Thursday, October 19, 2017

Racer Stories: Racing Fast While Doing Good. Sally Reiley Runs Her 5th Sub 3:38 Marathon in Chicago, All in Her 6th Decade

Article by Sam Winebaum

We love to tell the stories of exceptional "older" athletes. Earlier this month we featured Joost De Raeymaeker's story (RTR article), 2:29 Berlin Marathon PR at age 49. Here we bring you Sally Reiley's story.

Sally Reiley is a remarkable athlete who races fast while doing good, lots of good. Late to the marathon, and even to competitive running, she started racing in 2014 at age 54!  Her goal was to run the 2014 Boston Marathon to raise money for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital in Boston, an institution she and her family have long been involved in, and to show that in the year after the bombings we were all Boston Strong.

She trained smart and well and ran out of the rear of the pack in the charity division at the 2014 Boston Marathon clocking a 3:34 in her very first marathon, ever.
Since then she has run three more Bostons, all sub 3:40, all faster than 3:38, with a PR of 3:29 at the very warm 2017 Boston Marathon.

Sally has raised a stunning $132,000 for eye research along the way. She decided to race the Chicago Marathon in 2017, this time to raise funds for the ALS Society.

2014 Boston Marathon
I met Sally on the start line of the dead winter 2014 Great Stew Chase 15K, a well known and ancient Boston Marathon prep race. I saw a gal about my age next to me wearing a Dartmouth Skiing hat and as I went to Dartmouth and raced a bit, introduced myself. She looked vaguely familiar and indeed she was at Dartmouth a couple years behind me. I realized why I  recognized her. She had been a cheerleader but also played ice hockey, soccer, and rugby while in college. She told me she was preparing for Boston and was running for Mass Eye and Ear Hospital in the charity division.

While it was not exactly her first race ever, it was close.  She has since told me she jumped in a few races on a day or two of running a week:  in her late 30's winning a 4 miler on the 4th of July race in her hometown of Marblehead near Boston and a decade later jumping in a half and running...1:37. All the while raising 5 children, skiing, playing tennis, and sailing.

Off we went. At the turnaround on the out and back course I saw she was about a minute behind me... At the finish not much more... I knew she would be ready for Boston!  Two years later the tables turned as we dueled for several miles at Stew's and Sally out sprinted me to the line.

As many local Boston Marathon runners do, Sally trained for her first Boston with a team. In her case it was with Team Eye and Ear whose members run the Boston Marathon in support of the research and patient care at the Mass Eye and Ear Hospital in Boston. The team has $4.6 million since 2006!
The critical part of the training plan were regular runs on the Boston Marathon course of up to 20 miles and during New England's brutal winter. Boston is a hard course to master and such runs are vital.

As were so many worldwide and especially in the Boston area Sally was also motivated to take our city back, to show the world we were Boston Strong after the 2013 bombings. She ran 3:34 in her first attempt at the distance, 

Being a Boston local has other advantages as Sally spent time with Shalane Flanagan, a Marblehead native, after the very cold and wet 2015 Boston Marathon. Sally reports: "Shalane definitely commiserated with me after performing below expectations in the very cold and wet Boston in 2015 - she seemed thrilled to be able to validate her struggles with my similar experience, and concluded that it was the conditions and not the course that beat her up. Shalane's tip: Take it easy now and relax, get ready for next year!"

2017 Boston Marathon
Sally kept her streak alive during the brutal conditions at the 2017 Boston Marathon clocking a PR 3:29:48 for 8th in her age group.  

I took this picture of her come down the finish stretch on Bolyston, with her distinctive booming stride and perfect form and saw she was working hard, very hard to sneak under the magic barrier.  She knew exactly how close it would be to breaking 3:30.

2017 Chicago Marathon

To try something different, she decided on a whim to run Chicago in 2017, this time raising money for the ALS Society, signing up for a charity bib on the last day, June 20th  It would be her first fall marathon, first time not at Boston, and first time she had done two marathons in a year.
Well, Sally likes to play tennis with old friends, and has for decades. Tennis and its non linear sprinting and marathoning don't always mix she says..  Almost like clock work after Boston, and while playing tennis. she strains her high hamstring and she did it again in June. She had Graston treatments but no shots or PT. So she went into Chicago not quite at 100%.
A busy summer of travel and family visits, including some weeks with no running, saw her training peak at 45 miles per week 4 weeks out. She got in a 21 miler 3 weeks out at her usual 8:20 pace. Most of her runs are around that pace regardless of distance.

Race Weekend
Sally's daughter Heather and a fellow med school student joined her in support. Heather and younger sister Julia both successfully ran the 2016 Boston Marathon with Sally and Team Eye and Ear.

Sally worried that she might not find her usual race breakfast of oatmeal, a banana, and tea but that all worked out. 
Getting to the start was a new experience for Sally as she thought, no problem she would take an Uber to the start but... no Uber wanted to get stuck on that side of Chicago after the race got under way. So she walked a solid mile to the start and got there on the late side. The entry to the start was very different than Boston with all waves trying to go through security at once. Little secret... the Eye and Ear Team Sally runs Boston with has its own headquarters house right next to the Athlete's Village...

The race conditions rapidly warmed up as the sun came up and the shade of early skyscrapers disappeared. She found the Chicago course somewhat monotonous and flat with little variety to change up the muscles. She experienced less crowd support than Boston. But, what other marathon has crowd support like Boston or a course like Boston's!
She did find her daughter and friend cheering her along the way. 

At 18 miles she said it really started to hurt with rising heat and the monotony. She admitted walking at the water stops...and regretted not wearing sunglasses.

She took Hammer gels before the start and at miles 7, 13,19, and 23 miles. She says they taste disgusting but she can tolerate them. She drank more water than usual. She found the water stops less regularly spaced than Boston. 
Despite the heat, her injured hamstring, and the unfamiliar course she still finished in a stellar 3:37:52 for 8th place in her age group.

Gear Report
Sally wore Sigvaris calf sleeves, Lululemon Real Quick shorts and her trusty adidas Boston 6. Her first two Boston Marathons were in the adidas Energy Boost and after that she has raced in the Boston 6 (RTR review). They were fine but she thinks due to maybe not tying one quite tight enough and her still lingering hamstring issue causing to shuffle more, she did get a black toe for the first time in a race. Her Gamin 220 was way off, showing 27.6 miles due to the buildings blocking signals so she relied on mile splits to judge her pace.

After all races, and all the time otherwise, Sally swears by her OOFOS OooCloog and insisted I include this picture.

Congratulations Sally! Long May You Run and Run Fast!

Update: Sally will be running the 2018 Boston Marathon for the 5th time as part of Team Mass Eye and Ear for the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. As she has for all of her prior Boston Marathons, she will be raising funds for the hospital. And raise funds she has, over $130,000 to date from her prior Boston Marathon efforts!

Sally welcomes your support of the important research and care at Mass Eye and Ear.
Her fund raising page is here

Thanks for your support!

Photo Credits: Marathon Foto, Sally Reiley, Susan Spencer, RoadTrailRun

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Visit our Index Page here for over 70 in depth 2017 shoe and gear reviews
Visit our 2018 Previews Page here for 2018 run shoe, apparel, and gear previews 

Like & Follow Road Trail Run  Twitter: @roadtrailrun 
Instagram:roadtrailrun   RTR YouTube: RoadTrailRun

Road Trail Run receives a commission from purchases through the affiliates below These purchases help support our site's work. Thanks!

FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns


Jeff Valliere said...

Amazing, great story! All the best to you Sally!

Susan Spencer said...

You're amazing, Sally! Fun seeing my photo of you at Boston 2017, too :-)

Sam Winebaum said...

I wondered who took that great photo Susan. I credited you just now. Sam