Milla Austin: How I Qualified for The Boston Marathon

This week’s Guest Post is by Milla Austin, from California. Milla went from a 5:27 marathon, to being a Boston Marathon qualifier, and she gives some great insight into how she did it. I came across Milla through her brilliant “Why You Should Hire A Marathoner” post on LinkedIn.

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Some people are born with the ability to run fast. I am not one of those people; I’m a slow runner. I’m the back of the pack, the one at the end, and I’m OK with that. I wasn’t born with speed. When “real” runners would talk about going to Boston, I would look with admiring eyes, but knew that would never and could never be me. I never even considered myself a “real” runner.   It took me 5 hours and 27 minutes to finish my first marathon. I am proud of that finish, but it was not close to a Boston qualifier. So how eight years after my first marathon was I able to qualify for Boston with a finish time of 3:34?

  • I had to get in my mind that I was a “REAL Runner”

It took years for me to realize that a “real” runner is not only someone who is extremely fast or wins races. A runner is someone who goes out there and pounds the pavement. I had long believed I wasn’t a “real” runner because of my speed. When my son wrote on a school paper that his Mom was a “runner” my heart sunk. How my son, my family, and friends could believe in me and yet I didn’t believe in myself. If you run, damn it, you are a runner. You are an athlete. As an athlete you decide how you want to run or what goals you want to have. Just believe that you can do whatever you set your mind to!

  • To Run Fast, you have to Run Fast

The bottom line is, you can’t just wish to be fast, you have to work at it. Yes, I tried the wishing thing many times, but it didn’t work. You have to train and do speed work.   Was I out of my comfort zone? Absolutely, and it was painful. My first “speed sessions” consisted of 60 seconds sprints followed by 4 minutes slow/recovery. I still to this day remember my first 9:00-minute mile. It didn’t come fast, it took months. Start slow – push yourself a little each run, and keep on adding. But don’t give up; you will have bad days and good days. Celebrate the small accomplishments on your training, and if you missed your mark celebrate that you showed up! The road to Boston will be hard, but it’s no fun if you don’t enjoy the journey.

  • Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

My husband never trained for long distance, yet every time he ran a race he would beat me. Not only by a few minutes, but sometimes close to an hour. During races I noticed that runners would pick up speed at the end of a race while I was struggling to catch my breath. In my mind, I hated them. Why was it so much easier for everyone else? One day I was telling my sob story to my friend. She gave me the best advice. She said: “Don’t compare yourself to others, compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.” I don’t know why, but that quote stuck. It was so true. I was focusing on the negative, and what I couldn’t do instead of what I was accomplishing. There is always someone faster… Who cares? Focus on your goal and celebrate when others reach theirs.

  • Get a Coach

Hiring a running coach was totally worth it. It was a huge help in reaching my dream, and helped my running tremendously. I had someone telling me exactly how I needed to train, and I had someone pushing me just a bit more than I would do alone. Depending on your budget, coaches can be hired on-line or in person. Coaches programs may vary, but a running training plan will include structured training runs, warm up drills, cool down and recovery, nutrition and fueling tips, strength training, injury prevention, and race-day preparation. Having a structured program tailored to my goals made all the difference.

If you have a goal to get to Boston, or even to just get faster you can do it. It is a choice you have to make every single day to commit to the training. It is tough, it is uncomfortable, but the reward of doing something you never thought possible is worth it. As I look back, I still enjoy my slow long runs with friends. However, with the right commitment and training this slow runner can make it to Boston again!

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