Hitting the Road at Last

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Anjali Forber-Pratt, raised in Natick and now one of the top US wheelchair sprinters, is preparing for her first Boston Marathon. She gave this update from Champaign, Ill., where she is in training.

Now that spring is here, have you been able to hit the road for practice?

It was finally warm enough this week to be outside every day! There were still a couple of colder mornings, but for the most part it was tolerable. For any of you who have been stuck inside on the treadmill or for you cyclists stuck inside on a roller, you know how exciting it is to be able to breathe the fresh air and to actually go somewhere for all that effort instead of staying in place staring at the same wall!

It will take me another week to get used to being back outside again, it’s like finding your sea-legs or in this case my road-arms! You do use slightly different muscles when you’re outside versus inside, for example, on the rollers inside I’m not concerned with looking where I’m going, because I’m stationary, so my neck muscles are not used nearly as much inside as they are outside when I have to keep my head up to see where I’m going.

What's the longest stretch you're racing at one time? How many miles are you putting in a week?

Saturday was the longest total mileage I’ve completed in a while, 18 miles. My weekly mileage varies, but probably somewhere between 40-60 miles each week right now.

How are you building up to the marathon?

Aside from the increase in mileage and preparation for the hills, marathon preparation is also about making sure you are being good to your body. This means that I am making a concentrated effort to sleep well, stay hydrated, eat right and mentally prepare for the task ahead. Especially as a sprinter, there are times when the pure number of miles for my workout can seem daunting.

My solution: distract yourself and think about something else, and before you know it, you will have reached the mile target you were aiming for. Sometimes I start counting my strokes in my head, or counting cracks in the road to keep my mind focused on something else. If it’s a tempo-paced workout, I find that counting works well for me. If it’s a recovery workout, I find I can let my mind wander even a little bit more to making a grocery list in my head or singing a song in my head, anything to keep your mind at ease instead of panicked about the mileage!

Do you have any friends who'll be racing, too -- either as runners or in the wheelchair race?

I know the majority of the wheelchair athletes who will be competing in this year’s Boston Marathon. In fact, four of them are also on my team here at Illinois! Also, having grown up in Natick, I am aware of friends and friends of friends who will be running as well.

Anything else?

This week I started a new training cycle. It sort of hit me like night and day between sprint training and marathon training. In fact, I had some identity issues when our coach was saying, for you sprinters this is your workout, for you marathoners, this is your workout. For years I have associated myself wholeheartedly and with gusto in the sprinter group! But, I’m told that I’ll go back to being a sprinter soon, post-Boston. In the meantime, two-a-day practices on some days throughout the week, climbing the stadium ramps to prepare for the Boston hills, increased mileage, decreased social life and increase in naptime!

People can cheer on Forber-Pratt during her marathon through this wiki page, and can follow her on Twitter: #anjalidoesboston.


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