I am excited to feature a different runner each day as we count down to Boston. I love that each runner is unique, coming into Boston with a diverse background and goals. Their journeys all lead to the same place. You can read about my journey, Reflection and Countdown to the Boston Marathon.
I’m excited to introduce our featured runner today,Jen Tiemen. Jen is one of the first runners I met in a local group called Runbelievable. She is one of the hardest working people I know. She manages to balance an extremely busy work schedule, family life and still gets her running in. An amazing, uplifting person who I greatly admire.
Name: Jen Tiemen
- Can you first, give us your Boston Marathon “story”.
This will be my second Boston marathon, having run my first one in 2015. I’ve been a runner for many, many years (started in a summer track program when I was 9 years old). For almost 30 years, running was an outlet for me – physical and mental – but not about goals related to running. Since the summer of 1980 I’ve had only short breaks from running due to other life changes – pregnancy, crazy medical school rotations, long residency hours. Running has always been there for me, a physical outlet, an emotional boost, something I did just for me. It saw me through parenting as a single teenager, making it through college with a toddler, marrying my fabulous husband, having 2 babies in medical school, surviving 10 years in practice in a small town, middle of the deliveries, hours spent at the bedside with the family of a dying patient, chasing my 4 children through their school years. I could always lace up the shoes and have some time just for me. Later, one kid or another would sometimes join me for a run and I discovered they’ll tell you anything if you get them running!
In 2007 a friend asked me to run a half marathon with her. I still remember the first time I ran 10 miles in a row, and how excited I was! That first half marathon (the Indy Mini) was a blast, and I was hooked on longer distances. In 2008, I ran my first full marathon as a charity runner at the Chicago marathon. Although I completed a training program for that marathon, I was really focused on just finishing it and enjoying it. I managed both goals, although it was a super hot day and I experienced cramping for the first and so far only time in a race, finally feeling better in the last few miles. I finished in 5:01:45 and was as proud of that as I could be. I’m still proud of it, to be honest. Although I enjoyed the marathon, I thought I’d be one and done. Marathons require so much more training time, and my job has crazy hours, so I thought I’d focus on the half marathon. I ran several more over the next 3 years.
In 2011, we moved to Kansas City and I changed jobs with less call. I decided to run another marathon. I did some reading and slowed down my long run so I didn’t require so much recovery time after, and added more miles during the week. To my surprise, I ran a 4:25 marathon at KC that fall. In 2012, I found my running tribe here, and suddenly had all kinds of a fantastic running friends who were always willing to run. I ran more miles, and signed up for another fall marathon. To my even bigger surprise, I broke 4 hours at Twin Cities, finishing in 3:53.. As a lifelong slower runner, who ran only for enjoyment, I’ve still always followed the national running scene and loved to watch the major marathons. I’d watch Boston on TV every year and think about what an honor it would be to compete in such a historic race, but it had never seemed like I would have a chance to qualify. That 5:01:45 marathon was well over an hour slower than my needed qualifying time. And then I broke 4 hours, and suddenly, It seemed like Boston might actually be a possibility
It took me 2 more tries to qualify. I always say I got an hour faster in the marathon just by running more miles, but to get that last 10 minutes I needed a year of also incorporating speed work, and adding some strength and flexibility training. In November 2013, I ran 3:42:49 at the Indianapolis Monumental marathon, qualifying by 2 minutes 11 seconds. It was perfect day and everything went right, from start to finish. I hit the finish line doing such an ugly cry that they thought I couldn’t breathe and dragged me half way to the medical tent before I could assure them that I wasn’t experiencing a medical situation, but a psychiatric one! I held my breath during registration, but that 2:11 was enough to get me in for 2015.
Actually running Boston in 2015 was a rough experience. It was just above freezing, and it rained the entire race, starting 3 minutes before we took off. I was so cold, and wet for 26.2 miles, with 20+ mph headwind in my face the whole way. I made all the rookie mistakes – went out too fast, trashed my quads on the downhill early miles, and crashed and burned on the back half with a 16 minute positive split. I didn’t requalify for 2016, going a little over a minute over my new qualifying time at 3:56. Luckily, I was able to put together a good training cycle again in 2015, and qualified for 2017 by more than 11 minutes (getting older is fabulous for Boston bound runners – I only need a 3:55 now!) This Boston will be a little bit about redemption.
2. What does running the Boston Marathon mean to you?
Running the Boston marathon, to me, is the biggest honor a regular, non-elite runner can reach. Long distance running is fairly unique among sports in that regular athletes get to compete on the same stage as the world’s elite. I ran the same course that Kathrine Switzer once made history on, where Bill Rodgers won 4 times, where Salazar outdueled Beardsley, where my idol Meb Keflezighi won in 2014. More importantly, it’s the marathon (and city and country) that showed the world it’s strength in coming back from terrible tragedy after the bombing in 2013. It’s the marathon with the biggest charity contribution of any race. The marathon Team Hoyt ran 32 times. The marathon a whole city comes out to support every year, without fail, for more than a century.
In 2015, during the most physically miserable race I’ve ever run, I was struggling up Heartbreak Hill and I passed another runner, a double above knee amputee, who had his hand on his guide’s shoulder, his head down, and was powering up that hill. I took a minute right then to remind myself that I am so, so fortunate in life. I have a great family, a fantastic husband, a job that is my calling. I can run! And I get to run the Boston marathon! I finished that race with a smile on my face, and I intend to enjoy the heck out of Boston 2017, too. This is my chance to play just a little bitty part in history.
3. What do you look forward to most about running Boston Marathon?
There are almost too many things to mention. Loved the expo even, with volunteers who find your bib for you, and seem to know how much this race means to so many runners. Loved having a shake out run the day before with my friends from home. Loved the bus to Hopkinton, where every conversation I could hear was about what we did wrong in our training – not enough miles, not enough hills, had an injury, slept in more than we should. Loved running through the little towns along the way, and all the spectators out in the freezing rain cheering anyway. Loved the big sign on a fire station “26.2 miles is wicked fah!” Loved the Wellsley girls with my favorite spectator sign yet (a college girl standing in the freezing rain holding a big sign that said “Watching you run is making me wet!”) Loved turning onto Boylston St and hitting a wall of sound unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Loved crossing that historic finish line, and having a volunteer wrap me up in the mylar jacket, and another volunteer re-wrap me a few steps later because I didn’t look covered enough to stay warm. Loved taking the T back to my hotel and having a college student give me his seat and his congratulations, and tell me about his mom who ran it last year. Loved walking in to Starbucks the next morning for a coffee and having the staff clap when they saw my Boston jacket. There’s nothing like it!
4. How will you define success, on race day?
I try to always have a few goals. Success for me as I get older, is ultimately about enjoying the process and staying healthy to run another day. I’d initially hoped to requalify at this Boston for next year, since a good friend has qualified for the first time for 2018. I don’t know that I have that in me given my recent training. If I can run a smarter race and not have the giant positive split, I’ll be happy.
5. Do you have a favorite piece of clothing or tech that you always use for training or racing?
I’m not particularly tied to anything. I do practice the habit of nothing new on race day.
6. How has your training gone, leading up to Boston Marathon? Any advice?
Training has not been great, is the short answer. Worked way too many hours this winter and early spring. I had some very promising speed workouts, but not enough time to put in the miles I usually do. I’m not sure what to expect on race day. One of the biggest things I’ve found important for me as a runner was adding mid-week medium long runs. They’ve done a world of good for increasing my endurance and seemed to be the key to feeling more comfortable on race day. I missed a lot of them this cycle.
7.What part of the marathon do you find most challenging?
Like most people, that last 10K. I’ve heard it said 20 miles is half way in the marathon, and it sure feels like it out there. Once you hit the 25 mile mark, you know you can do it, so I try to mentally divide up mile 20-25 and make little goals for myself (just make it up this hill and you can take a little jog break.) I also try to pick out someone important in my life to dedicate a mile to, and then spend some time thinking about them.
8. What has been your favorite race (any distance) up until this point?
It’s hard to pick a favorite, but it’s probably Boston, for all the reasons mentioned above.
9. Do you have a pre-race routine, ritual or good luck charms?
Before a race, I always lay out my clothes the night before and attach the timing device. I eat 2 pieces of toast for breakfast, 1 with peanut butter and cinnamon sugar on it. I get up early enough to spend some quality time in the bathroom and take care of business. I eat a gel about 20 minutes before the start. Other than that, details vary.
10. What inspires you as a runner?
I’m inspired the most by all the regular people I know who make running a priority in their lives. I’ve met so many amazing people through running, and seen so many amazing accomplishments. The elite runners are also amazing, but I have friend who is a full time junior high teacher and coach who has run a 2:49 marathon (a woman!) while also inspiring so many runners as a coach, young and old along the way. Another full time junior high teacher/coach friend who has run increasingly amazing times, while also helping coach her friends and writing the most engaging blog along the way. And yet another full time elementary teacher who trained hard while her husband was deployed for a year and she single parented their child, and qualified for Boston for the first time.
I have a friend who is a full time physician, mom to 2 fabulous kids adopted through foster care, who paces multiple races a year so she can encourage other runners and help them achieve their goals. I have several friends for whom running is part of their mental health self care – folks who nobody ever identified as an “athlete”, and yet they’ve run ultra marathons and supported other runners through many amazing feats. I have several friends who have run through cancer treatment.
I’m inspired by my friends who always help me out, too – I just post that I need to run, and nearly always someone shows up and keeps me company for some or all. Runners are amazing people.
Nothing else to promote, other than a plea to take time to think about what you can contribute to the world! Encourage a friend, reach out to a stranger struggling in the gym, give to a charity, smile at anyone you can. We’re all in this together!