Boston Marathon 2018: Meet 8 Speedy First-Timers From Toronto

On April 16, roughly 30,000 eager runners will toe the line at the iconic Boston Marathon, with Toronto well represented in the sea of racers. It’s a testament to the team spirit of a seemingly individual sport that Toronto has such a vibrant running scene, with numerous crews stretching from High Park to Leslieville (and beyond). Through the running community, I’ve met and befriended many inspiring athletes who have fought to achieve their personal goals, including their coveted BQ. This year, Toronto’s cohort of Boston Marathon runners includes many badass women, some going for the first time. This upcoming race will be a celebration of all their incredible hard work and discipline, so let’s send our good vibes and best wishes to these eight Boston Marathon first-timers!

Alexandra (Sasha) Barak

Which groups do you run with? “My running crew is Pace & Mind, coached by Rejean Chiasson. I also run with my friends at Manic Run Club and other groups.”

How long have you been running? “I have been running for about five years. My first run was along the seawall in Cape Town. My colleagues, a bunch of serious runners, told me I couldn’t join them for a morning workout because it would be too long and fast for me. The next thing I knew, I was huffing and puffing for the longest 10k of my life.”

How many marathons have you done? “Two.”

Where did you get your BQ?Berlin Marathon.”

What’s your training like? “I do around 80-90k a week: two speed workouts, one long run, and easy runs for the rest of the days. Ideally I would include a strength workout after each run. I’m really bad with sleep, but I’m trying to keep my food simple and healthy.”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “When you are at the end of the race and you feel like you are dying, just keep going, one kilometre after the other, one little win after the other.”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “The formula is pretty simple: if you work hard, you will succeed. If you are not disciplined enough, train with a group or work with a coach.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “Crossing the finish line and getting the biggest runner’s high of my life.”

April Cockshutt

Which groups do you run with?Pace & Mind, One Academy.”

How long have you been running? “I’ve always loved the outdoors, so I’ve been running since I was young. However, I’ve only really started running competitively for the past three years. I am usually training for multiple sports at one time, such as OCR racing, biking, trail running and others. This year, for the past three months, is the first time I have been strictly focused on road running to prepare for Boston.”

How many marathons have you done? “One.”

Where did you get your BQ?San Francisco Marathon.”

What’s your training like? “My running coach, Rejean Chiasson [of Pace & Mind], is amazing and I have religiously stuck to his schedule, with two interval sessions, one long run and three easy runs a week, averaging 90-100k per week. I also do an intense lower-body class and upper-body class at One Academy, and I mix in rock climbing and recovery bike rides when I can. I focus on a clean whole foods diet with limited gluten, dairy and processed sugars to give me ample energy, limited inflammation and good recovery time.”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “You’re stronger than you think; don’t let yourself down. It’s easy to quit when things feel tough, but that pain is temporary. Your mind is strong and you can persevere. My good friend and coach Jesse Bruce [of One Academy] taught me that.”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “Never think something is impossible. Set your goals high and with some determination and persistence, anything is possible.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “I’ve heard that the crowd of people cheering you on is electrifying. I can’t wait to feed off this excitement and let this energy fuel me through the race.”

Kerri Andreas

Which groups do you run with? “I’m coached by Rob Watson, one of the awesome coaches with Mile2Marathon, based in Vancouver. For my long run, I’ll do it on my own (or try and convince my wonderful and speedy boyfriend to pace me!), or go out with BlackToe or MOCAA.”

How long have you been running? “I started running to unwind after work and stay in shape. I had never run with a group until I decided to run a marathon in 2011. The plan was just to cross it off my bucket list.”

How many marathons have you done? “Five.”

Where did you get your BQ? “Ottawa Marathon. (Although I originally qualified for the Boston Marathon in 2016, but ended up sitting it out due to a stress fracture.)”

What’s your training like? “I’ve been averaging 90k per week, being careful to do my easy runs easy so I can really hammer out those speed sessions. I love cross-training, and I try to get to the gym a couple of times each week. I try to get enough sleep and proper nutrition. I’m a vegetarian so keeping my iron levels up is a constant struggle.”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “Roosevelt once said, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ While having friendly competition can push you, you can go insane if you chase another runner’s time and are never proud of your own accomplishments.”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “Consistency is key, and progress takes time.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “Celebrating afterwards with the incredible people I’ve met through the running community. I’ve met some of my best friends through the sport and I can’t wait to be part of it as they tear up the course on Patriots’ Day!”

Lauren Roberts

Which groups do you run with?BlackToe Running.”

How long have you been running? “I used to have bad pigeon toes and doctors said running wasn’t going to be in the cards for me. Despite this, I was a super active kid and played a bunch of sports. When I was 13, I ran my first 5K race in 27 minutes. I felt like I was proving a lot of people wrong, and even if I looked funny running, I wanted to keep getting better at it.”

How many marathons have you done? “Two, and a whole pile of long-course triathlons.”

Where did you get your BQ?Erie Marathon.”

What’s your training like? “I own a physiotherapy clinic that specializes in treating runners, which keeps me on my toes. So lower-mileage, higher-intensity plans work well for my schedule, and also I’m a masochistic fan of short, hard, punchy-style workouts that push me physically and mentally. I run 70-90k most weeks, but never more than 100. I’m also a big fan of back-to-back training days on weekends: a tempo run on Saturday, a long run on Sunday. I keep up a cross-training routine a few times per week, mainly small muscle exercises with resistance bands and a lot of core. Food-wise, I don’t impose a lot of rules because life is too short not to enjoy good food, coffee and beer!”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “With a big race coming up, simplify your life as much as possible. Don’t say yes to a million social commitments. Don’t worry about the dust bunnies under your bed. Your body doesn’t know the difference between training stress and life stress.”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “Be generally consistent, but don’t stress. Don’t worry about missing a run here and there because life happens.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “I’m pumped to be a part of the big energy that comes with big races! I love everything, from the night-before anticipation to the dark times mid-race to the sweaty finish-line hugs.”

Meredith Parker

Which groups do you run with? “I run with the Mavericks Run Crew, RunTOBeer and West End Run Crew, but was training mostly with Adidas Runners for the past two years.”

How long have you been running? “I’ve been running since high school, but more seriously since 2010 after making a New Year’s resolution to run a full marathon.”

How many marathons have you done? “Four.”

Where did you get your BQ?Chicago, but I knew I didn’t have enough of a buffer to actually get in, so I ran Hamilton a month later.”

What’s your training like? “My training has been around 70k a week. I do strength training at least once a week and some occasional yoga. I am pretty strict about my pre-long run and race meals, with fish, veggies and light carbs the night before, and oatmeal for breakfast in the morning. I regularly see a chiropractor and physiotherapist to keep everything working properly.”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “Follow the 10 percent rule: never increase speed, distance or intensity more than 10 percent a week or you will surely be injured. Also, trust the training—a little cliché, but it’s true. If you’ve done the work, the results will come and you have to be confident in yourself that you can do it!”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “Wait till you’re over 40! Just kidding. Find a flat or downhill race with great crowds, then follow a pace bunny or have a fast friend pace you at the end.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “Seeing my friends and family on the course and the finish line!”

Michelle Roest

Which groups do you run with?Nike Toronto, November Project, Manic Run Club, The Rooster Project.”

How long have you been running? “I started running eight years ago after a soccer injury kept me from doing team sports. After moving to the city, a friend convinced me to go to Nike Run Club with her. I discovered that while running is a personal feat, it’s a team sport as well, and the Toronto running community is the most supportive team!”

How many marathons have you done? “Three.”

Where did you get your BQ? “Berlin Marathon.”

What’s your training like? “I try to run 70-100k a week. My cross-training includes the elliptical, occasional spin classes and lots of strength and plyometrics. As for sleep and nutrition, I might not be the best example. I like my sangria Sundays too much. I believe in doing what works and feels right for you!”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “Your mind tells you that you are done before your body actually is. There is always more in you than you think! Read How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald; it’s my running bible.”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “I think the coveted unicorn puts a lot of pressure on people. Try not to take it too seriously. Forget to wear a watch on your easy runs from time to time. Don’t beat yourself over the taco you ate before your long run.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “The atmosphere and getting to experience it all with my family and friends. I can’t wait to celebrate with those I love and with other runners from around the world!”

Sam Juraschka

Which groups do you run with? “So many! Some of my favourites are MOCAA, RunnersGoals, Parkdale, Adidas and Nike.”

How long have you been running? “After playing soccer in college, I really missed competing and trying to improve physically. In the past couple of years, running became a thing I could focus on outside of work.”

How many marathons have you done? “One.”

Where did you get your BQ?Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon.”

What’s your training like? “I really upped my mileage last summer, and unfortunately it didn’t work out for me since I missed my fall race. Lately, I’ve been focusing on efficient training, so capping my mileage at 70-80k per week and having a mix of hill and speed workouts every week, and of course stretching and mobility. My body is much happier!”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “MOCAA’s run crew has the phrase ‘Nothing Is Easy’ plastered all over their walls. I often think about that saying during the very tough times of a race.”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “Recovery is just as important as your tough workouts. When you commit to a training plan, make sure you are also committing to a recovery/mobility plan.”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “The crowd! I know how much energy I get from the crowd at the finish line in a regular race, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have that energy the entire way through.”

Veronique Demers

Which groups do you run with?Pace & Mind, Running Rats.”

How long have you been running? “About 10 years. I started running during university with the goal of doing a half-marathon, the Deux Rives in Quebec City.”

How many marathons have you done? “Two.”

Where did you get your BQ?Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.”

What’s your training like? “I run about 60-80k per week, and I cross-train by biking with a home trainer and commuting to work every day. I am not strict on nutrition at all, and I try to get my eight hours of sleep.”

What’s the best running or racing advice you’ve ever received? “Try to find the type of training that corresponds with your aspirations. Don’t take it too seriously; enjoy your training and have fun!”

What advice would you give to aspiring Boston qualifiers? “Keep going!”

What are you most looking forward to in Boston? “The feeling of crossing the finish line.”

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