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Jessie Cardin Returns to Run B.A.A. 10k After Collapsing At The Boston Marathon

After collapsing on the Boston Marathon course, Jessie Cardin came back to PR in the B.A.A. 10k.

Photo: Michael Scottt

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On June 25, professional runner Jessie Cardin ran the B.A.A. 10K, her first time back to Boston since running the marathon in April. Cardin trains in Michigan with the Hansons-Brooks program but grew up and went to college in Massachusetts. However, coming back to Boston is more than just a homecoming. After collapsing at Mile 23 of the Boston Marathon, running the B.A.A. 10K was an opportunity to make better running memories in a city she loves.

When Cardin toed the line in Hopkinton at the start of the Boston Marathon, she hoped to improve upon her debut time of 2:33:34 set in Chicago the previous October. She describes her training for Boston as having gone “splendidly.”

“It is really surprising how much your body can surprise you, either in a good way or a bad way. And I feel like it surprised me in a good way during the segment, because there were workouts that I’ve done that I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just did that.’ Just those moments of ‘look at how far I’ve come’. It’s so great to see that and feel good while doing it. And to be healthy, to [train] alongside teammates, it was just a picture-perfect build. I felt like my mindset was really good,” Cardin says.

The morning of the marathon was uneventful, with breakfast, transportation and warmups all going as expected. Other than a missed bottle at 5K, which she ran back for and then quickly caught back up to the pack she was running with, the first half of the race went as planned. She crossed the halfway point of the marathon in 1:15:09 feeling great.

“I kind of did a quick physical checklist. Okay, how are we feeling? Mind is sharp. That’s good. After that one bottle I missed and went back to [at 5K], all my bottles after that I didn’t miss any, so that’s good. Check. Legs were feeling very, very strong, almost like I was preparing them to take on the hills, I wasn’t feeling tired at all. I just felt like a machine. And I was like, ‘This is perfect. This is where I want to be,’” says Cardin.

Running in a pack that included Cardin’s teammate and training partner, Anne-Marie Blaney, they clicked off a 5:45 mile – close to goal pace of 5:43 per mile- at Mile 16, the beginning of the Newton Hills. Cardin says she still had no indication of what was going to happen just a few miles later. But the body can surprise you, for better but also for worse sometimes.

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A Turn Of Events

Reflecting back on the day, the first indication something was going wrong came around Mile 19 when Cardin says she felt like Blaney, was surging ahead of her. Afterwards, Cardin says Blaney told her she had not surged but was holding pace and Cardin had slowed down. Blaney tried to motion with her hand to get Cardin to catch back up, but Cardin says she believed her teammate was running too fast and stayed back to run on her own.

By Heartbreak Hill, she realized she was the one running off pace when her watch showed a 6:29 mile. Cardin recalls trying to rally and feeling a bit of confidence come back when she passed Laura Thweatt and Edna Kiplagat. After that, her memories get a little fuzzy. She doesn’t remember where she was on the course, but probably within the next mile, when Thweatt and Kiplagat passed her, despite feeling like she was running fast. It was at that point she started to realize that something was wrong. 

There is a fine line for athletes who must balance pushing past the discomfort to accomplish things their bodies have never done before and recognizing when the signals their body is sending is a warning of true danger. Cardin acknowledges she was beginning to feel scared that her mind and body had begun to feel so disconnected, yet she was also so invested in the race that while she accepted she would have to slow down, and even walk, she says she never entertained the idea to stop.

“I was like…even if you do walk, you’re going to finish. Too many people came out to see you. You put too much effort into this. There is no way that you are not finishing today. And then I don’t remember anything except for waking up in the hospital. My body clearly was like, ‘Nope, you’re not going to finish today,’” Cardin says.

From what she was told, Cardin collapsed around Mile 23 and was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She didn’t sustain any physical injuries but was given an IV and several bags of fluids. The medical staff also monitored her very low heart rate, keeping defibrillator paddles nearby in case she went into cardiac arrest. She was released later that afternoon and went to stay for a few days with her parents in their home about an hour west of Boston. 

While staying with her parents, she made a second trip to the hospital on the Thursday following the marathon. She says a bug was going around the household causing vomiting but after she lost consciousness while sitting on the bathroom floor, her mother called an ambulance to take her to UMass Memorial Medical Center.

According to Cardin, the medical staff who treated her at both hospitals provided what seemed to her like an incomplete explanation, telling her she was dehydrated and had just pushed too hard. She says she is confident that she drank most of the fluids from all her bottles during the race and drank “like a fish in the days leading up to the race” and continued “drinking water like crazy” since the marathon.

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Cardin acknowledges she has passed out in races before, however, she says that those instances, particularly during her junior year in college, were due to disordered eating and a probable energy deficiency. She is sure that was not the reason this time, as she says marathon training has led her to change those behaviors. “I have come so far in my relationship with food. I think the marathon helped with that because you’re just hungry all the time. And I was like, if I want to do my first marathon, I want to do it right. And so that’s when I started really just listening to what my body wanted,” Cardin says.

Following the marathon Cardin took two scheduled weeks off, recovering at her parents’ home and then traveling to Arizona, but was still frustrated, confused and disappointed about what had happened in Boston when she returned to Michigan. It was not until she saw her team chiropractor who suggested it may have been a lack of salt in her diet that caused her symptoms, that there was a reason that made sense to her as to why her body shut down at the marathon. The explanation didn’t ignore all the liquids she says she consumed but instead explained they, along with a lack of sodium, were part of the problem.

Coaches Kevin and Keith Hanson put Cardin’s health first as they planned her return to training, but she was eager to dive back in. Physically she felt good and with a probable explanation of her collapse in hand, Cardin felt more at ease emotionally as well. She began researching and experimenting with new fueling options, paying extra attention to the sodium content in the nutrition she uses while running and adding more salt to her overall diet.

On June 3, she kicked off the season at the Freihofer’s Run for Women 5K, “ripping off the marathon Band-Aid” with a second-place finish, running 16:00. There have been no signs of any issues since Boston and training has been “very positive and business as usual” Cardin says.

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Next on the schedule was the B.A.A. 10K. Cardin had not run a 10K as a pro and her PR prior to the race of 33:45 was technically from a half marathon in 2021. But returning to Boston to run a totally unfamiliar race felt just right to her. While it was her first time back to the city since the marathon, the different distance, course and time of year kept her from comparing the race and potential outcomes to her experience in April.

She ran a one-minute PR of 32:45 on an incredibly humid day, good for 12th place. “I was definitely happy with my time, especially because it was so hot and because I surprised myself with how good I felt during the race. There were also a lot of people that were faster than me on paper, but I was happy to see that I stuck my nose in and could hold my own against some big names,” Cardin says.

The race results, including how she felt post-race, offer support for the experimentation Cardin has been doing with her fueling, trying different brands of gels and drink mixes. “The things that I’m trying are definitely working and [the race] was a testament to that. I left with so many great memories and I am thankful that is how [the day] turned out. It was great to leave the city after having such a positive experience,” says Cardin.

After a successful weekend racing in the city she loves, it seems like nothing is holding Cardin back from racing in Boston, or in general, anymore.


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