Jessica Costa, the vice-president of the Greater Lowell Road Runners, said she never ran a step before she turned 34. Despite this, she is training and ready to run her sixth Boston Marathon in as many years.
Though Costa described the first run of her life as "terrible," she said people need to stick with the sport, and need to ignore the thought that they aren't "made" for running.
"You know, a lot of people think they can’t run," she said. "You don’t start with a marathon. You can work your way up. I’m proof ... that anybody can run because I never ran a single step until I was 34 years old, never ran in school, never played sports. And over the course of a few years, into several years, my best Boston (time) is 4 hours and 18 minutes…You don’t have to be fantastic to get into running."
Patch caught up with Costa to get her thoughts on racing, the Boston Marathon, and running in general.
What is your previous running experience?: I’ve been running for eight years. I probably race 50 or 60 races a year. This will be my sixth Boston Marathon in a row. No pressure there…runners get a little crazy when we get on a streak, so now I have to continue running it.
There’s four or give of us from the Greater Lowell Road Runners, we all train together. So we do our long runs on the weekends, and we do a lot of races as well.
How did you get into running?: I was getting a little overweight into my 30s, and a friend of mine was a runner so I started running with her. And it was awful and I had a terrible time, and I didn’t think I’d do it more than one time. And fast forward eight years--it’s great. It’s part of my life and I don’t know what I did before I started running.
What do you like or dislike about marathon training?: Oh, that’s a tough one…the training is so time consuming you need to set aside not only the time to run, but the time to rest and extra time to eat because you’re ravenous all the time. If I’m not running I’m thinking about running, and if I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating. The good things are the friendships, and obviously the health benefits of running are self-explanatory…You learn everything about your fellow runners when you’re out there together for two, three, or four hours, it all comes out. You know, it’s counseling, it’s everything.
What will it be like to cross the finish line on Marathon Monday?: It will be great. I’m looking forward to it. I feel good this year. My training’s coming along and I have several friends that are running it for the first time. So that’s really exciting to see them get into it. For me, I’ll be thrilled if I run my best or my worst. Time isn’t huge. Obviously we want to run better all the time, but you don’t know until that day.
Do you have any pre-race rituals?: I don’t eat anything that I didn’t make myself for at least two days before the race. I’m a little less strict about that now, but a lot of pasta the week before. I try to make sure that two nights before the marathon is my really good night of sleep. And making sure I have somebody, usually I have my dad out on the course around mile 20 with a Gatorade for me. And that helps me too...It works great unless he’s late.
What sets the Boston Marathon apart from other races or marathons?: I believe it’s the longest running marathon in the world, and it’s the oldest marathon in the world. And I think because we live here, it makes it more special to local people. You know, everybody talks about Boston, Boston, Boston, but if you’re a local runner it’s kind of ‘the’ marathon. The crowds are fantastic. They do such a great job with organizing and the volunteers they have out there are really the best.
It’s a nice experience in general, except for the running part. That’s my favorite line about running: “You know, the race was great, except for the running.”