Everyone’s reason for running marathons and how they got there is different. In this episode, we learn about what inspired Nicole, Yao, and Cherie to want to go this distance. Every runner’s journey to running long distances is unique, and these stories make that clear. Listen to inspire your own running goals.

This episode is part of our Roads to Boston 2021 series, where we are following the journeys of 9 women from around the world to the 125th Boston Marathon, which takes places October 11, 2021.

The last Boston Marathon took place April 2019. And finally, this legendary event is back, in person. For every participant who gets an entry to Boston, it’s a victory all its own: you can’t just sign up for Boston, you have to earn your way in. Get an inside look at what goes in to getting to the finish line of the 125th Boston Marathon. Whether Boston is in your future or your running interests take a different shape, join us to energize your own aspirations.

In episode 1, we met the 9 women of this series and learned about how they got started in this sport. We’re in the midst of discovering why we all started marathoning. In episode 2, we learned about Patty’s and Amanda’s journeys to running marathons, which is inextricably linked to the Boston Marathon; in that episode we also learned about the Boston course. In the last episode, episode 3, we featured the marathoning stories of Rochelle, Marija, Zarah, and Jonna. And in in this episode, we discover why Yao, Nicole, and Cherie run marathons.

Stay tuned for our next episode where we check in on the runners in the midst of their Boston 2021 training to find out how living the marathon life is going for everyone.

Join us on the journey, to energize your own running goals!


Rochelle Solomon, Randolph, MA, USA; hospital and healthcare compliance officer; Boston first-timer
Patty Hung, Orinda, CA, USA; retired high school math teacher turned pediatric nurse; 34 Bostons run
Yao (Yaowapa) Hoisungwarn, Bangkok, Thailand; singing teacher; Boston first-timer
Marija Desivojević, Belgrade, Serbia; mathematician; Boston first-timer
Nicole Spaulding Pinto, Los Angeles, CA, USA;  cardiovascular perfusionist; Boston first-timer
Zarah Hofer, lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada; nutritionist; Boston first-timer
Amanda Watters, Ashland, MA, USA; editor, K-12 science curriculum development, 15 Bostons run
Jonna Maas, Spicer, MN, USA; medical doctor, Boston first-timer
Cherie Louise Turner, Somerville, MA, USA; podcaster, writer, editor; 1 Boston run


Runner self-introductions: My name is Rochelle Solomon. Hi, my name is Zarah Hofer. My name is Maria. Hello, my name is Nicole Pinto. My name is Amanda Watters. Let me introduce myself: I’m Yao, okay. My full name is Yaowapa Hoisungwarn. Hi, my name is Jonna Maas. My name is Patty Hung.

Cherie Turner: And I am Cherie Louise Turner, and together we’re nine women from around the world who share one goal: to run the 2021 Boston Marathon, which takes place this year on October 11.

This is Strides Forward, where we feature stories of women runners. This is episode 4 of the Roads to Boston series, which is following the journeys of us nine runners to the 125th Boston Marathon. Whether the Boston Marathon is in your future or your running interests take a different shape, join us to energize your own aspirations of reaching big goals.

If you haven’t listened to these previous episodes, beginning with the trailer, I, of course, would love if you did. It’ll give you greater context and a more complete picture of the series as a whole. However, if you’d prefer to jump in here, that’s fine, too. To know, because every running journey starts with the first step, we started this series by sharing how all of us got started running in the first place. And now, over the course of a few episodes, we’re discovering why each one of us turned an interest in running into a marathon pursuit, and how this simple act of putting one foot in front of the other has become an important and transformative part of our lives. In the previous two episodes, we discovered first what drove Patty and Amanda to run marathons; and then what motivated Marija, Rochelle, Zarah, and Jonna. And in this episode, we’ll catch you up on why Nicole, Yao, and me, Cherie, also chose this path.

While we all share a common interest, and this year we share the very big common goal of running the Boston Marathon, our reasons and how we got here are all unique. Let’s see how.

To get things started, it’s Nicole Pinto.

Nicole Pinto is a Cardiovascular Perfusionist who lives in Los Angeles, CA. Nicole had been a standout high school track runner, but had never really enjoyed running. That is, until she decided to do some team building at work, and chose a 5km as the goal that she and her coworkers could do together.

Nicole Pinto: With that 5k, I was like, alright. You know, that was pretty good. And if I actually knew what I was doing, as far as training, I could probably run a little bit faster, you know?

And so I signed up that same year, I signed up for two more 5ks and a 10k and a half marathon. So at this point it became fun and a new route and a new experience and, you know, working towards something, you know, I’m very, very much a Capricorn, very type A, very structured, you know, having something to work towards was very motivating and surprising myself a lot of times was pretty exciting too. And you know, from that, it was like, well, I mean, if I could do these distances, why not see if I could do a marathon? So by the end of that year, which was 2014, I decided, uh, I’ll sign up for the New York City Marathon. I knew that the odds of getting in were 18%. So I figured I would leave it to fate and, you know, if it was meant to be, then I would run a marathon and if not, well, good, then I don’t have to train for a marathon.

And I was okay with either decision. And my now husband, I met him right when I got into running. And he promised me that if I did get into New York City, considering the odds that he would train with me for New York and I’ll never forget sitting on the couch, I want to say it was February of 2015. Um, and he was sitting next to me and the little icon popped up: Congratulations, you know? And I was like, oh my god. And he just looked at me and he was like, what? And I was like, well, we’re training for a marathon. I was so excited about that. Surprisingly. And you know, I felt like, how cool is it going to be to tell people, I’m training for a marathon, like a real marathon, 26.2 miles. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I just thought it was going to be an awesome experience, you know, to run this distance. And so that’s kind of where it began, with New York City.

The marathon was very exciting for the first 16 miles. Uh, and I just remember, I wanna say it was 1st Avenue somewhere around mile 16, where it’s just like tons of people.

[News footage]

Nicole: I was like skipping and waving my hands. And once I passed all of that, I realized that I exerted an excessive amount of energy and I still had 10 miles to go. So I, uh, I was pretty tired. Um, I definitely did not fuel, like I should have, um, I didn’t know what I was doing, but by the time I crossed the finish line, I was happy and excited. And, you know, I said, that’s it, I’ve done all the distances. I don’t need to run another marathon. I will not run another marathon.

Never again. That was it. And then I signed up for Chicago the next year. And it’s just, it’s just something about, you know, in the moment the pain is very present in your mind and, you know, the challenge that you just went through and just all of those moments when you question, you know, can I do this, I’m over it. I don’t want to do it anymore. And then a day or two later, it’s like, okay, well I’m fine now. And it was hard, but I didn’t die out there. And I still think I can do better. You know, now I know what to expect. So let’s do another one. And, uh, so what I did the next year. I think that the fact that I did it and, you know, for my circle, it was one of those things like, wow, you ran a marathon, you know?

And it’s like, yeah, I did, you know, and I think I could do better. Um, it’s just that competitive nature of not fully being satisfied with the outcome. I did it, I crossed the finish line and that was great, but I walked and I felt miserable. And I learned towards the end of my training that I ha been, I should have been doing other things that I hadn’t done in preparation for the race. So it was more of, okay, let’s do this the right way. You know, let’s learn from this experience and have a better experience by fueling appropriately, training properly. And the other thing I will say about my first two marathons is that I ran alone. And so I learned later that having a training group or partners is night and day difference, for me anyway. I know a lot of people like to run alone, but there’s nothing like just killing miles and time with someone else and having good conversations, which I did not think was possible at the time while running.

And, you know, it just goes by so much quicker and you’re not focused on, oh, I still have this much further to go. It’s just, you find new routes and you chat. So, uh, later I found that that was what made all the difference for me. You know, I was very intimidated to run with others because I didn’t feel like I was going to be quick enough. And I thought it would be really annoying if people were asking me questions while I was running, because running is hard enough as it is. Then I also thought, you know, maybe I should get a coach and run with others who are also training, you know, because I can relate more with them. They have a goal, I have a goal. Maybe I can find someone to run with who has a similar time goal and we can, you know, push each other.

And so ultimately that’s what I ended up doing for the third marathon, which was in Berlin and then ran into another girl and her and I became really great friends. I mean, she was like, oh yeah, I’m running Berlin. And I was like, what? So am I? And we had very similar goals and you know, that was the very first time that I had someone to run miles with. And I didn’t feel like I was running too slow, too fast. And it just felt natural. And we had a lot in common and from that alone, I think my training improved significantly, my time dropped by about 31 minutes in 11 months. And yeah, I attribute that 100% to the coaching and to having people to run with and learning from others who had more marathon experience, you know, how the properly prepare for these races, um, which I was oblivious to a lot of those things, you know, there’s definitely a science behind it. And, uh, yeah, I’m super grateful.

Cherie: Yao Haisungwarn is a singing teacher from Bangkok, Thailand. An athlete most of her life, she started running when her brother in law invited her to join him because he was looking to lose some weight. She soon discovered that this was a sport she really enjoyed. Something to remember here is that the marathon is 26.2 miles, which translates to 42.2 kilometers. Alright, now on to Yao.

Yao Haisungwarn: After I won my first trophy. And I think that I enjoy long run, more than short running. You know, I saw, I saw many runners that, how amazing they can do 42 kilometers. And I’m curious, I want to reach to that limit, you know, so I set a goal for myself that, okay, I give myself six months to prepare for my first marathon and let’s see, how, how can I complete it? I set my goal for five hours. My first month I started to train, you know, in July, 2016 to run in 2017. I remember very well and I’m almost reached my goal. I finished in five hours, 10 seconds.

I felt, I felt released relieved and releases. You’re not like, oh my god, I, I did it. I can do that. I’m so proud of myself. And I said, I have to do it again. And make a better time. I am sure many runners think like me, you know. Uh, I think, you know, first time we start from zero knowledge, you know, you don’t have any knowledge about that at all. But after that marathon, I think if I prepare myself better than this, now I know what I will feel after 10 K at the 20, 20 or 30 K that people said you will hit the wall after the 30 K I think it’s quite true. More or less. It’s quite true. You used to start to feel, you know, the cramps, oh, what the hell am I doing here? Why don’t I just lay down and sleep at home.

Why I have to be here? I want to test myself again. If I, you know, prepare myself better with the experience of my first marathon, I think I will make better. Since I do marathon, you know, I have to focus on, you know, long run. It’s like I meditated or I focused on things for a long time. So in my, in my life, you know, when I have problem or something like that, I, I think it is kind of helped me to focus and not to be that panic. Like, like before, like, like running marathon, you’re tired and then it will be gone; then in real life, you know, oh, it’s only a small problem. Marathon is longer than this, you know, three hours: why you cannot get over it. So I kind of cut all the problem, uh, cut loose, uh, easier than before, I let go.

I think the marathon is harder than this. I always talk to myself like that. Oh yeah. People often ask me why you have energy to run everyday. You know, I feel I’m the kind of girl who full of energy for the rest of my life. I always active and running is a good way to get me, you know, use that energy in a positive way. I, when I wake up and I feel like, oh, I have something that waiting for me to do. I feel exciting to go run today; the program the coach gave me this and that and that. And I feel like, okay, if I can do this today, I feel proud. And I, yeah, I feel like healthier and more confident about my body. Since I become a runner, people approach me through my Facebook and my Instagram; some friends become friends in life, you know, but through running is amazing.

You see: running is like connect the people who have the same passion. When we talk about running, no matter where they are, we always have the same thing to talk. Like, how your training, how many days you train, what did you eat? How many, you know, it’s the same thing. Oh, we go to bed early and wake up and go to run in the morning, we have the same routine. We had the same interests and it’s easy to, to be friends with. And then we start to be friend for real. I feel, wow. It’s amazing. You know, the people who follow me on Facebook, they want to know me for real. And they run with me, become my pacer, become my buddy. And then we go out to eat together and coffee. I feel like, oh, running is very, very good sport. That makes me have more friends who have the same interests. Some people say hi to me. I don’t even know who they are. They call me kru Yao, like sensei, you know, like teacher, I’m a singing teacher who runs. Kru Yao, kru Yao; In the race, kru Yao, su su, like, fight, fight, fight. I don’t know who they are. It’s a nice feeling that people cheer me, support me from, uh, by my running performance.

And I am Cherie, here to round out the stories about why we run and why marathons. My marathon journey started sometime back in the early 2000s when I was living in Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. I’d been assigned a story to write about local ultra runners. One of the women I interviewed, Diana, invited me out for a run. That run was followed by many, many more and we became great friends. She made running these long distances feel approachable, and soon enoughI found myself training for the Big Sur marathon on the northern california coast.

Back then, I was absolutely clueless about training for running or training for an event that last over three hours, and I was so nervous going into my first marathon, I decided to run 26 miles on my own the week before the marathon. Let me tell you, that’s a terrible idea. I felt horrible the day of the marathon, and I’ve never done that again. I’ve since run in events as short as a mile and as long as 50 miles and over that time I’ve run somewhere in the realm of a dozen marathons, on the trails and on the road. And, I’d say there are probably two reasons I run these longer distances. First is because marathons are the big fun events, especially Boston. I’ve also run the Edmonton Marathon multiple times because I have a lot of family up there; to be fair, they were my husband’s family first, but now they’re mine, too . . . and it’s incredible to have all that cheering and support along the route. The other reason I run marathons is because they are really, really hard. There is no showing up to the start line of a marathon without some very dedicated preparation. And there’s always, always something you could improve, or something that you have to adapt to in your preparation and on race day. For me, the mental aspect of these long efforts is particularly fascinating and it has a tremendous benefit to my everyday life: I learn about patience, mental endurance, focus, the practice of switching negative self-talk to empowering self-talk, and it just goes on. I take the lessons I learn in training and racing into my everyday life all the time. I am always calling on those abilities, especially in trying times like we’ve been experiencing with COVID. And to be clear, I’m probably much better naturally suited to do much shorter events: I love short, fast efforts. It’s where I excelled when I was a bike racer. I love nothing more than going all out, 100%, but not for very long.

But it’s the mental challenge of these endurance events that keeps me so deeply interested. And getting to do something like Boston. My one and only time running Boston was back in 2018. And for those of you who follow this event, that was the year Des Linden won, and it was the storm year.

[News footage]

It rained. It was windy. It was cold, and it was amazing. I cherished every single mile and all the fans, who stood out in horrible weather to make it a really special day. I remember toward the end of the race thinking. I just don’t want this to end. In that final mile. I saw that landmark Citgo sign, and then to at long last make that final turn onto Boylston Street and down the long straightaway, lined with huge cheering crowds all the way to the finish. Getting to experience that, it was awesome. So awesome, in fact, I cannot wait to return to do it again.

And there you have it, why Yao, Nicole and me, Cherie, all value the place that running long distances has in our lives. Please check in for our next episode, where we’re going to check in with how preparations for this year’s Boston Marathon are coming along.

And, in upcoming episodes we’ll share how we all got into this year’s Boston Marathon and shed some light on what that process is like.

We’ll also get some real-time insights into what’s keeping everyone refreshed as well as highlights from great running experiences these athletes are having as they tr ain for Boston 2021. There’s a lot that goes into attaining big goals and we’re going to get to as much as possible, to inspire your own journeys by sharing ours.

No two people get to the same goal in the same way. Seeing it from the many perspectives of us 9 runners makes that clear. Please join us as the journey continues!

Subscribe now so you don’t miss an episode and tell a friend. And of course, thank you for listening. We love telling these stories, but we couldn’t do it without you. Your being here and sharing strides forward with others is what keeps us going.

We also couldn’t do this series without our incredible featured runners. A big thank you to Patty, Amanda, Rochelle, Zarah, Marija, Nicole, Jonna, Yao. We also want to give a special thank you to the Boston athletic association for their help in this series, especially Chris Lotsbom. The strides forward team includes me, Cherie Turner, your host and producer Cormac O’Regan creates all the original music and does the sound design for every single episode. And he does that from his studio in cork, Ireland, April Mariner of bonfire. Collaborative does all the design work for the show, including the website, Merck and logo. She comes to you from Truckee, California, and you can find April at bonfire, collaborative.com. Please join us for the next step along these Boston journeys until then this is Cherie wishing you many healthy, joyful strides forward.

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