My Running Journey | Alison Jones | Hally Health and Wellness Coordinator

Alison Jones and family pictured at the Welcome Athletes sign in Boston.

Alison is the Health and Wellness Coordinator for Health Alliance and Hally health. She will be running in the 125th Boston Marathon on October 11. Here is her running story.

The Beginning 

I have been a runner since I was a child. I ran track starting in fourth grade up through high school. Then in college and for a few years after, I continued to run for exercise – sometimes outside, on an indoor track, or on a treadmill.  

In 2003, I ran in my first actual road race — Abe’s Amble in Springfield. I can’t remember if it was a 5K or 10K, but either way I couldn’t have imagined at the time what it would lead to. To prepare for it I had joined a running group and trained with them. After experiencing my first road race, I was hooked!   

The Making of a Marathoner 

I ran more races over the years ranging from 5K’s to 10K’s to half marathons. After having three kids and having more than 10 years of road racing under my belt, I decided I was ready to run my first full marathon with my friend and frequent running partner, Carrie. We ran the Illinois Marathon in 2014.   

I thought I would run one marathon and be done, just to check it off my bucket list. But, nope. Like before, I ran that first 26.2 mile race and was hooked.  

On top of that, my time was only 10 minutes from a BQ (Boston Marathon Qualifying time). My goal time for the first marathon was to run it in under 4 hours, but I ran it in 3:50. The BQ for my age group at that time was 3:40, so you can take a guess at what my next goal was.  

You guessed it… after that first one, I ran two more marathons that were BQs, but still not fast enough to make the cut (3:39.24 in 2015, 3:38.40 in 2016). Even if you run a BQ, it doesn’t mean you automatically get in to the race. They take a set number of runners and can only take the fastest within each age group, with the cutoff usually being a few minutes under the qualifying time.  

Boston Debut 

Fast forward to 2017, and BOOM, I ran a 3:30.39. I qualified by nearly 10 minutes and boy was I stoked!  I made the cut for Boston 2018. I ran that first Boston Marathon on what would have been my grandfather’s birthday, 4/16/2018. It was nearly the worst weather in Boston Marathon history — raining, headwinds with gusts up to 25 mph and temperatures ranged from the upper 30s to mid-40s, but it felt much cooler! I did not care. I was running in THE BOSTON MARATHON!   

I ran that race with a smile on my face and nothing could stop me, not even the weather. I ran that race in 3:45 flat, which at the time, was the BQ for my age group (I had moved up an age group due to a birthday!). I was pleased with my time considering the weather, but knew I wanted to run that course again, where I could actually look ahead and enjoy the sights and sounds!   

In 2019, I ran the Illinois Marathon again (for the fourth time) with a goal of getting another BQ to run at Boston in 2020. I ran a 3:30.03, giving me another big cushion to make the cut. The Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) had changed the qualifying times again to make them a bit stricter, so the BQ for the women’s 40-44 age group was back at 3:40. Still, I made the cut and was scheduled to run Boston 2020, Man, was I pumped!   

COVID-19 Brings Boston Home 

The race was scheduled for April 20, 2020, just 2 days after my 42nd birthday. We had our plane tickets, hotel rooms, and were all set to go.  Then, COVID hit…    

The 2020 Boston Marathon in-person event was cancelled. Never in the 123 years of the Boston Marathon had it been cancelled or postponed. Instead of holding the race in Boston, they ran it virtually in the early fall.  

I ran the 2020 Boston Marathon as a virtual event in my hometown of St. Joseph, IL on Sept. 7, 2020, my husband’s birthday. What a day! I had HUGE support from family, friends, neighbors, people I didn’t even know, even news reporters — it was incredible. And guess what? I ran a PR with a personal best of 3:29.36.  I couldn’t have done it without a few running friends that helped pace me or without the crowd support along the way. It was a day I will always remember.   

Training for a Boston Return 

Now, here we are in 2021, just days away from the 125th Boston Marathon. The race is traditionally run on Patriot’s Day in April, but because of the pandemic it’s been postponed to October 11, 2021. I was able to use my Illinois Marathon qualifying time from 2019 to qualify to run in this Boston Marathon.  

I typically do an 18 week training plan that I come up with on my own. There are many training plans out there and someday I will follow one of them, but with my crazy schedules of work, family, etc. what I am doing now works for me! J   

I run four days a week…Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I exercise other ways on Tuesdays and Fridays (HIIT, cardio, kickboxing, strength, etc.). I wake up between 4:30-5:00 am to get my runs and workouts in before my kids get up.  I like to do a variety of runs — speed, hills (which are hard to find in East-Central Illinois!), easy runs, intervals, etc. Throughout my training, my runs increase in distance, starting from approximately 25-30 miles per week. At the peak of my training, my weekly mileage is approximately 45 miles per week. My Saturday training runs are my “long runs,” with the longest topping out at 22.2 miles.J 

It’s hard to believe I’ve gone from a “one-and-done” marathon runner to now training for my eighth marathon. Wow! My goal for this Boston Marathon is to have fun, enjoy the sights and sounds and hopefully run a BQ time again — 3:40 or less! My crazy goal is to PR all together with a sub 8 minute mile pace, which would be just seconds under my Virtual Boston Marathon time.  Regardless, it will be epic!  

I would not be able to do the running I do without the support from my amazing husband, kids, family and friends. I think I will always be a runner.  It’s a part of who I am.  I love the way it makes me feel. I love running through the change of the seasons.  I love the challenge of balancing my running with my family’s activities and working full time.  I love running shoes and all the running attire.  I just love running!  

Thanks for reading my running journey!