HERC News: What long distance races have you previously run?
Christina Kluth: I’ve run three marathons previously… Paris in 1999, which was totally down to my personal challenge to do a marathon before I was 40; the Southampton double-half in 2018; and then the Atlanta marathon in 2020. My true love though is off-road running. In 2021, I successfully achieved my goal of completing a Centurion Running Grand Slam of 50’s, which is four 50-mile races within a calendar year.
HN: Wow, so running 26 miles in a marathon is no problem then?
CK: Well actually, yes it is. The Ultras are mainly off-road, and running a road race, on tarmac, is really tough and unforgiving on the legs and the joints, especially when you get to my age! In a 50-mile race, you tend to walk up the hills and rest, whereas in a road race there’s a lot of pressure to keep on running and not take a break.
HN: Why the Boston Marathon? That’s a long way to travel to run 26 and a bit miles?
CK: It was the first of the Abbott World Marathon Majors that I could enter with my qualifying time from Atlanta 2020. It’s also the one with the most history. Did you know it’s the world’s oldest annual marathon race! It started in 1897 and was inspired by the success of the first marathon competition in the 1896 Olympics. With a field of 35,000 competitors and half a million spectators, this was definitely the biggest race I’ve ever competed in.
HN: What was your Boston training plan?
CK: I had a personal coach. We started working together in January this year, so it was around three-months of intensive training before the race.
A typical week would consist of:
Interval Session (including speed work)
Base Run (Recovery)
I did all of this training on my own, using an app on my Smartwatch, which fed my stats directly to my coach. He was than able to analyse my performance and give me an updated training plan for the following week.
HN: So, would you recommend a personal coach?
CK: It worked for me. I seriously think I would have injured myself otherwise. I’m too pig-headed and will religiously follow the set plan regardless, whereas my coach was able to dynamically adapt the plan each week according to my individual stats, needs, and how my body was performing.
CK: It certainly didn’t go to plan. I naively hadn’t sufficiently understood the logistics involved in simply getting across the start line. The start of the Boston marathon is 25 miles outside of the City. To get there, we had to catch a bus, which involved getting to the bus stop, queueing for an hour, and then travelling for another hour on the bus. When we got to the start, we waited for another hour in the holding pens, and then after the start gun for our wave, it was a slow shuffle for another 15 minutes or so, before finally getting over the timing mat. I’d already been on my feet for well over three hours, plus when you get to the start area, there’s nowhere to warm up, so you’re starting the race with cold, cramped muscles.
Before the race started, I didn’t realise how crammed in we would be or how slow the initial pace would be. My race plan was to run 7:30 minute miles, mainly to put some time in the bank before the dreaded hills. I averaged 7:50 for the first 11 miles, which in hindsight was perfectly acceptable, although at the time it was totally frustrating as I felt I was being held up by the sheer volume of runners and could have gone faster.
In my head, I had a goal of completing 15 miles in 2 hours, and the stats show I was 15.5mi in 2:03:32, so not too far off, although mentally it was frustrating. The takeaway is don’t stress and don’t over-analyse! In a major, mass participation event like this; just go with the flow, as there’s nothing you can do about it.
I was pleased that I ran all of the hills though. The four hills in the second half of the race are billed as crippling, although I think this is because collectively they’re relentless, one after the other, whereas individually they’re no worse than any of the hills we train on locally.
The most amazing thing was the level of support around the course. Not just in the City, especially at the hill sections… at least 4 deep for Heartbreak Hill… and at the finish, but also out in the suburbs, where the boomboxes were blasting, the barbies were fired up, and the beers and wines were flowing as the locals partied and cheered us on. I’ve never known support like it before in a race.
They say that from 21 miles it’s all downhill, but I just didn’t have anything left in my legs to speed up. I think this was a combination of the length of time on my feet before the race, the jet-lag, my disrupted sleep pattern, and my abnormal eating routine.
The last half-mile of the race feels very challenging, there’s a section through some high-rise buildings which is dark and cold, however the roar from the crowd is unbelievable and this spurred me on to a finish time of 3 hours, 37 minutes and 13 seconds, which was a massive PB for me.
HN: You were also 18th from 450 in your age group… Well done!
CK: Thank you!
HN: How did you feel after the race?
CK: My legs hurt… a lot! I wasn’t able to do the initial 7:30 minute miles that I wanted, but I had nothing left at the end, so I’m very happy that I gave it my all.
I do feel that the organisation by the Boston Athletic Association was amazing. It was all very slick and there were no queues at all at the finish.
HN: Apart from the things you’ve already mentioned, do you have any tips for anyone thinking about competing in the Boston Marathon?
CK: Don‘t travel to Boston too early! If possible, do your sightseeing after the race, rather than before. Just rest up and prepare for the race in advance, and then party afterwards (if your legs are still working).
Be prepared for all sorts of weather. Boston weather is very changeable… all four seasons are possible in 24 hours. While I was there, from Saturday to Monday the temperature dropped 12 degrees and on Sunday night, the wind direction shifted 180 degrees.
Try and stick to your normal diet/hydration regime, even if this means taking food with you. Living for a few days in a hotel, it’s difficult to get the appropriate food that prepares you for a race, so consider taking the food with you that you would normally have before a UK race.
If you use gels, isotonic drinks, etc, research what will be provided at the feed stations, and test these in advance, to ensure that they’re compatible for you.
HN: Now that you’ve completed the Boston marathon… What’s next?
CK: Well 100%, I want to focus on road running, and to complete all of the six Abbott Majors to get the 6-star medal. My plan is to run Berlin in September 2022, Chicago in October 2022, London in 2023, New York maybe in 2023, and then Tokyo, which will be my biggest entry challenge. The Tokyo qualifying time is 3:30 regardless of age. The fastest marathon course is Berlin, so in the next five months I need to try and take over seven minutes off my Boston time and average seven and a half minute miles for pretty much the whole race.
Although I’ve always been pretty fit, I know I’m a late starter to this running malarkey! Nearly everyone I spoke to at Boston had been running since they were Juniors. Now that I’ve finally plucked up the courage to join a running club, I hope that this will give me the support and motivation to help me achieve my objectives.
HN: Thank you for your time Christina. We wish you every success, and I’m sure everyone in the club will be inspired by your progress towards your Six Star challenge!