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The training is done. Other than three miles here or four miles there, all there is left for Jess Gillman to do is run 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in Boston on Patriots’ Day.
Gillman, a 33-year-old working mom from Colorado, has let us follow along on her road to the Boston Marathon. So often we get to talk with professional or sub-elite runners about their training; this was an opportunity to hear how someone who doesn’t live and breathe running fits it into their life, someone who loves running, but has other priorities and responsibilities in life to juggle.
In our final catch-up before the race, Gillman shared how her taper is going, her plans to keep her kids entertained in Boston while trying to stay mostly off her feet, and what she’s most excited about for the race.
The Final Week
Like so many runners before her, Gillman is trusting the process and giving her body the time it needs to recover and get ready for the long miles ahead. “Tapering is mentally I think the hardest part of running a marathon,” she says. “It’s just being OK with slowing down a little bit more and not running all the miles and knowing it’s actually helping you.”
Last time we spoke, Gillman was getting over an unfortunate bout of tonsillitis, which she thinks is now cleared up and her coughing has subsided. “Knock on wood that come race day it doesn’t manage to pop back up while I’m running,” she says.
While running light mileage, this week has mostly been focused around hydration and nutrition—lots of water and electrolytes. But she’s OK admitting that the nutrition aspect is not perfect: “Let’s be honest, when you’re a mom of a toddler and a baby, you know, Chick-fil-A is still on the menu,” says Gillman. That being said, she’s prioritized important aspects of her pre-race nutrition, like mitigating dairy and sugar.
Saturday is her travel day, which she’ll plan as a rest day. “I’ll run probably two or three miles on Sunday just to shake everything out. And that’s it,” she says.
The Final Stages of Planning
A lot of preparation goes into traveling for a marathon successfully. The amount of preparation increases when you also have to plan around a 5-year-old and 7-month-old.
Gillman checked one big anxiety-inducing question mark off of her to-do list: Where would she be able to pump before the race? Gillman is breastfeeding, and she knew that from the 7:30 a.m. to bus until the 10:30 a.m. start, she would need to take care of that. In an easy email exchange with Boston Athletic Association, the organization that puts on the Boston Marathon, she found out that there will be semi-private areas she could go pump and that she’d be able to check a medical bag to leave the pump in the athlete village.
“It was a huge stress saver right there, hearing that they’ve thought about this kind of stuff for us. It’s really nice,” says Gillman.
Gillman even has her Sunday planned out, hoping to get maximum family fun time without wearing herself out. After an Easter Sunday service, her and her husband hope to take the kids on a famous Boston duck boat sightseeing tour. Then an early dinner and early to bed.
She’s not worried about nerves impeding her pre-race sleep (not that she doesn’t get nervous before a race). “Adding the two kids to the mix of traveling, I think I’m going to be exhausted,” she says.
It’s All About Race Day
Gillman is also not really worried about the miles ahead. She’s excited.
Marathons tend to make her emotional, seeing other runners persevere, achieve their goals, or raise money for a good cause. She’s anticipating an inspirational and moving experience in Boston, especially with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the first official women’s field of the race.
But she might be most excited about Spencer the 12-year-old golden retriever, who has become a hometown hero for the marathon after overcoming cancer. “They just did a special ceremony for him and I started tearing up,” says Gillman. “I hope I get to see Spencer.”
“It’s just so funny,” says Gillman. “I’m already getting emotional about this race with all these cool stories that you’re reading about people that have accomplished and overcome so much. I feel really lucky that I get to go out there.”