“Life is unpredictable, but running is a constant.”

Melodie Sullivan sets a PR, running the Boston Marathon

Montrealer Melodie Sullivan is getting used to surprises. But unlike the terrible car accident she suffered last year, the marathoner is delighted by her latest one: a PR of 3:27 set at, of all places, the 2010 Boston Marathon. Read on for the G4S Q+A about her journey, and post a comment.

30-thousand people took part in this year's Boston Marathon. Photo courtesy Gretchen Ertl.

Melodie Sullivan, 42, is  a lawyer, wife, and mother of three children.  She started running a decade ago to stay in shape, but it wasn’t long before she got the bug to race. Six months back, she offered up a Guest Post on the Good4Sports blog, detailing the emotional roller coaster of running the Chicago  Marathon in the wake of a devastating car crash involving her whole family. Her story continues to be one of the most visited on the site.

The stories of the winners, the favorites and the oddities were well-reported in the days following the 2010 Boston Marathon. Harder to find were the countless exceptional stories behind so many of the “everyday” runners. Here’s my find, the G4S Q+A with Melodie Sullivan.

G4S: When you posted on this blog in the fall, you had just completed the Chicago Marathon. This time around in Boston, you ran more than 20 minutes faster.

What was the most important difference on race day that contributed to the increased speed?

M.S.: My training over the last 6 months has been very steady and focused. I was lucky enough to not have any injuries leading up to this marathon and so there were no gaps in my training, as there had been in the weeks and months before the Chicago Marathon. Also, I made some changes to my nutrition over the last 3 months. I cut out almost all the junk and tried to make sure my food choices were all high quality. As a result, I am a bit lighter on my feet this season and I really feel the difference. I also made sure that my speed training was always done at the right interval speeds and tried to hit the top speed of the intervals as much as possible. At the end, I found that I could easily surpass the speeds my coach had specified.

G4S:  How was your training period leading up to Boston different from Chicago?

M.S.: Besides the nutritional changes and the consistent injury-free training I also attended many group track sessions with my coach and up to 25 other runners, many of whom also ran Boston. These speed sessions are great and motivating and add to the quality of the workout.

G4S:  At what point in the training/lead-up period did you think that you might be capable of running under 3:30?

M.S.: I actually did not, at any point, think that breaking 3:30 would happen in Boston this year. Boston is a tough course for me and each year (5 so far) it has presented me with tough challenges. The logistics of race day, the waiting in Hopkinton, feeling nervous and managing my pre-race mind and tummy are all issues that make Boston very challenging for me…and that’s before we even get to the start line and the hills! Going into the race, I knew I was in decent shape because I ran the Hamilton Around the Bay Race (30k) three weeks before Boston and finished in 2:25. I knew that this time was a positive indicator of the running season to come, and I did think that maybe a sub-3:30 could be possible at the Ottawa marathon in May, but I did not dare hope for that in Boston. In my opinion, Boston is not the place to plan for a PR. I only really let myself think that a sub-3:30 was possible at the “One mile to go” Citgo sign. It was at that point that saw that I had 10 minutes to cover one mile and still be in under 3:30….that’s when I allowed myself to believe…

Sullivan didn't think of a PR until she got close to the finish

G4S: You’ve run Boston  5-times now, in various weather conditions. In what way did this year’s conditions affect your performance?

M.S.: The conditions were perfect. It was cool and sunny but with some clouds and only a few windy moments. Waiting for the race to start in those conditions was painless. Unlike a couple of years ago, when a Nor’easter arrived in time for the marathon. That year was hellish, we froze, got soaked and shivered while waiting in the mud to start.

G4S: When you ran Chicago, you were still in the early months after a serious car crash involving you and your immediate family.  We’re approaching the first anniversary of that accident, and the recovery period for your husband and the whole family has been challenging, to say the least. It’s the kind of stuff that changes our perspective on life. In what way has running helped you navigate these difficult months?

M.S.: Running is my personal life-boat. It gives me the strength (mental and physical) to deal with all the other challenges in my life and provides me with a brief daily escape from worries, responsibilities and stresses. My husband’s recovery has been difficult and there have been several ups and downs. He still cannot walk and will need further surgeries. I credit my running regimen with giving me everything I need to hold things together with work, family and supporting my husband. Life is unpredictable, but running is a constant.

G4S:  How has your attitude about training and racing been affected?

M.S.: My attitude about training is the same as ever: keep training! I am looking at my racing goals and wondering what else is possible….I’m curious.I have now run 20 marathons and will hopefully run many more, but I am starting to fish around for some new types of running challenges. I plan on running a 50 miler (trails) in Vermont in the fall and I am really excited about this new challenge.

By chance, Melodie was able to meet afterwards with 2010 Boston Marathon Champ Robert K Cheruiyot, who set a course record!

G4S:  Finally, so much has been said about the Boston Marathon. In what way has the  annual event becoming a unique experience for you?

M.S.: Going to Boston is a yearly celebration of my love of running. The trip to Boston is a pilgrimage to a place and moment where everyone present shares the same love. I always hope to run a good race there, but regardless, the pilgrimage is always worth it. Also, I don’t take qualifying lightly…I figure that if I’ve qualified, I should go because who knows about next year? Carpe diem!

Sullivan with her friend Deborah Alper, at the start of the race.


6 responses to ““Life is unpredictable, but running is a constant.”

  1. Pingback: Long may you run | Good4sports Blog

  2. Pingback: Running into the clouds | Good4sports Blog

  3. What a fabulous interview! Bravo Melodie for all your accomplishments on and off the road

  4. Melodie,

    Congratulations on your PB, and at Boston, no less! Thanks for sharing about your accident, Chicago, and Boston. You’re truly an inspiration to all of us!

  5. Naturally, as Melodie’s dad, I am extremely happy for Melodie and her great achievement which I share with her equally happy mom, Janice, and our entire family. As a child, Melodie did not show leanings towards a running hobby, although she did have an interest and some skill at tennis and golf. These sports turned out not to be “aerobic” enough for her mind and heart and running came along, as far as I can make out, almost accidently, and took over. I am very pleased that she has chosen well for herself but I must admit that I do worry from time to time that when she is out there on different roads, practicing before her races, facing dogs, cars or whatever else, that some freak event will befall her. She reasures me that I worry for nothing but I can’t help being like any other old dad who still worries about his little girl

  6. katejohnsonmednews

    As always, you are an inspiration Melodie. I’ve never known anyone to work as hard at all aspects of life. So happy for your best-ever performance…there’s more to come!

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