I am excited to feature a different runner each day as we count down to Boston. I love that each runner is unique, coming into Boston with a diverse background and goals. Their journeys all lead to the same place. You can read about my journey, Reflection and Countdown to the Boston Marathon.
I’m excited to introduce our featured runner today, Eric Strennen. I enjoyed reading about his change in attitude toward running as he picked it up later in life. Looking at all of his race photos, he must love what he is doing because he is always smiling! Good Luck Eric!
Name: Eric Strennen
- Can you first, give us your Boston Marathon “story”
I’m a 56 male and started running 5 years ago. At the time, my life was pretty hectic. I was working on my master’s degree while working a full time job. As the stress levels increased, I found myself at the neighborhood bar a little more often than before. After one particularly ragged morning from a hard night of drinking, I decided I needed to find some other outlet to manage the pressure. A friend recommended that I try a little running.
Like a lot of people, running had a negative connotation for me. As a youngster in team sports, it was often used as punishment for not working hard enough in practice. Often times when I ran distances to get in shape for sports activities, I would develop shin splints. In general, it was at the bottom of my list of fun physical activities. However, I thought I would give it one more try.
Upon recommendations from a few friends, I looked into the C25K method to start running. It prescribed a very gradual increase in time and distance as well as alternating walking and running. After reading several articles on possible causes of shin splints, I also worked on changing my running stride from a long heel-striking stride to a short mid-foot stride. Most of my running was done on a treadmill at the gym. Surprisingly, after 3 months I had not developed shin splints and I could easily run 3 miles without feeling gassed – cool!
When I first started running I had no serious aspirations to compete in races. At most, I thought I would do an occasional 5K once or twice a year. My first 5K was a Color Run. No timing, pretty low key and no pressure. I had a fun time and felt a sense of accomplishment and thought maybe with a little more work and dedication I could work up to a 10K. I ran my first 10K three months later, finished second in my age group and I was hooked.
I ran five 10Ks the following year. I learned a lot that year. Some races went very well and a few I struggled in. Going out too fast, managing effort vs pace, nutrition and fueling, recovery and sleep and many other factors that go into a race and race preparation. Crazy how something as simple as running can be so challenging!
I finished my master’s degree at the end of 2013 and that opened up more time in 2014 for my new favorite hobby – running! I increased my weekly mileage and competed in 2 half marathons as well as a handful of 10Ks. I also got connected with a great running group through a friend of a friend. We meet Saturday mornings and do long runs together. Many of the group members have run half and full marathons and are a wealth of knowledge. It’s also quite social and makes the long runs go by quickly. The support and encouragement that we provide each other is invaluable.
After my second half marathon, I decided I wanted to further test my limits and race in a marathon. I had heard good things about the Green Bay marathon, so myself and 3 other friends from my running group signed up for it and ran it May 2015. It went well and I ran it in 3:50, only 10 minutes off my BQ time qualifier!
It was time to get a little more serious about this marathon thing, so I looked at a lot training plans and chose Hansons Marathon Method. I read the book cover to cover and religiously kept to the training plan. I ran my second marathon Oct. 4, 2015 at the Milwaukee Lakefront marathon. The week before this race they announced the cutoff times for Boston 2016. I read so many sad stories on the message boards about qualifying runners who missed entry into the race by a few seconds. Those stories provided great mental fuel over the last few miles of the marathon. It was an ideal race day about 50F, overcast and light wind at my back. I had a wonderful run going until mile 24, then I ran too fast down a long downhill segment. My quads were trashed and my legs turned to cement. I also started hitting fuel depletion about that point. My mind and vision became foggy and I could only see a narrow tunnel ahead of me. I kept replaying those sad stories in my mind and it drove me to the finish. I have a video of me coming towards the finish line and my form looked like something from a zombie movie! I finished in 3:32:33, 7 plus minutes below my BQ time – whew! I was fried and delirious but thrilled with my accomplishment.
- What does running the Boston Marathon mean to you?
To me running the Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of marathon running and will be the most esteemed athletic event that I have ever participated in. I’m an average guy that has squeezed every bit of ability that I have to qualify for it. I am grateful and humbled to be allowed to run in this event.
- What do you look forward to most about running Boston Marathon?
All the historic towns and crowd support. I have read Bill Rodgers book (a couple of times) Marathon Man: My 26.2-Mile Journey from Unknown Grad to the Top of the Running World and want to relive the journey he describes.
- How will you define success, on race day?
Making the right decisions to run a smart race will make the day a success. For me that means, assessing the weather on race day and adjusting pace times accordingly, not running the first half of the race too fast and saving enough to conquer the Newton hills. I also want a clear head running down Boylston, so I will keep close tabs on my nutrition and hydration.
- Do you have a favorite piece of clothing or tech that you always use for training or racing?
I have a bright orange singlet that seems to bring me luck at many of my races.
- How has your training gone, leading up to Boston Marathon? Any advice?
Training has gone well, but not perfect. I decided to test my limits with a more challenging Hanson’s training plan than I’ve done the past few marathons. It went well for the first 2 months, but then had my first inflamed Achilles injury ever. It became swollen and I stopped running for 2 weeks. I followed my PT’s direction and recovered in 2 weeks (record time)! I was able to ramp back up and finish at 90% of the mileage of the training plan. 3 weeks out and I feel very fit and ready. I guess my advice is to be wary of over-training.
Additionally, I do yoga 2-3 times a week, body pump 1-2 days a week and have a sports massage 1-2 times/month.
- What part of the marathon do you find most challenging?
It’s an overused phrase, but the last 10K, where the second half of the race begins. I have to use every mental weapon in my toolbox to carry me through those last 6 miles.
- What has been your favorite race (any distance) up until this point?
My favorite marathon race up this point is the Chicago Marathon. Fun course through lots of different neighborhoods, great crowd support and flat/fast course route.
My favorite race distance is actually a half marathon. I can push the pace, it doesn’t require months of dedicated training and I’m not sore for a week after it!
- Do you have a pre-race routine, ritual or good luck charms?
Pre-race routine: Wake up 3-4 hours before, drink herbal tea and water with hydration tablet (Nuun). 1.5 hours before eat wheat toast with peanut butter and bananas. 45 minutes before drink 16-20 oz of eFuel energy drink, 15 minutes before take a packet of Gu.
Ritual: I’m a big fan of repeating mantras like “Pain is Temporary”, “Run the Mile You are In”, “The Strong Get Stronger” and “The Hills are My Friends”.
Ritual: As you can see from my pics, I wear a nasal strip. I keep my slow and deep by inhaling through my nose and the nasal strip really helps!
- What inspires you as a runner?
The positive energy and support that I encounter with everyone in the running community. It has changed my life and makes it easy and natural to give back to it.
- Anything else you want to share?
Last thing to mention is I have a supportive wife, Nanette, who comes to many of my races to cheer me on. I have a 27 year old daughter who started running 3 years ago and has the running bug, too. She ran her first half marathon last year and I got to pace her through it. Probably one of the most special race experiences I’ve ever had. Such a lucky man!