April in Boston means warmer weather, the return of the Red Sox, and of course, the Boston Marathon. The iconic 26.2-mile race from Hopkinton to the Boylston Street finish line is the oldest annual marathon in the world. On Monday, April 16th, 30,000 runners will take on the 122nd running of the marathon, while 500,000 spectators cheer them on. Last year, second-year Friedman student Megan Maisano completed this grueling endurance challenge for the third time, and this year, one of those runners will be second-year student, Sara Scinto. We caught up with both of them to find out how they train, fuel, and fundraise for the big day!
Sara has been an avid runner since high school and completed her first marathon last fall in Mentor, Ohio. In 2010, she got to watch her dad finish the Boston Marathon and has dreamed of completing the race herself ever since. She was inspired by the positive energy of the crowd, the running community, and the way the race is, in her words, “woven into Boston’s culture in many ways.” For Megan, running the Boston Marathon runs in the family as well—her brother crossed the finish line in 2014. When her Prague Marathon time qualified her for the 2015 Boston Marathon, she knew she had to take the opportunity to run the historic race. Megan has since run the Boston Marathon three times (with a 3 hour and 24-minute personal record!) and describes the experience and atmosphere as “simply magical,” referencing the cheering crowd equipped with cow bells, posters, music, and “Boston Strong” vibes. For both Megan and Sara, there is something indescribable about the Boston Marathon that makes it a special accomplishment.
This year, Sara will be one of 49 Tufts students, faculty, alumni and friends running the marathon as part of the Tufts Marathon Team. Each year, the Tufts Marathon Team offers a limited number of race bibs and helps interested individuals train and fundraise. Last year, the team raised a collective $382,219, and since its start in 2003, the team has raised more than $5,639,358. This money supports the research efforts of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy to end childhood obesity. As a runner and a Friedman student, it was an easy decision for Sara to apply to join the Tufts Marathon Team. She has enjoyed the opportunity to support and contribute to a meaningful cause and encourages her classmates up for a challenge to consider applying next year. To learn more about Sara’s fundraising efforts and support the Tufts Marathon Team click here.
To prepare for race day, Sara and Megan both stressed the importance of training plans. Megan has had success following the Runner’s World 16-week program. Last year, she used their “Veteran Plan,” which culminated with one 22-mile long run before the race. She has used the less intensive “Rookie Plan” in the past, which trains up to one 20-miler. She recommends training on hills to prepare for the infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 of the Boston course.
On the other hand, Sara is focusing on injury prevention and is following a lower mileage plan that her father, Boston marathon veteran, created. She supplements her three weekly runs with yoga, strength training, and physical therapy. “If it’s your first time running the marathon, I would encourage an extended training cycle to gradually get used to the longer distances,” she advised. For reference, many beginner training plans suggest 18-20 week running schedules. As a busy graduate student, Sara tries to keep her training plan flexible, adjusting to her schedule, energy levels, and soreness. “It’s definitely not easy, and sometimes it’s just plain exhausting. But I know that crossing that finish line in a city I’ve grown to love, while raising money for a cause that I am passionate about, is going to feel amazing. And so worth it,” Sara said.
To endure grueling training sessions and the final 26.2-mile challenge, proper nutrition is crucial. Megan and Sara both caution that everyone is different, and it may take some trial and error to find what works for you and your body. “I certainly learned what not to eat from personal experience,” Megan said. They shared their go-to pre-run fuel and post-run recovery eats with us. Both runners stick to a light breakfast of crackers or rice cakes with nut butter and banana before heading out. Megan recommends avoiding too much fiber and greens before runs to avoid digestive discomfort. On longer runs, they carry additional fuel in the form of Honey Stingers Gold Gel for Sara and Honey Stingers Pink Lemonade Gummies for Megan. “Fueling my body adequately is extremely important for long-term injury prevention, recovery, and performance,” Sara emphasized.
After the run is when the food fun starts. Megan relies on Greek yogurt parfaits layered with cottage cheese, fruit, nuts, and seeds to aid recovery. “After a long run, don’t wait too long to fuel with carbs and protein,” Megan advises. A review of nutrient timing by Kerksick et al. in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition supports this advice, affirming that consuming carbohydrates and protein immediately following endurance exercise can promote muscle healing and decrease muscle soreness. Sara enjoys getting creative with her recovery fuel creating colorful egg dishes full of carbohydrate-rich fruits and vegetables. As for her race day plans, Sara says that she hasn’t decided exactly how she’ll refuel, but she knows ice cream will be involved!
Megan’s Boston Marathon race day advice: “Have fun! Take it all in, thank the volunteers, and high-five the spectators.” On April 16th, you will find me waiting to high-five Sara, the Tufts Marathon Team, and all of the runners on their way to the historic finish line.
Darcy McDonough is a first year NICBIC student. She has run two half-marathons and enjoys refueling with Amy’s Bean Burritos.