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For many runners, it doesn't get any better than achieving a Boston qualifier. The first time that Ashley Kasten ran a marathon, she finished in 4:15, well behind that qualifying pace. The second time, she dropped a bombshell of a PR, finishing in 3:16 to earn her BQ. Catch up with the former Columbus runner and her incredible story here, in her own words:
One might label me as a worry wart, a person that frets entirely too much about things they can’t control. And that’s why, during my adult life as a runner, I’ve avoided races. I ran cross-country in high school, and man, my nerves were always on end. I'd be at the starting line, quivering in fear, crying, and sweating profusely as my teeth chattered with anxiety. (I guess I expect a lot out of myself, plus I’m super competitive.)
Flash forward to 2009 when I ran my first ever half marathon. The post-race high got to me and before I knew it, I'd signed up for the Disney Marathon in January 2010.
When training began, the endorphins wore off. Preparing for this race was tough; I didn’t even make it through my scheduled 20-mile run, one of the key components of marathon training. I called my husband from a gas station in the middle of my run, crying about how I couldn’t do it. But race day arrived anyway, and I managed to run it (even when it felt like I was staggering along) in 4 hours and 15 minutes—hey, I beat Oprah’s marathon time (4:29)! I considered "run a marathon" an item I'd checked off my bucket list and swore to never do another one.
But 7.5 years later, I decided it was time to try again. I'd had a baby a year prior and finally figured out how to feel good and run healthy post-baby. Also, when I started thinking about what time I needed to earn a Boston qualifier (sub 3:35), I did the math and realized it was an attainable goal. So I registered for the Carmel Marathon in Carmel, Indiana and began to plan for my second marathon.
The first step was to find training plan. A friend sent me several to choose from, and I was overwhelmed: 16 weeks vs. 18 weeks, beginner vs intermediate, long run variations, on and on and on. I had no idea what I needed.
Ultimately I felt the most comfortable with the CRC Advanced Training Plan, Level 1. The flexibility to decide my own rest days eased my stress, and as long as I got in my strides, speed work, and long run, I was in the clear. And the neat pacing chart and workout descriptions kept this rule-following, anxious accountant’s emotions at bay.
Once I was fully immersed in training I discovered, hey, maybe I could pull this off. I followed the plan without fail. I cruised through the fartlek speed workouts and willed my way through the mile and 2-mile repeats. The long runs seemed like a lot, but with each completed run my confidence grew. In fact, my long runs were all so great that I became concerned that my one bad run may turn out to be my race!
When doubts crept in, I relied a lot on my running community, which I HIGHLY recommend. My husband and I had just moved to Indianapolis in July and I immediately began posting on any and all social media platforms in search of my new running BFFs, my “Indianapolis CRC.” Eventually I met the Indy Runners group and through that, I found a group of AMAZING ladies known as Team Shorts! Most of these women have BQ’d (and some even PR’d in the craziness that was Boston 2018), all of them have the best attitudes, and they're all so fun! There’s nothing better than being around a no-drama and highly encouraging group of individuals who dig the same things you do!
Race day came, and I surprisingly wasn’t met with any race day anxiety. The low-key start of a smaller race made it feel like I was going out on a long run with about 4,000 of my friends. And at each mile, I was slightly shocked at the pace I was maintaining. Prior to signing up for the marathon I had recruited my husband and my friend Bob to pace me. Through the first half of the race we kept hitting sub race goal paces (~20 seconds faster than I had expected), which made me nervous; was I going to bonk after the halfway point? What about that “wall” everyone speaks of?
Instead of worrying, I let the pace flow and around the halfway point, my friend Seth, who had signed up a week prior to pace me as well, decided he'd be able to BQ easily and asked me if it was okay to take off. That was fine; I still had Bob and my husband to run with. But a minute later, I looked around at mile 14 and everyone was gone—Seth ahead of me, my husband and Bob out of sight behind me.
I really thought this might be it, that maybe once I was left to my own devices I would mess this race up. But I kept going, even hitting sub 7:25 pace for a few miles. I willed myself through each mile, doing the math that if I slowed to “xxx” pace then I could still BQ. I held fast to my training plan and headed for the finish.
I saw a group of my Team Shorts girls screaming for me as I neared the finish, and as I crossed the line with a time of 3:16:33 (an 18-minute BQ safety net and a 59-minute marathon PR) the tears of happiness began to flow. The post-race soreness was awful, but the BQ racing high was incredible.
Congrats to Ashley on her breakthrough race, massive PR, and that Boston qualifier. We miss you, so come back from Indy to run with us in Columbus anytime!