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Her Boston Marathon lead up was not perfect. In fact, Jess Gillman might say this was some of her worst marathon training. Not even a year postpartum, she knew her body would not be the same as before, perhaps a bit slower. And she had the added stress of getting tonsillitis less than a month out from the race. In total it took her out of training for 10 days.
So Gillman was keeping her expectations low: Her A goal was to finish in 3:45.00 and her B goal was to finish under 4 hours. Her eyes were really focused on the experience.
But with a bit of Boston magic and “mom strength,” as she says, she pulled off a fast first in-person attempt at Boston, running it in 3:25.52.
“As the race went on, I was hitting these pretty decent split times. I was like, ‘OK, I think I can get a 3:45.00.’ And then it was 3:40.00 and then it just gradually kept going, like, ‘Alright, I think I’m gonna get another Boston qualifier.’ It just was a wonderful day for me for running,” she says.
She credits her mental strength and the power of positive mantras for her knockout performance. “I kept thinking about, you know, one more mile down and I’m closer to going to get ice cream after with my son. Or one more mile down and I get to go take a hot bath. And it just helped. For me it just takes away from thinking about like, ‘Oh, my quads are shot,’ or ‘Oh, my Achilles is hurting,'” says Gillman.
And the famous Boston crowds also did their part. “There’s those moments where you are running and someone calls your name on your bib, and it’s just the right time where you’re like, ‘I am struggling.’ And all of a sudden you hear your name being shouted in the crowd. And it’s just enough to power you through to that next valley you’re about to go through.”
Seeing her family just before the finish line also gave her a second wind to run one of her fastest splits through to the end.
Her Favorite Moments
Gillman loves to hear other peoples’ stories as she trains for and runs marathons. She was anticipating the inspiration in Boston and she got it in waves, starting from the moment she got on the bus headed to the start line.
“I sat next to a girl whose father and her had qualified together and her father had passed away—I think she said only four weeks ago. So she was actually running with his his ashes in her belt. Her plan was to try to disperse his ashes along the route…She was just so excited to run because she knew her dad was with her,” says Gillman.
Her next profound experience happened in the medical tent where she went to pump before the race. In there she says she met a sisterhood of women, about 10 other moms who were in there for the same reason. “We all connected and talked about, ‘How was your training? What did you do? How old is your baby? What are you most excited for? You felt really connected to these women and cheering them on and hoping they had a really successful day,” she says.
She recalls seeing those fellow moms during the race and being sure to give them a cheer and them cheering for her in return.
Also on the course, she loved running past the iconic “Scream Tunnel” at mile 12.5 where the women from Wellesley College camp out to cheer. “You can hear them from like a half mile out and you knew you’re getting ready to run through some crazy,” she says. “I thought it was good fun.”
That might be the best way to describe the experience: Good fun.