Boston Bound

Valley Running Group Trains for Boston Marathon

Article by Gretchen Pahia

Photography by Christine Andert—Picture Lady Photography LLC

Originally published in North Peoria Lifestyle

Spring is an excellent time to get outside and go for a run. Wondering how you can get started running? There are several running groups and runners across the West Valley that can offer support and insights. One group of runners here in North Peoria (Club Sando) is stepping up its game, taking its goals on the road and preparing to run the famed Boston Marathon. We chatted with a few runners to get their thoughts about why they run, how they're preparing for the Boston Marathon and for tips for new runners.

Running is in His Blood

Peoria-area resident Nate Cottrell started running when he was younger, participating in track, cross country and local races. “I developed a love for it. I did go through some time periods of a year or so without running, but I always come back. So, 37 years later, I’m still at it. It gets in your blood.”

Preparing to run the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle for Cottrell. “Qualifying for Boston is a running-industry standard. I had run a handful of marathons and always felt I did poorly. I started thinking marathons were just not my thing. Then my wife started really getting interested in going to visit Boston. I jokingly told her the only way we’re going is if I qualify for the Boston Marathon. She was all in and I had a life goal.”

For Cottrell, it isn’t just about running, it is also about how it makes him feel overall. “It helps me stay in shape and keeps my weight down. The physical nature, effort and difficulty are the joy. Getting through a long run, and realizing at the end that hey, I just did that!”

Training as a Group

Cottrell isn’t alone in his journey, as he is training with a group of friends to prepare for Boston, including Steve and Gina Sando and Abbie Tuomi. 

Steve and Gina Sando have been running together for years, starting out simple. “I didn’t really get serious with training until after college when I was looking to do something competitive but also relatively safe,” explains Steve. "My wife Gina began doing some local 5k races and we started running them together. It is the community, competition and finish line emotions that had us start stepping up the distance with 10ks, half marathons and then marathons.”

Steve shares that running offers many benefits. “Running has brought us great friends, a wonderful running community and a positive example for our children.” For Sando, this isn’t his first Boston Marathon, and he is excited to be running alongside his wife and running crew.

Gina Sando shares in her husband’s excitement, saying running is a great outlet for her. “When I started running, I wasn’t sure what I was doing but it was a great way to keep me outside for long periods of time, and I actually started to enjoy it.”

After a few years of on-and-off running, Gina and Steve incorporated running races into vacations, and it became much more fun and a bigger part of daily life. “I began studying the science behind running and learning how to structure a training program to prevent injuries and learning the importance of training at different  paces.”

Once they started running with friends, Gina found another love for the sport. “Socially, I love starting off my days with a run with friends before the day truly begins.”

As for Boston, Gina isn’t shy about her feelings about the race. “It is a bucket list for most marathoners due to the strict qualifying guidelines. For recreational runners, qualifying and being accepted into Boston is what the Olympics is for a professional runner. After I ran my first marathon, I knew someday I wanted to run in Boston because of how challenging it would be to get there.”

For Abbie Tuomi, running has always been a passion. She has been running for more than 30 years. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been super competitive. I absolutely loved doing the mile run in elementary school, always trying to win and break the school record.”

She fell in love with long-distance running after she completed her first marathon in 2017. “I instantly fell in love with the distance, and I have trained extremely hard over the past six years to improve my time and qualify for Boston.”

Not only did Tuomi qualify, but she also qualified for all the major marathons, and with her upcoming run in Boston, she will be attempting to qualify for the 2024 Olympic trials.

Advice for New Runners

Gina Sando says her advice for anyone wanting to get into running is to start slow. “When most people start running, they tend to go out too fast, as if they are racing. That is a quick way to get hurt and not enjoy it. If you are just starting out, keep your runs—or walk/run—at an easy, conversational pace.”

Tuomi says running is worth any obstacles. “Don’t be afraid or discouraged to start. It is definitely hard at first, but use that as fuel." 

She recommends setting a goal for yourself whether running a mile without stopping or completing a marathon, goals are key. She also recommends surrounding yourself with other runners to stay motivated and inspired.

Get Running

While running the Boston Marathon is a great goal, that isn’t the only way to get involved in the sport. Finding a running group such as the one with Tortoise & Hare Sports (Tortoise and Hare Run Club at tortoiseandharesports.com/runclub) is a great way to get out on the road. Other Valley run clubs include Arizona Road Racers Running, Runner’s Den and Quest Club.

If you are new to running, start with a great pair of running shoes fitted to your feet to help ensure you have all the right tools. Then hit one of the many trails here in North Peoria and Arrowhead!

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