make sure you have sufficient energy stored up for the marathon. The longest runs we did as a team were on the marathon course. By the time we raced on Monday, the team had covered the entire course already (just in segments!). I knew the Newton hills like the back of my hand!

Did you suffer from any injuries that interfered with your training?

I was pretty lucky. I didn’t suffer any major injuries during the training. I have suffered from ankle issues ever since I started running and two times I have been out of running for a couple of weeks because of it. I did have some minor left ankle pain, but nothing serious. It was caused by my calf muscle being extremely tight. With extra stretching and foam rolling, it went away. Including strength training into my training regimen was extremely helpful in preventing injuries. It’s always hard to do leg strength training when you know you have to run the next day and don’t want to be sore during the run, but it is beyond worth it!

What was your go-to pre- and post-run fuel during training and why?

I often ate white bread/bagel with peanut butter, honey, and banana before long runs. It provides simple carbs, protein, and is delicious! Post-run, Don always had a plethora of fresh fruit available for the runners, which was amazing. He also always had chocolate milk. I wasn’t into chocolate milk after runs before, but I started drinking it after long runs (12+ miles). I have no idea if it actually helped or not with recovery and restoring glycogen in my muscles, but it’s way too tasty not to have it 🙂

How did you fuel up during the week leading up to the marathon?

My diet the week before the marathon was pretty normal. It wasn’t until Friday (3 days prior) that I started carb-loading. I ate more bread, snacked on carbs, and ate pasta for dinners.  

What fuel were you carrying with you throughout the run?

I brought a PB&J and raisins with me. I thought about doing gels and sport gummies but I was turned off by the idea of gels/goos (for texture reasons!). I tried the gummies and they are tasty- it’s like eating candy- but, I had heard from a few friends/marathon runners that they ate PB&Js. The idea intrigued me. It really has all the components you need to refuel: carbs, protein, sodium. Once I tried it, I knew that’s what I wanted to run with. I also decided from there that I wanted to go “all natural” with my fuel. Gels and gummies are great, but I liked the idea of eating whole foods to get me through the race.

During the cold winters, a PB&J was delicious to eat on a run. Unfortunately, with the temperatures being warmer than what I am used to running in, I was unappetized by the idea of a PB&J during the marathon. I only ended up eating half of it and none of the raisins. That probably wasn’t the best idea but that’s just how I was feeling during the run and almost felt that it would have been worse to eat them since it could have churned my stomach.

Tell me about someone who had an influence on you throughout your training and marathon. In other words, if it weren’t for _________________, I would’ve never made it through this process.

Don Megerle. He is by far the most amazing coach I have had in my athletic career. From sending out training emails at 3 a.m. to bringing me bagels after our long runs, he is 200% dedicated to his runners and will do anything for them. He always has a smile on his face and believes in all of his runners that they can do this. You can’t talk about the TMT without talking about Don. Don is the TMT. He waits every year for every TMT runner to cross the finish line- no matter how long that takes! I was in a lot of pain at mile 22-23. I wanted to stop. But, I knew Don was at the finish line and for months I had been working to cross it and to then give Don a huge hug. I could write and talk about Don for hours but I won’t do that- because no matter how much I boast about him, it’s impossible to sum up everything that makes him so incredible- you just have to meet him.

Are there more marathons in your future?

During miles 22-26.2 I would have said, “no.” I was in more pain than I have experienced while running before (which makes sense!). But, in the last week, I have decided that I do want to do more. I’d love to do Chicago in 2014. The Chicago course is much flatter!

Anything else you’d like to share from your Boston Marathon experience?

This year’s marathon will forever be remembered by the world. It was a beautiful and joyous day that ended with tragedy. I did get to finish the marathon, but there were many other TMT members who did not, and I can only imagine how upsetting that was since they were all within striking distance and would have finished. I am beyond grateful that my family, friends, TMT runners, and Tufts community members are all safe. The outpouring of love and support from everyone has been so incredible. Everyone is talking about how the Boston community has come together, but it’s not just the Boston community, it’s also the running community and the whole country that has come together.

I felt a part of the Friedman community the moment I started, but I never really felt a part of the full Tufts community since the campuses are separate, and many events/traditions do not overlap. After running with the TMT and this week’s events, I feel like I truly know Tufts and feel a part of its community. The Tufts community has been incredible in providing support to the runners, family, and friends while also celebrating the team’s accomplishment of training and running the marathon. During Tuesday’s marathon reception, the day after the marathon, runners and other TMT members were able to reflect on the events of Monday and the Sunday following, Tufts held a medal ceremony to hand out medals to those who didn’t get to finish. Other universities just handed out the medals to each individual. Having that celebration to remember the months of hard work we all put in and the amazing accomplishment we achieved was phenomenal.

I would encourage any and all Tufts students/faculty/staff to join the 2014 TMT. The race itself is incredible (from biker parties in Ashland to Wellesley College women with signs saying “Kiss Me,” to Tufts students cheering you on saying: “You’ve got this, you have to see Don!”) and the training and bonding experience with the TMT makes training for a marathon during brutal Boston winter months, fun!

Linda DePoto

2nd year FPAN Student

What is your running history? Prior to this year’s marathon, had you run a marathon before?

I started running 5Ks after college, and a couple of years ago I started running half marathons. This was my first full marathon.

Linda receives a high-five while running. (Source: Tufts Photography)

Linda receives a high-five while running. (Source: Tufts Photography)

 

Why did you decide to run the Boston Marathon this year?

I started watching the Boston Marathon as an undergraduate at Wellesley College over 10 years ago. The “scream tunnel” is a fun tradition at Wellesley, and I have so many great memories of watching the race. When I heard of the Tufts Marathon Team and that the money raised goes to support childhood obesity research at Friedman and other wellness initiatives across Tufts, I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to run Boston. I’m so glad I did.

When did you start training and what was your training regimen like?

My goal was to get myself in half marathon shape in the fall, so I started running consistently last summer. I ran 4 days a week, did strength training for 2 days a week, and gave myself a rest day on Mondays. I ended up running 2 half marathons in the fall.

Did you suffer from any injuries that interfered with your training?

During my first 20-mile run in early March I injured myself; it turned out to be bursitis in my upper right leg, likely caused by a tight hamstring. I didn’t run at all for about a month but swam a lot. The swimming helped immensely because I was able to move my leg without impact, and I felt like I was keeping up my fitness. I ended up doing a couple of 6-mile runs a few weeks before the marathon, but that was it. Luckily the injury didn’t act up too much on race day.

What was your go-to pre- and post-run fuel during training and why?

Although I typically eat pretty well, I found myself being more cognizant of my diet during training, particularly the day before long runs. I would consciously hydrate and eat carbohydrates beforehand, and a mix of carbohydrates and protein afterwards. I’m taking Mim Nelson and Jen Sacheck’s physical activity class this semester, so I had all the right info on how to fuel properly before, during, and after runs.

How did you fuel up during the week leading up to the marathon?

I started to increase water and carbohydrate intake on Friday in preparation for the race on Monday. I didn’t eat more in total volume of food but definitely had predominately carbohydrates at every meal. I also drank a fair amount of Gatorade each day leading up to the race. Usually I only drink Gatorade during runs of 8 miles or more and never used it as a pre-run fuel.  

What fuel were you carrying with you throughout the run?

I trained with (and used on race day) energy gels. I found they were easy to transport and digest, and I had had success using them on long runs. Fueling during a long run is tricky because it requires balance. You can’t wait until you’re completely out of gas before you start taking in calories, but you might not feel great if you take them too fast. During the marathon I started taking energy gels around mile 10 and had 2 gels between mile 10 and 17, which was too much. I was just approaching the Newton hills and my stomach did not feel great. I laid off the gels for the next 4 miles and then started to feel better once I got to the top of Heartbreak Hill. Of course, I’m sure I also started to feel better because I was done with the hills! 

Tell me about someone who had an influence on you throughout your training and marathon. In other words, if it weren’t for _________________, I would’ve never made it through this process.

Our TMT coach, Don Megerle, was a pillar of support for me throughout this process. I didn’t make it to many of the team runs, but he was a constant presence in my inbox, sending encouraging emails at 4 a.m. Also, when I went to physical therapy for my injury he was there, and he reassured me that all would be fine. If I had been doing this without the team support and without Don, I would have been really discouraged by my injury. He’s a phenomenal coach and person.

Are there more marathons in your future?

Yes, I would love to run Boston again next year!

Anything else you’d like to share from your Boston Marathon experience?

Training for and running the marathon was one of the best experiences of my life, and I will remember it always. It has taught me many life lessons: that consistent, hard work pays off; the importance of baby steps; flexibility; the power of sheer determination; team support; perspective. The one moment that will stay with me is the dramatic shift in perspective that occurred when I first heard about what happened at the finish line. I spent 9 months training for this single event, with anticipation of how amazing it would feel to cross the finish line. Yet all of that instantly disappeared the second the police officer blocking Hereford Street told me about the explosions. I don’t want to remember the sudden overwhelming feeling of emotion and stress of not knowing where my family was, and if they were harmed. But I do hope to remember the feeling of instantly recognizing, deep down, what is most important in life.

Kalyn Weber

1st year FPAN/MPH

What is your running history? Prior to this year’s marathon, had you run a marathon before?

I had never run a marathon. I ran D1 Track and Field at the University of Vermont. I ran the 400m and the 400m hurdles…. distance for me was 800 meters! The longest distance I had raced was 10 miles.

Kalyn Weber and Meg Keegan at mile 9 where Coach Don and Kayln’s parents were cheering them on. (Source: Tufts Photography)

Kalyn Weber and Meg Keegan at mile 9 where Coach Don and Kayln’s parents were cheering them on. (Source: Tufts Photography)

 Why did you decide to run the Boston Marathon this year?

I learned about the TMT shortly after starting at Friedman this past fall. I like training for something (anything), and there’s pretty much nothing bigger and better than the Boston Marathon.

When did you start training and what was your training regimen like?

I started training in October. I increased my volume verrrrrry slowly. I met with the TMT in Medford almost every Sunday for a “long run.”

Did you suffer from any injuries that interfered with your training?

 I had some lingering tendonitis in my Achilles from running track in college and some pretty severe peroneal tendonitis that caused me to take about 3 weeks off from running.

What was your go-to pre- and post-run fuel during training and why?

It would depend on my workout and how long I was running. Typically before my run I would just have a banana or piece of toast. I was pretty good about eating within 30 minutes after finishing my workout. A lot of times (because I would be at school) I would just have a peanut butter sandwich. I also got pretty into making “recovery” smoothies with fruits and veggies and Greek yogurt (sometimes I would throw peanut butter in there too).

Even as a nutritionist, I didn’t go too crazy about my sports nutrition. I think it’s mostly important to eat SOMETHING right after a hard work out. I tried to keep to the 4:1 CHO:Pro ratio post-workouts and ate whatever sat right in my stomach before and during workings.

How did you fuel up during the week leading up to the marathon?

I mostly focused on getting as much rest as possible and staying extra hydrated. I did carb-load the 5 days leading up to my marathon. As Mim Nelson advised, I just had about 1-2 extra servings of carbohydrates per day (i.e. an extra potato or some more pasta). I went crazy and had a Sprite (gasp! sugar-sweetened beverage!) the night before I ran. I actually gained 3-4 lbs in my taper.

What fuel were you carrying with you throughout the run?

My normal long run snack was half of a PBJ stuffed into my shorts pocket…sounds kind of gross. On one 18 miler I actually carried a banana with me. I carried “Power Bar Energy Blast” in a little baggie clipped to my shorts for the marathon. Coach Don had the PB’s at mile 9, and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) hands out Gu’s at mile 17. I should note that I ended up drinking too much Gatorade during my marathon and ended up getting really terrible cramps and muscle spasms. Unfortunately, (because of my injuries) I was unable to REALLY test out my race day nutrition.

Tell me about someone who had an influence on you throughout your training and marathon. In other words, if it weren’t for _________________, I would’ve never made it through this process.

Coach Don Megerle! The TMT Coach! I honestly would never have even made it to the starting line if it weren’t for Coach Don. His continuous support and positive attitude kept me going. He is an outstanding coach and just an incredible human being! He is totally the kind of guy that you are just glad to know… I’m very grateful to have been able to train with him.”

Are there more marathons in your future?

Definitely at some point – perhaps not again as a graduate student though. Just the training alone was a pretty significant time commitment. I am hoping to train for some triathlons this summer.

Anything else you’d like to share from your Boston Marathon experience?

I wrote a blog post about my marathon experience and how my run unfolded in the midst of the tragic events of the day. You can read it here: http://kaywebswords.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/my-unfinished-boston-marathon/.

To read more about the TMT experience, visit: http://now.tufts.edu/articles/running-resilience

*Article condensed and edited

Lainey Younkin is a second-year Nutrition Communication student and registered dietitian. She will never forget the 2013 Boston Marathon – the families who were affected and the people she knew who put hours into training for a race that tragically got cut short. There may be a marathon in her near future. Who’s in?

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