At Grandma’s Marathon in 2006, Jenna Boren of St. Paul earned the “B” standard (sub-2:47) for the 2008 Olympic Trials Marathon. Less than two weeks ago, the former sprinter lowered her PR by 3-minutes and 12-seconds to 2:42:39 at the Houston Marathon. That means in her last two marathons, the soon-to-be 30 year old Menasha, WI native has shaved four-and-a-half minutes from her marathon PR.
I’ve been fortunate enough to "train with" Jenna for two years now and by “with” I mean run with her before the “real” running starts and possibly talk with her after the run – if she waits around for me to finish. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kruduba)
Congratulations on your performance at the Houston Marathon. Since you had already qualified for the Olympic Trials, what was your goal heading into the race? Did you think the "A" standard (sub-2:39) was a possibility at all?
Thanks! My plan going into the race was to go out conservatively and then try to pick up the pace at the half. The “A” standard was too far off and I wasn't entirely certain of my fitness level. We had a fun group of women in the “B” group, including Erin Ward, who is very fun! I just wanted to feel like I was running “under control”.
Looking at your splits, it looks like you ran 6:20 splits for the first half before dropping to 6:05 pace the rest of the way. Was that your race plan?
I was surprised at how comfortable 6:20 pace was and I decided after 10 miles to start slowly picking up the pace one mile at-a-time. I ran by myself until around 19 miles...there weren't even any men around. I had two voices in my head; one telling me to hold back and the other telling me to go. I listened to the "hold back” voice through mile 25 because I was SO afraid of blowing up. I was in a bit of shock that my legs felt as good as they did, but I didn't trust myself either. I never really felt bad or on the edge. I was more afraid of my past tendencies to explode in the marathon.
How do you feel about your race?
The whole weekend was great. I think the best part of the weekend was the group of people with us. Michael Reneau, Matt Hooley, Erin Ward, Angie Voight, Kevin Haas, Desiree Budd, Eric Hartmark, etc. It really is about the group and support system. I was proud to be from the Midwest. I was happy about my race but energized by the group itself! Mike Reneau had the race of the day!
What can you tell us about the Houston Marathon’s U.S. Athlete Development Project, run by Greg McMillan’s company, which is designed to help Americans qualify for the trials?
The USADP program was awesome. Greg invited runners from all over the country who were hoping to qualify for the Olympic Trials. He was on top of everything from travel, lodging, food, etc., which basically allowed for us to just focus on running. From the moment we first communicated in the fall to the afternoon following the marathon, he was organized and quick to help. He was on the course and at the finish and he provided an incredible amount of support. I can’t say enough about Greg’s program. The weekend itself was one of the best weekends I have had in a long time!
You actually qualified for the Olympic Trials Marathon at Grandma’s Marathon with a 2:45:51 in 2006. What was your race strategy and how did that race play out?
At Grandma’s, my plan was just to qualify. I went out with a group of women with the same goal and just stuck to a consistent pace. The weather was muggy and warm but I had just decided to ignore it while trying to be smart about keeping fluids in. It helped that I also started out with a good friend of mine, Dave Tappe.
At what point during Grandma’s did you realize that you were going to qualify?
I started to feel a bit dehydrated and my legs began to cramp around mile 17 but I made sure to keep drinking and I started to feel better after mile 19. In fact, I think I felt the best around miles 22-23. I knew at the top of Lemon Drop Hill [mile 22] that if I just kept my pace under control, I would make the time. I decided not to push the pace at all because I feared cramping and “losing it”. I relied on the energy from the crowd, once I got into downtown Duluth.
During that same timeframe, you were busy setting up a new business. How’s that going? Can you tell us a little bit about what you specialize in?
Another chiropractor (Rebecca Amstutz) and I own our own clinic in downtown Saint Paul called; Bridging Health Chiropractic & Rehabilitation. We specialize in two different soft tissue techniques, Active Release Technique (ART) and Graston. It took a significant amount of energy and emotion to get the business going. Although all is well now, I was ready to throw in the towel the week of Grandma’s. We were having a difficult time convincing the owner of the building that we are a legitimate business. In fact, I went to Grandma’s with the assumption that I was probably going to be moving back to Wisconsin. I love Wisconsin but I’m VERY happy to still be in the Twin Cities. The following week was definitely a wave of emotions but everything has turned out for the best!
At Grandma’s the previous year you dropped your PR from 2:50:07 to 2:47:09. Even though the qualifying window wasn’t open yet, did you find missing the standard by a mere 9 seconds to be a confidence booster?
Yes, it was a huge boost for me. I had been training with the same group and training program for over a year and I was feeling much stronger. Prior to breaking 2:50, I thought it would be a miracle to qualify. But I knew that if I broke 2:50, it would be a possibility. John Naslund always reminds me to appreciate every PR because you never know when it remains a PR [forever]. I always keep that in mind, while also striving for more.
Four months later the qualifying window was opened for TCM. Under tough conditions, you ran 2:51:23. How did that race affect you as you prepared your qualifying race?
I basically ran with an attitude problem. I saw some of my friends who were trying to qualify drop out and I convinced myself that qualifying wasn’t going to happen for me. I was too emotional about things (I am female, you know?!). Although I was frustrated, I knew there was still time to qualify and it wasn’t worth over-analyzing.
I learned a good lesson that day. I was actually a bit faster than pace, until mile 19. I got all worked up about what was ahead and I threw in the towel. I stopped a few times, gathered myself and just finished. I took that race with me to Grandma’s. When I started feeling bad at 17 (at Grandma’s), I just managed it and even slowed down a bit to get my composure back. Matt Haugen always gave me a hard time because I lose my composure too quickly, so I had something to prove to myself! I have now learned that a person has to be patient through a few bad miles and they can regain momentum.
I first read about you a couple of years ago in a Midwest Events article. It mentioned that you were working with Coach Matt Haugen and that one of the first things he did was cut your mileage. What kind of mileage were you doing and what did he cut it to?
Matt coached me for one season in college, so I was familiar with him. Prior to working with him, I was busy with school and had given up any thoughts of trying to qualify for the 2004 trials. His training group was appealing because I liked the diverse mix of people, which includes triathletes. At the time, I was running around 100-110 mpw but didn’t do any real “workouts”. I was at the point again when I was ready to train, but needed a group to help with the intensity of the workouts.
He dropped my mileage because he knew I would have to adapt to the intensity of the workouts…which I did. I remember struggling to a walk after a few hill workouts. VERY HUMBLING! I credit my improvement to Matt’s training program and group. I followed it for 2 ½ years and I really feel like his program has been right for me.
I believe your mileage was back up in the 110-120 MPW range for Houston. Are you now strong enough where you can handle that mileage, along with quality workouts?
I basically did the same thing for Houston but was able to do more miles and longer tempos. I stuck to the same type of program but felt like I could do more. I really love doing high mileage!
You normally run a spring and a fall marathon. Being in Minnesota, how difficult was it to train for a winter marathon? Did you have to adjust your hard workouts due to the weather?
Well, I would NEVER encourage global warming…NEVER. However, given the mild winter, I was able to train outside quite a bit this year. Being from Minnesota, Matt knows the hardest hills and staircases around that somehow end up being “run-able” year round. TOO BAD FOR SUCKERS LIKE ME. I also do a significant amount on the treadmill and at the Metrodome, because I like the company.
Prior to the marathon, I ran 3 or 4 long runs on Saturday with a REALLY fun group that has been running together for years. I don’t know if it’s the coffee afterwards or the complaining about how hard/cold the run was, but there is something rewarding about the winter running. A few weeks before the marathon, Ed Whetham ironically picked the location for the long run and then he didn’t show up. So, we suffered, complained, got lost, nearly hit by cars, etc., while Ed slept in – but we survived. Looking back, I remember it as a really fun day. Runners are weird.
The Trials aren’t until April 2008. What do you have planned between now and then?
I hope to run Grandma’s because it is one of my favorite races. Then, I just plan to train hard and skip a fall marathon. I will definitely go out and watch the guys (Olympic Trials) in New York though.
It seems that you rarely get injured? Do you think your line of work is part of the reason?
Don’t jinx me. Knock-on-wood, I have been fortunate. Yes, I do believe that my job allows me; 1) to be on my feet, 2) to always be stretching someone and 3) to constantly be taken care of by my co-workers or friends. Ask me again in 20 years.
Rumor has it you actually started out as a sprinter. Is that true?
I didn’t start running until I was at St Olaf College. As Coach Chris Daymont likes to remind me now; she was afraid I would die if I ran further than 200 meters. So that is why I was initially a sprinter. She was so good to let me be on the team though and she has been an inspirational woman to me ever since. So, I was considered a sprinter only because I would have collapsed, due to my fitness level, if I tried to run further. Those results are locked in a vault somewhere.
What are your PRs?
5K - 17:09 (ish), 8K - 27:39, 10K - 35:03 and marathon - 2:42:39
Do you have a favorite local and/or national race?
Bellin 10K in Green Bay, River Bank 25K (national championship) in Grand Rapids, MI (probably due to rooming with Kat Koski - who is one of the funniest women I have ever met), Grandma’s Marathon (I love the post-race party, including GB Leighton’s band) and I have to say the Houston Marathon (because I liked the course).
If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I have been very lucky for the opportunity to run with the people that I have over the past few years. In fact, I currently run with some of the best runners from the ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as, master women who balance busy lives. They motivate me because running is part of their lifestyle and they are also great friends. Because of running, I have friends of all ages that I know I could call at any point if I needed ANYTHING. There are many people who are blessed with the natural ability to run, but I am most impressed with the people who do it for a long time (at various paces) while balancing other things in their lives.
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started running?
I have enjoyed running as a constant learning lesson. I didn’t run in high school, so in college, I did it entirely for my team and myself. Since then, I have really enjoyed the constant challenge and ups and downs of it all. I started with an incredible coach, followed by years of running with good friends. I am always learning.