Haliburton resident Sue Shikaze bites her Boston Marathon medal after completing her third last week in a personal best time. Although the Highlands runner is proud of shattering her personal best Boston Marathon time by 20 minutes, she will never forget the support from friends, family and her husband for making it all possible. /DARREN LUM Staff
Third Time is the charm
By Darren Lum
Haliburton resident Sue Shikaze took a less is more approach her third time out to the Boston Marathon.
Shikaze shattered her personal best time by 20 minutes because of her friend’s advice to avoid anything strenuous the day before the world’s oldest annual marathon.
At the heart of her success, is the support she receives to train three to four hours at a time. Shikaze said she couldn’t have done it without her husband Thom Lambert.
“Obviously, I’m the one that has to do the running, but one of the things I’ve realized about doing things like this is that you don’t ever do it on your own. I’ve just been really grateful the support of people around me,” she said. “Thom is really supportive of my training. It takes a lot of time. Your family members make sacrifices too. When I go and do a long run on a Saturday morning it takes me three to four hours and then you’ve got to recover and then you’ve got to rest. Basically, your day is gone. Your family has to buy into that too.”
Although Shikaze’s marathon journey started some 18 months before she even set foot on the Boston course, it was all worth it.
The whole process started when she went to Boston to watch a friend run in 2012.
“I kind of got re-inspired to train and try to qualify,” she said.
The winter of 2013 she began training to prepare to qualify for Boston with the Mississauga marathon in the spring.
It turned out to be her worst marathon ever, which she said was the result of the warmer than usual temperatures being such a contrast to what she experienced while training in the winter.
She took a break at the start of summer for holidays and returned later in the summer to training for the Hamilton marathon, which was also a qualifier for Boston.
Shikaze finished Hamilton running under the four hour qualifying time in November 2013. Her time was 3:49. Qualifying times are set out by Boston Marathon and are determined by age.
Registration for the run the following year is over a two week period in September, she said.
Due to her race being after registration, she had to wait a year to register for the Boston Marathon.
The qualifying race has to be within 18 months of Boston.
It was worth it, but she admits that it took a lot of focus.
She won’t have to think of fitting in a long run every weekend now that it’s over.
Shikaze won’t stop running, but will take a break from marathons and is considering half-marathons, 10- and five-kilometre runs.
Besides the distance, the challenge of the Boston Marathon is the terrain the route follows.
Once on the course, runners face a consistent downhill from the start in the community of Hopkinton to the finish line on Boylston Street in downtown Boston.
Most would think this would help, but descending takes effort.
Shikaze has been hampered with cramping and fatigue in the past, particularly on the descending route of Boston.
Rather than enduring the last few miles, she used the downhills to pick her pace up and shatter her personal best.
Despite her training, this race wasn’t without a minor hiccup.
“My quads just got trashed halfway into the race. They start cramping up. Every step you feel your quads,” she said.
At mile 21 she stopped to stretch her hamstrings, as they were cramping.
“It went away and then my legs felt fine. That was really great. I was able to finish strong,” she said.
Just before stretching, she recalled an amazing moment related to why she loves the Boston Marathon.
“I pull to the side and I’m stretching against the railing. There’s all these students going, ‘you can do it. C’mon.’ So I stretched for a while and I’m smiling at them and then I start walking. They’re all giving me high-fives and then I start jogging,” she said, beaming. “You can’t help but get motivated by people cheering you on because at this point they’ve been out there for three hours in the cold and rain and they’re still right into it.”
With the temperature close to eight degrees Celsius and with the wind it felt like three degrees. It was far from ideal for spectators, she said.
“The people of Boston are amazing in their support of the event and the runners from the front-runners right through to the five hour people. They’re cheering everybody on,” she said. “People treat it like it’s a big day-long parade.”
The preparation she put into this race not only gave her a personal best performance, but allowed her to thoroughly enjoy the marathon and everything related to it.
“I didn’t want to be so focused on my race that I was ignoring all the stuff going on around me. Honestly, the crowds along the marathon route are unbelievable,” she said.
Some places on the route, she said, the spectators were four and five rows deep.
It’s what makes the event memorable.
Near the halfway point, she could hear fans at the “scream tunnel” located near the women’s post-secondary institution, Wellesley College.
“You can hear the screaming from half a mile away. It’s that loud and you come running in it’s just this roar. I was running along and high fiving people,” she said.
The Boston Marathon is known for an unforgettable finish.
When you near the end, any marathon is tough, but in the Boston Marathon it is marked by Heartbreak Hill. It’s a grade that isn’t as challenging as anything here in the Highlands, but that doesn’t make it any easier after hours of running, Shikaze said.
The fans help the only way they know.
“It’s like their cheers carry you up the hill,” she said.
She said when she ran her other Boston Marathons social media wasn’t part of the landscape. The support she received because of it enriched her experience.
Shikaze appreciated it all, whether it was people following her race in real time or the congratulatory comments posted on her Facebook page.
“I was really touched by the fact people were really into it,” she said.
Running is a solitary sport so to know people were there on her run was special.
“I run by myself all the time. The fact it mattered to so many other people was really … I found that humbling,” she said.
The same week Shikaze finished the marathon she was officially announced as the Minden community torchbearer for the Pan Am Games Relay when it comes on June 4.