From a 5:06 Marathon to 3:32 Marathon (BQ)!

We’d like to say a huge word of congrats to our client JJ Stark-Modlin on earning a BQ at the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon! This was an epic 10 year journey in the making. She writes,

“I started running in the winter of 2012, using a Couch to 5K training plan that I found online and built up to my first 5K in May of 2012. I’ve always loved competition and was a competitive artistic roller skater for nearly 20 years prior to retiring and starting to run.

Once, I found racing, I was hooked on running. My family told me that due to my extensive history of injuries from skating, they doubted I would ever be able to run a marathon.

But I loved pushing myself to improve and to increase my distance running, building from a 5K to 10K, then half marathon by the fall of 2012. I was completely hooked researching everything I could about the running world.

A Desire to Run Boston

I’d always heard of the Boston Marathon and I wanted to be there. I remember watching the 2013 Boston Marathon on TV and seeing the horror of that day. How everyone came together to show the world that we were not afraid.

I was inspired and in awe and I proceeded to sign up for and run my first marathon in December of 2013, at CIM at age 27. I was determined to get to Boston. I ran my first Marathon in 5:06:51 and my next 5 Marathons were slower.

Finding Marathon Training Academy

I kept researching and training and found MTA in 2016. I started listening to their amazing podcast and joined MTA, and was briefly coached by Coach Angie, before her sabbatical. During that time, MTA matched me with Coach Steven Walden, and we have been working together ever since.

He has coached me through 18 marathons. He has been there through injuries, deaths of family members, and through COVID. All the while working with me to reach the goal I set before I even ran my first marathon, to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon.

We got close in 2019, when I ran a 3:33:27 at the Fargo Marathon, but after that race I got injured training for the Berlin Marathon and have been fighting my way back into that level of fitness.

I love having a Coach that I fully trust when it comes to my training. He knows that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for at times. He knows how to get me out of my head so I can run the best race possible.

Nutrition and Strength Training

When we were preparing for the Revel Big Cottonwood Marathon, we weren’t trying to qualify for Boston. (Yes, I always want to qualify for Boston, but nothing in my running indicated that I was in shape to qualify for Boston.)

This was my fourth marathon of the year, and my other three marathons were in the 4:20-4:45 range. Our goal was for me to run a strong downhill race and not injure my quads along the way. But I’ve never been one to not go all in, and I knew that one of the big things holding me back was my nutrition and my strength training.

So I reached out to, who I know did wonders with Coach Angie and her nutrition, and started working with a nutrition coach, someone who also was going to come alongside me and support me on my running journey. They helped me lean down and fuel properly.

I added in regular strength training targeted at the muscles geared towards running downhill and I diligently followed Coach Steven’s plan. My mile times started to drop and I was starting to clock faster paces for my tempo runs and marathon pace runs than I had in 2019.

I started to see a glimmer of hope, that maybe on my 27th marathon (including the one virtual marathon I ran during COVID), I might just be able to qualify for Boston. But Coach Steven knew that he needed me to focus on the training and doing my best and letting the race come to me, vs on trying to get a BQ. So that’s what we did.

“Letting the race come to me”

I ran the race trying to stay within myself. I avoided pushing the pace, and tried just to maintain my cadance, without pushing and without braking. I ran it comfortably and tried not to get too excited about the pace I was running when I got the mile alerts on my watch.

And when I hit Mile 25, I realized that I had slowed, between the zero shade (85 degrees), the slight uphill, the 4,000 elevation, and the fact that everyone else around me was walking, all of a sudden I was at a 10:25 pace, and I had a chance to qualify for Boston.

That I needed to push, and this was not the time to hold back, it was now or never.

Mile 26 was an 8:46, followed by the largest uphill of the race. Plus the need to weave around all the half marathoners that were walking. I gave it everything I had and finished the race.

I was able to pause my watch prior to blacking out after I crossed the finish line. My 27th marathon. A new PR by 42 seconds and I finally qualified for Boston, with a time of 3:32:45.

In a race that was perfectly timed to qualify me for both Boston 2024 and Boston 2025. And I can’t wait to start training for my November Marathon and see what else Coach Steven and I can do!!”

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