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World Marathon Majors

How Jess Gillman is Working Through Pre-Race Hiccups Ahead of Boston Marathon

We're following 'regular runner' Jess Gillman as she trains for the Boston Marathon, which is stop number four in her pursuit of running all the World Marathon Majors.

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In March we introduced you to Jess Gillman, a 33-year-old mother of two who works full-time in marketing and is also training for the Boston Marathon.

In our check-in this week, Gillman demonstrates how busy runners manage to get training done, even when life throws them for a loop. And not to sound like a Nike ad, but they just do it. For Gillman that means finding a way to train, even when you get tonsillitis in the final month before a dream race.

Because of the tonsillitis, she had to take nine days off of training just ahead of what should have been her taper. Now she’s doing a bit of reverse engineering, squeezing in one last 18-20 mile long run to make up for two that she missed. “I’m just going off of what mentally I feel like I need to do and that’s to get one more long run in to really feel like, ‘OK, I’m good,'” she says.

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Even with the unexpected illness, she has no doubt that she can still make it to race day in good shape. At this point it’s more about re-evaluating her goals. “It’s crazy what happened in the nine days to my fitness,” she says. “I feel like my legs are so heavy. I feel like I can still do the miles, that’s not a question. It’s just that I feel like I lost a little bit of that speed element.”

She’s given herself an A goal (running it in 3:45:00) and a B goal (anything under 4:00:00). “This is how life happens,” she says, not dwelling on the frustration. And for her, running the Boston Marathon is more about the experience than the time goals. “I’m very fortunate to be able to do it,” she says.

Calling on Community

In her rough couple of weeks Gillman has relied on a private Facebook group for other people heading to Boston to run on April 18. She’s learned that getting sick is not a unique problem to have.

“It’s so crazy how many people in the last week have been like, ‘Hey, what would you guys do? I just tested positive for COVID. What would you guys do if you’re sick and you can’t run? What do you suggest?'” says Gillman. Scouring through the comments has been helpful in understanding all of her options.

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She also reached out to some of her running friends to see what they thought about sticking to the taper or fitting in one last long run. “I had one friend who said I should do this long run, but to just go extra slow this week and really allow my body to have time on my feet. I think that’s the best advice I got was just get time on my feet,” she says.

Lingering Logistics

Gillman is also using these last couple of weeks to mull over some challenging race day logistics. The main one being, as the mother of a 7-month-old, where is she going to pump beforehand? And will she need to buy a cheap breast pump to bring with her? “It’s funny,” she says, “you don’t think about this stuff when you’re not breastfeeding.

Having never run the race in person before she’s unaware of any facilities in the runner’s village and is rightly averse to pumping in a porta potty. But like her unfortunate pre-race illness, she’s sure she can’t be the first runner to ponder how to get over this hurdle.

“When you’re a running mom, you have to think about this. Hopefully I’ll figure it out,” she says.

We’ll check in with Gillman once more before the marathon and see if she’s found a solution. But if you want to offer her some advice in the meantime please email 

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