Training partners Sarah Askdal and Dana Cushing:
Name: Sarah Askdal, 33, of Brandon
Family: Husband and three children, ages 13, 9 and 8.
Occupation: Works for Wells Fargo
Running history: Has run two marathons, a 3:34 in Twin Cities in 2011 and a 3:32 in Chicago in 2012.
Boston hopes: “I would seriously like to break the 3:30 mark if I could.”
Quirks: “I have to have one can f Mountain Dew, and it can’t be diet. I just need my 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew, and I’m ready to go.”
When Sarah Askdal stood at the starting line of her first marathon in the Twin Cities, she didn’t realize she would be contemplating running the Boston Marathon when she finished. Or that she would qualify on her first try.
“This was the farthest thing from my mind,” Askdal says. “It didn’t even really dawn on me that I could actually do it. It was just my goal to run one and finish. When we got done, I thought, ‘I don’t want to do another one.’”
It’s a common feeling at the finish of a race, legs trashed and your body spent. But then her friend and running partner, Dana Cushing, said, “We have to run Boston.
About seven friends – including Cushing – got together and ran Chicago the next fall, and Askdal realized Boston was next. “I knew it was the oldest marathon and a lot of people ran it, but I never had really looked into it, never had any interest.”
Still, she’ll be there on Monday. She pulled a training plan off the Internet, has peaked at around 40 miles a week, and suffered through many treadmill miles. She estimates she ran about 40 percent of her mileage on a treadmill. “I watch TV, but it’s hard. It’s boring,” Askdal says. She did one of her 20-milers on the treadmill, too. “I even took a picture of it,” she says with a laugh. “It was not fun. That’s just ridiculous. I was going crazy.”
As the race gets closer, she gets a bit more nervous. “People are like, ‘you are running Boston? Oh my God.’ And now with everyone saying it, and it getting closer, this is a big deal,” Askdal says. “I hope I don’t totally blow this one.”
Name: Dana Cushing, 37, of Brandon
Family: Husband and three kids, ages 12, 10 and 7
Running history: Began running in 2008. Two previous marathons: a 3:38 in Twin Cities in 2011 and a 3:31 in Chicago in 2012.
On running Boston: Its kind of surreal. I’m going to Boston. To run this race. I get to run THE Boston Marathon.”
Race quirks: Beforehand, she has to have peanut butter toast. “At Twin Cities, I actually brought my toaster with me.”
Food quirks: Spinach or kale smoothies: Spinach, blueberries, chia seeds, protein powder and almond milk. “Sometimes I have to plug my nose to get that stuff down.”
Dana Cushing took a challenge from her friends in Brandon. They started running and encouraged her to come along.
“I Googled ‘couch potato to 5K’ and I did the run-walk,” Cushing says. Soon enough, she was doing all running – and quickly.
“I’m having fun with it,” Cushing says.
It helps to have a friend with her. She and Sarah Askdal pound out many miles together, either at the gym or running loops in Brandon, looking for hills to simulate the race course. The two did three of their four 20-milers for Boston together.
“I have trained with enough hills that I think I will be OK,” Cushing says. “Round and round in Brandon.”
But no matter how you schedule it, long distance running can be exhausting. “I still end up being ruined for the day,” Cushing says. “I just hurt. I feel like the Tin Man with nausea.”
She cross-trains with boot camp classes and weights a few days a week, and runs about three days a week, peaking around 38 miles a week. And Cushing knows that some weeks are better than others – one week her 20miler began to fall apart around mile 14. “I was about in tears. How am I going to do this? I was cold, my feet hurt.” But then the next run went just fine.
Overcoming an obstacle on a training run can help with mental toughness on race day.
She compares marathoning with pregnancy and childbirth. “You get excited, then you have morning sickness and nausea – and that’s your 20-miler. Then you have to get this baby out, and that’s the taper. And then you’re holding your baby, and that’s the finish,” Cushing laughs. “Then a year later you’re like, ‘let’s do this!’ You forget how miserable you get.”