Steamboat endurance athlete earns Sportswomen of Colorado’s ‘Inspirational’ award
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3 p.m. March 14.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Jennifer Schubert-Akin started running 30 years ago, she never dreamed she would become a source of inspiration for others or that she would be honored by the Sportswomen of Colorado for inspiring other athletes.
“It’s really special, and it’s something I never would have foreseen in my life,” Schubert-Akin said. “I started running back in 1990, and I was a somewhat overweight, out of shape 32-year-old person who was certainly not an athlete. If you had told me back then I would be getting an award from the Sportswomen of Colorado, I would have laughed.”
Schubert-Akin joins an elite list of Colorado athletes who are being honored by the Sportswomen of Colorado. They were supposed to be celebrated at the 46th annual awards ceremony, scheduled for Sunday, March 15, at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center in Denver. However, organizers have postponed the presentation due to concerns about COVID-19.
Schubert-Akin believes she earned the 2020 Inspirational Award, because she’s finished the Boston Marathon 25 times in the past 30 years. The feat places her in a group of only 14 women and 150 total who have reached that level.
“First of all, there aren’t that many people who have run it (the Boston Marathon),” Schubert-Akin said. “Out of the hundreds of thousands of people who have run the Boston only 150 or so are in the Quarter Century Club.”
But her finishes in the Boston Marathon are just a part of Schubert-Akin’s story. She has completed between 80 and 90 marathons and ultramarathons in her career. In addition to finishing three Leadville 100s, Schubert-Akin has also finished the Western State’s 100 in California.
“She has the perfect combination of dedication and passion,” said Heather Gollnick, Schubert-Akin’s coach. “It’s not just how well she does in the endurance events she takes part in but how she represents women in sports at a whole different level … She has been a role model all these years.”
Schubert-Akin recently branched out by completing the Ironman 70.3 last summer in Hawaii. She plans to return to Hawaii in May to complete in another Ironman 70.3 and will attempt her first full Ironman Lake Placid in July. She also was planning on running her 26th consecutive Boston Marathon on April 20 but will now have to wait until Sept. 14 after officials in Boston rescheduled the race because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Schubert-Akin’s interest in triathlons was sparked after her streak at the Boston Marathon nearly came to an end in 2017 during her 23rd attempt.
As she neared the 18-mile mark of that race, Schubert-Akin started to notice a pain in her left knee that wouldn’t go away. She didn’t think much about it, but instead, kept pushing toward the finish line. By the time she finished, she had severe pain in both legs.
Shortly after the race, she visited a doctor, who ordered an MRI that revealed Schubert-Akin had a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg. She also had a stress fracture in her right leg.
Schubert-Akin said the injuries were the result of another injury that had forced her to train on a bodyweight-supported treadmill. The training allowed her to continue to prepare for the endurance race, but she believes it may have led to her injuries.
Looking back, Schubert-Akin isn’t sure if she would have tried to finish the race had she known she had a broken bone. But after the injury, she started swimming as a way to stay fit when she wasn’t able to run and that led to her interest in triathlons.
“She was having some running issues, which happens to all runners, so she wanted to start cross-training,” Gollnick said. “I got her into biking and into swimming — literally, she could barely swim across the pool.”
These days, she is excited about competing in her first full triathlon, but her passion for the Boston Marathon is still strong.
“There’s no longer a streak goal — the 25 I got,” Schubert-Akin said. “As long as I’m having fun, I’ll continue to go back, but there is no pressure to continue.”
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