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How an FSU professor ran two marathons in the same week

Nicola MacEwen in a red poncho and holding a medal.
Courtesy of Nicola MacEwen

By Andrea O’Brien

Staff Writer

Nicola MacEwen, professor in the Fashion Design & Retailing Department, experienced a very busy week recently, running the Boston Marathon and the London Marathon within just six days of each other.

Growing up, MacEwen was never an athlete. She said she began running about eight years ago when her second daughter was around 9 months old.

“As a young mom with two kids, I found that running became my outlet and something that I was doing for me. I started doing half marathons, and then in 2019 I ran my first full marathon, and I was hooked,” she said.

There are two ways that runners can receive a bib to run the Boston Marathon - either by qualifying with a certain run-time or by raising money for a charity of their choice.

“The tricky thing with Boston is you can have a qualifying time and still not make it in, which is very sad. There’s just so many people that want to run Boston because it’s this coveted marathon. There are also only around 30,000 spots for Boston in comparison to some of the huge ones like London which has around 50,000 spots,” said MacEwen.

She entered the Boston Marathon by raising money for a charity. She said it is challenging, however, to raise money for Boston because their minimum amounts are so high.

She has previously run the New York and Berlin marathons for charity where she had to raise between $2,000-$2,500. For Boston, she had to raise $8,500 for the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.).

“It’s a lot of fundraising, so you really have to go to work to get a bib,” said MacEwen.

For the London Marathon, runners can qualify or raise money to get a bib, similar to Boston. However, London also has a lottery where runners can enter, and random winners are selected to run.

MacEwen entered the lottery for the London Marathon but did not get in. Instead, she got her bib through a charity.

“The charities are even hard to get into for London because so many people want to run. Some of the charities run lotteries. They essentially have everyone apply for the charity and then they randomly draw names,” she said.

For London, MacEwen ran for the Family Holiday Charity. She said they reached out to her because somebody dropped out of the run and they had an open spot.

MacEwen found out she had received a bib for the London Marathon around the end of January, mid-way through her training for the Boston Marathon.

She said the nice thing about running for a charity is they often have a coach to help runners with their training.

Nicola MacEwen holding a 128th Boston Marathon medal.
Courtesy of Nicola MacEwen

Typically, the training is about 16-20 weeks long and training starts 4-5 months before, according to MacEwen.

She said she keeps an Excel spreadsheet of everything she does every day during her training program such as her runs, her bikes, and her strength.

“It helps me keep track and it holds me accountable so that I actually do it,” said MacEwen.

Once the day came to run Boston, MacEwen said she was “really nervous.” She said the main reason she was nervous was because of the hills.

“By the time I got to mile six, my hamstrings were already tight from all the hills that I ran through, and I hadn’t even gotten to the Newton hills,” said MacEwen.

Once she reached Heartbreak Hill in Newton at mile 20, MacEwen said she walked for a bit there, along with many other runners.

Despite the challenges she faced with the many hills on the Boston Marathon course, MacEwen said the crowds are really what carried her.

“I took my headphones off in Boston and just listened to the people. I mean, Boston comes out. I think they’ve always been like that, but I think they’ve been more so like that since the 2013 bombing,” she said.

Typically, MacEwen said she runs a marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes. However, due to the hills on the course, and the heat of the actual race day, MacEwen finished Boston in just over 5 hours, which was the longest it had ever taken her.

For the London Marathon, she finished in 4 hours and 45 minutes.

She said she was shocked she did as well as she did in London. She expected to finish somewhere around the five-hour mark because she thought she’d be too sore.

“I probably could have done it in 4 hours and 30 minutes, but my legs were just tired from Boston,” she said.

MacEwen said she attributes her London time being 25 minutes less than her Boston time to the weather being cool and the actual course being flat.

For the first half of the London marathon, MacEwen said she was actually doing great, but by the second half she started feeling it and slowed down a little bit.

“I enjoyed it. Once you get to the second half, you’re coming into Buckingham Palace and then you come to the end and you’re seeing parliament buildings and Big Ben and Westminster Abbey,” said MacEwen.

Although London doesn’t have as many spectators come out as Boston, she said “they still really did bring it.”

MacEwen said she thinks one of the problems with London compared to Boston is that London has “the tiniest streets ever,” along with sidewalks that were very small too.

“So, you can’t actually fit that many people watching on the course. But they were loud, and they made use of the space that they had,” she said.

Boston and London got her to her fifth Abbott star. There are six Abbott world major marathons – Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York.

MacEwen has run all but Tokyo, which she plans to eventually run.

She will also be running her third New York Marathon this November.

After this experience running Boston and London, MacEwen said all in all she is “super proud of myself for doing two marathons in one week.”



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