With stress fractures behind her, Schubert-Akin takes on 24th Boston Marathon
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — By the time Steamboat Springs’ long-distance runner Jennifer Schubert-Akin had reached the 18-mile mark at last year’s Boston Marathon she knew that something wasn’t right, but she kept pushing.
“It was so awful,” Schubert-Akin said. “I was in so much pain and I didn’t know what was going on. I thought something was wrong with my left knee. I had no idea that I had a fracture — it never crossed my mind — I just knew it was really hurting.”
But Schubert-Akin kept pushing toward the finish line despite the pain. She said at the time she thought it was because an injury had forced her to train differently for the race. The injury limited her time outside training on the hard surface of paved roads near her home in Steamboat, and now, she thought she was paying the price.
In the months leading up to the marathon, she had trained on a body weight supported treadmill where she had maintained and improved her strength, but only at 60 to 70 percent of her actual body weight, while training for the race. She had not anticipated that her body would not be able to absorb the impact of running on the paved roads along the Boston course, or the toll it would take on her body.
Looking back her quest to finish last year she admits it may not have been the most practical move, but after completing the past 23 Boston Marathons, she simply did not want to throw in the towel and give up on her chance of finishing of 25 straight Boston Marathons at this point in her running career.
“I never set out to have a Boston streak,” Schubert-Akin said. “If it had been any other race than the Boston Marathon last year, I would have said, ‘I’m not ready to run a marathon yet,’ but I’m so close to having 25 in a row, and that’s kind of a big deal.”
She said that there are only 13 women who have ever completed 25 consecutive marathons, so if she can completes this year’s race and another next year, she will be in an elite group of runners.
She is hoping that her experience last year has been a lesson, and she has already changed her approach for this year’s race, which is taking place April 16 in Boston, Massachusetts.
After finishing last year’s race, Schubert-Akin said she was not able to walk. She returned home a few days after the race and had an MRI on her left leg. The test revealed a tibial plateau fracture, which is a break of the upper part of the tibia that involves the knee joint. She also had a stress fracture in her right leg.
“I stopped at the medical tent in Newton Hills, the infamous hill section of the Boston Marathon, and I had somebody in the medical tent wrap an ace bandage around it, and I had them wrap it really tight,” Schubert-Akin said. “I thought that would help, but it was the biggest pain fest ever, and in hindsight I’m not sure how I finished the race.”
Eleven days after the race, Schubert-Akin was at The Steadman Clinic in Vail undergoing surgery. She spent a couple of weeks in a wheelchair, progressed to a walker, then crutches and finally, a cane. She wasn’t to walk without assistance until June, but decided to start working out in the swimming pool late May. She couldn’t kick with her legs, but she said that swimming was important on her road to recovery and opened her eyes to a new way of training as she prepared for this year’s race.
“It forced me to take a serious look at cross training,” Schubert-Akin said. “I started learning how to swim. Before this I could not swim a lap in the pool to save my life.”
With the help of coach Heather Gollnick and physical therapist Erin Monger-Rosso, she was able to rebuild her body and restored her strength. In December she began training for this year’s Boston Marathon, but mixed her workouts with running, swimming and cycling.
“I’m going Boston much more well-rounded only running three days a week, but they are really key running workouts that I do, and then I swim and bike the other days,” Schubert-Akin said. “I’m hopeful that my overall fitness is probably better than it has been in a long, long time.”
But reaching No. 25 isn’t the only reason Schubert-Akin returned to the Boston Marathon for nearly a quarter century. For her, the race is a platform to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society that can be used in research she hopes will lead to a cure. Her sister was diagnosed with MS when she was 25 years old. She used a scooter for many years, because she can no longer walk.
Schubert-Akin said she has raised about $11,000 for this year’s event and is hoping to add a couple thousand more to that total before her fundraising efforts come to a close. Through the years, Schubert-Akin has raised $120,000 for the cause. anyone who wants to help can go to http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/JennifersRun4MS2018 to make a donation.
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