It took thousands of miles, hours in the gym and countless 4:30 a.m. wake-up calls but on April 21, 2014, Beth Schrader will be in Boston.
And it only took her 3 hours, 41 minutes and 14 seconds.
On Feb. 17, Schrader, made her fourth attempt at qualifying for the revered Boston Marathon at the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Ala.
"I knew at Mile 23 I had it," she says. "I started to smile but I was like, 'Nope. Stay focused. Anything can happen, but you should be good.' When I turned down the main street, and I saw the 26 sign … I teared up. I'm, like, 'Oh, I did it.' "
Marathons are 26.2 miles.
Schrader has been running since 2008 but her health was pushed to the forefront in December 1998 when she was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. Then 25 and mother to a toddler, she underwent a bone-marrow transplant in April 1999 and an extended hospital stay.
"There might be a part of me that remembers what sitting in isolation for 35 days feels like and I just want to move. All the time," Schrader says. "I don't sit still very often ever."
Workout: Marathon running
Routine: Schrader runs four days a week and cross-trains twice a week, often before the sun rises. If her teenage daughter has a night youth group meeting, Schrader might log miles then.
"How do you do this, fit it in, fulfill your obligations – family first, job – and still put in 40 miles a week? It's like an impossibility but when you want to do it, you do it," she says. "You find the time."
Cross training: Schrader works out with a trainer to improve core and upper body strength. Together, they go through exercises using weights and boxing drills, and Schrader credits that work to helping her qualify for Boston.
"My form was better later in the race … ," she says. "When my legs weren't cooperating, I just swung my arms."
Fuel up: To make her early morning workouts easier, Schrader sets the coffee maker the night before. She will grab a banana on her way to cross-training or eat a protein bar before a run. During a longer run or marathon, Schrader prefers Honey Stinger products, which are natural and are easier on the stomach.
Gear: "I'm not a water-stop fan in a race," she says. "It's too congested and if I get out of my stride or my groove, it's a bad thing. I ran right through water stops and had my Fuel Belt (in Birmingham)."
Fuel Belts – a product that allows runners to carry smaller bottles of water or sports drink around their waists – and similar products vary in price but are available at specialty running stops, such as Three Rivers Running Co. (4039 N. Clinton St.; 496-8000), and sporting- goods stores.
Group dynamic: An important part of Schrader's training is running with a group, and many of them were checking in with her after the marathon.
"It's such a good feeling because they train with you, they are out there with you and I could sense them," Schrader says. "Cheering, yelling at me."