JackRabbit: Hello Kelli! Thank you for sharing your Boston Marathon journey with the runners here at JackRabbit. Our first question is how long have you been running, and how long have you been dreaming of qualifying for Boston?
Kelli Christensen: I never expected to be fast enough to qualify for Boston, but while training for the Chicago Marathon in 2012 I realized qualifying was actually a possibility! I got injured during that race and missed my qualifying time by 15 minutes, so decided to try again in Chicago in 2016 and made it, with 10 minutes to spare.
JR: Ten minutes to spare! That’s a good ten minutes to have in the bank! Tell us what it felt like when you found out you had finally won a spot to run in the Boston Marathon!
KC:I was ecstatic. Ever since 2013, I have been hearing how hard it is to get in, even if you manage to make your qualifying time. The rolling entry process is based on how far under your qualifying time you were, and I had to wait for the third day of registration to enter. Once you enter, you have to wait for an email. I obsessively checked until I got the confirmation three days later.
JR: What drew you to the Marathon distance? How have you evolved as a runner?
KC: I started running in 1999 when I signed up for a 12-week learn to run program after reading “The Courage to Start” by John Bingham. The first week was very simple – run 1 minute, walk 4 minutes. Repeat twice.
I had always wanted to be a runner but until I signed up for that program, I was never able to stick with it. I was so excited the first time I ran 30 minutes without stopping you’d have thought I won a gold medal. As time went on, I started running longer distances and, on a whim, put my name in the lottery for the 2001 New York Marathon. One of my best friends from college, who was a much more accomplished runner than I was at the time talked me into it, and against all odds, I got in. I was such a new runner and had no idea what I was getting into. I tried to follow a training program I found online, but missed more workouts than I completed, and toed the start line totally unprepared for a race of that distance.
The race was only two months after 9/11 and while I struggled to complete the race in five and a half hours, I thought about the people who had lost so much and what a privilege it was for me to be there. There were many tears, from the spectators, the runners and those participating on behalf of those who couldn’t.
After New York, I continued to participate in shorter races and decided to attempt the marathon distance again in 2003, this time in my hometown of Chicago. I knew what I was getting into and took my training much more seriously, improving my finish time by an hour.
JR: Wow! Knocking an hour of your marathon time is impressive! A testament to us all that if you take your training seriously (and commit to what it takes!) what the results can be. Back to Boston, how far out from the race have you started prepping for Boston?
KC: I started building my base in November and officially started training January 1.
JR: What does your marathon training routine look like? You are also a triathlete, so does cross-training with other sports play a part?
KC: I have a fantastic coach who has me focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to running, and I supplement run days with swimming, yoga and resistance training.
JR: Are you adjusting your diet? Cutting back or adding anything in particular?
KC: Not really, I tend to eat healthy. I learned the hard way while preparing for New York that marathon training is not a hall pass to eat anything you want. When I indulge, it’s usually on red wine and dark chocolate.
JR: Since this is your first Boston Marathon, what are you expecting or hoping from the race?
KC: Boston will be my fifth marathon and I just really want to focus on having fun and enjoying the experience. It’s such an iconic race and I’m thrilled I get to participate. I was a spectator during the 2013 Boston Marathon and was very close to where the second bomb went off. It was a scary and surreal experience and I left Boston that year feeling like I would never return. As the saying goes, time heals, and I’m looking forward to returning this year as a marathon participant.
JR: We love gear here at JackRabbit, so we have to know – What shoe(s) will you be training in? Any other must-have training gear?
KC: I have been running in Brooks Launch since 2013. They are very lightweight and make feel like I’m flying. Plus, I love that the shoelaces say “Dig Deep” on them. It makes me smile every time I lace them up.
Other must haves are my Rudy sunglasses with the transitional lens and my CamelBak Marathoner vest when it’s hot.
JR: And finally, what are you three favorite songs to run and train to? Music gets us all going!
KC: My musical taste is all over the map, so it depends on what I’m in the mood for – sometimes it’s country, sometimes it’s rock, sometimes it’s cheesy eighties music!
JR: Best of luck to you Kelli! We’ll see you out there on the track with the run club and we’ll check back in next month to see how training is going!