Student Interview

Running the Boston Marathon While Tackling PT School

It’s not just a marathon. For many distance runners, it is THE marathon. It’s Boston. 26.2 miles. A timely and tiring training regime is involved in preparing for race day, which is held on Patriot’s day, the third Monday of April. This is the oldest annual marathon in the world. For many years this race has been the stage for many running pioneers.  Kirsten and Michelle are two brave classmates of ours who decided to take on the feat of tackling the Boston Marathon all while attending physical therapy school full time. I got to ask Kirsten and Michelle some questions about their running career, training experience and found out some fun facts about each of them before they flew out for race day. Check it out below if you wish!

Background/history of your running career

Kirsten – When I was a wee little tyke, I enjoyed our fitness sessions at the end of soccer practice… Yes, I was that kid. So I decided to try out for the cross country team in high school. From there, I continued to run collegiately at the University of San Diego in both cross-country and track. I told myself I would never run a marathon… But here I am running my 5th marathon. I blame my head coach from college who told me that I should try longer distances.

Michelle – I have been running for the last 10 years. I ran cross-country and track in high school and for Trinity University, a small college in San Antonio, TX.

Is this your first time running the Boston Marathon?

Kirsten – No, this will be my 4th time running the Boston Marathon. But it is my classmate Michelle Oberndorf’s first and I am so excited for her! 🙂

Michelle – Yes! I just realized last night that busses drive us 26 miles out of the city and drop us off at the start so that we can run all the way back in. Not too sure where I’m being dropped off, but it should be fine.

What made you decide to run the Boston Marathon while in PT school?

Kirsten – Purely so everyone would ask me this exact question… Just kidding. I blame my lack of judgment on insomnia… Only kidding again. Truthfully, there is something about the Boston Marathon that just makes it worth every 4 AM run or 10 PM workout. The crowd and support of every town and city along the 26.2-mile course is something truly remarkable, which makes all the hard work worth it! Also, I am going for the record of 50 consecutive Boston marathons 😉

Michelle – My friends and I met up to run the Chicago Marathon last year and qualified for Boston 2017 together, so I didn’t want to miss out on having the chance to race with them again!

How do you balance training and PT school together?

Kirsten – It is quite difficult. If you ask any professional runner, serious training for a marathon takes about 4 hours of your day. Not including the 9-10 hours of sleep you need and additional time to intake copious amounts of calories throughout the day. So stating difficult is actually an understatement. I have taken to listening to a lot of lectures through podcasts to get in some studying while on longer runs throughout the week and weekends. I highly recommend “Medical Conditions II” with entertainment by Dan Malone.

There are also many long days where I find myself waking up at 4:15 AM to get in workouts and then end the day with an easy run at 10:30 PM. To balance the social life I typically do destination runs to social and program events. I will also admit that I have run to the CU Anschutz Medical Campus from Englewood, which is a lovely 21-mile jaunt on the High Line Canal Trail.

Needless to say, I think it is more like juggling a 3 ring circus when it comes to training in the midst of PT school, but it is only preparing me for any future chaos life throws at me.

Michelle – There were definitely days that I felt like I didn’t have the time to train, but overall I feel like running balances well with PT school. It’s something that I can do everyday to reduce stress. Also, PT school is a huge priority where we all focus a lot of our time and energy; I really like that running can provide my life with some balance because it gives me other personal goals to work towards!

How has training for Boston been going for you while in clinic and being on campus full time?

Kirsten – This is a tough question for me to answer. I would have to say that training now that I am back in Denver has been a relief… During clinical, working 10 hour days made for some very early mornings or really late nights, either out on the ice and snow or on the treadmills of Fraser Valley Rec Center.

Also, I thought I was being smart by choosing a higher elevation for training during clinical… However, I chose to be in Tabernash, CO where the temperatures would remain at -20 degrees for roughly 3 weeks. When temperatures warmed up to a scorching -10 degrees you better believe you found me out there getting in the miles equipped with: ear warmers, beanie, headlamp, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, half zip fleece, windbreaker, 2 pairs of tights, tall socks, 2 pairs of gloves, and a skiing gator… Bikini weather in my book!

So being back on campus has given me some better running weather, freed up some time for sleep, and I get to run with The Run Krew again during every lunch: Jenny Whiddon, Paige Williams, Emily Osga, Mark Andersen-Nissen, Jessica Tietjen, Jo Volz, Elodie Kruk, and the infamous Michelle Oberndorf!

Michelle – Getting myself to run after clinic when it was cold and dark took a lot of motivation, so training was easier after returning from clinic because I had classmates to run with!

What do you eat before race day?

Kirsten – Usually I choose the sustainable, high carb, low fat Chick-Fil-A nugget meal with waffle fries and Powerade, but Chick-Fil-A doesn’t exist in Boston and it’s also a Sunday the day before marathon Monday so… I resort to the generic pasta carbo-loading. I will admit that I have had a Boston Marathon tradition Samuel Adams 26.2 beverage at the giant pasta party the night before the race.

Michelle – The day before: whatever I want. Race day: oatmeal.

Any tips or tricks you rely on to motivate you for those longer runs after a long day in class?

Kirsten – Convince someone to go with you! I thankfully have an awesome classmate (Jenna Kaspari) who enjoys pacing me on a bike during a 20-mile run. Or have roommates (Hayley Taylor, Cassie Zahn, Meredith McGuire) who encourage you every day and tell you that you are awesome! Helps to have the support! 🙂

Or make sure you have some afternoon coffee and then you feel like the energizer bunny!

Michelle – Usually I tell everyone I know that I have to do a really long run, because it’s difficult for me to run 20 miles when I’m the only person holding myself accountable. Then I reward myself with chocolate milk, my true motivation.

Mostly I feel lucky to have the opportunity to race in an amazing event with my old teammates, which keeps me motivated.

Do you have any training or race day superstitions?

Kirsten – Doesn’t everyone! I definitely have the lucky race underwear and sports bra like every other female runner. But I also motivate myself on race day morning by writing 2 sayings with a marker on upper extremities. The first is the words “GO TIME!” on my wrist to inspire me to press through the 26.2 miles. The second, I write “For G-PA” on my left arm in honor of my biggest fan who passed suddenly in August of 2013. He was my number one supporter and would call before and after every race since I was freshman in high school. His last phone call to me was a message he left after my first marathon where I qualified for Boston in June 2013. He is the reason I continue to challenge myself at each and every race.

What’s your favorite pump up song before a race?

Kirsten – It’s nearly impossible to choose just one…  But I would have to say “The Fighter” by Gym Class Heroes followed by an inspiring song “Good Life” by OneRepublic.

Michelle – I don’t want to be judged, but Taylor Swift is an important source of many pump up songs.

Written by: Courtney Zwetsch