After running nearly every type of race except for the marathon and above, Sarah is ready to hit the streets for 26.2 this October.

AMR Creative Coach Sarah Wassner Flynn has not run a marathon in 20 years. Here’s why she’s giving the distance another go at the Medronic Twin Cities Marathon this October. 

The one and only marathon I’ve ever run came about because my friends and I wanted to tick something off our post-college bucket lists. Wide-eyed and ambitious, we were living in our first apartments in Washington, D.C. We had landed great jobs. We were making steady (although not very lucrative) salaries. We felt empowered. Free. And bold enough to conquer 26.2 miles.

We chose the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon because none of us had been there and the lure of honkytonks and a free post-race concert was enough to seal the deal. I booked a plane ticket and a hotel. I picked out the cutest outfits and found the perfect cowboy hat. I did just about everything to plan for the trip—except properly train.

As someone who ran on an NCAA Division 1 team in college, I had an idea of what it would take to prepare my body for a marathon. But at the time, I was also burned out from racing and wasn’t very interested in committing to a training program. I ran four miles here, 10 miles there, at whatever pace I felt like. I figured that was enough to get me by.

It wasn’t until my sister, Bec, an experienced marathoner, came to visit a few weeks before the race when it became clear I was doing it all wrong. “What about long runs?” she asked, eyeing me skeptically when I described my recent mileage. “You should be up to at least 20 miles by now.” She offered to run with me that weekend, as a sort of Hail Mary effort prior to the race.

Sister, sister: Sarah and Bec sometime around the time of the marathon.

We followed a circuitous route around D.C. on a crisp, blue-sky morning, tracing the National Mall up to Capitol Hill and later hitting the cobblestone streets of Georgetown. When I hit “stop” on my watch at mile 22 somewhere on Massachusetts Avenue in the shadows of the National Cathedral, I got a small taste of the euphoria that can come along with pushing your body longer and harder than ever before. I also spent the rest of the day curled up on my couch watching reality TV, completely exhausted (life before kids, sigh).

Race day came a few weeks later. And while the trip to Nashville with my friends was a blast, the actual running part was fairly agonizing. My lack of preparation caught up with me somewhere around mile 20, making for a painful and slow and slightly teary final 10K. Plus, the extreme muscle soreness and the loss of ten toenails (yes, all ten) in the week following the race was enough to turn me off of marathons for a long time.

20 years, to be exact.

While I competed in hundreds of races up to the half-marathon and half-Ironman triathlons in the decades that followed, the marathon distance remained at the top of a very high shelf where I had stashed it after crossing that finish line in Nashville. “One and done”, I’d say with a shrug and a laugh when people asked me if I’ve ever run a marathon.

At least there won’t be creek crossings involved in Sarah’s quest to BQ at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.

Turns out, I’m not done. Earlier this year, with my motivation in the tank following a series of injuries and illness, I decided that I needed a big, scary goal to reinvigorate my mojo. The marathon spoke to me. In a way, it felt brand new: I am a vastly different Sarah than I was at the time of my first marathon. I have had four kids, to start, a lot less free time, and a body that’s much more prone to injury. But I’m wiser. Savvier. And ready to do it the right way this time.

So, this October, I will be traveling to Minneapolis & St. Paul to join my fellow BAMRS on the starting line of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. If I said I was just doing it to finish (and perhaps beat my very soft PR from my only other marathon), I’d be lying. I want to do more than complete the distance. I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

When I set that BQ goal, I reached out to Bec for her guidance, just as I did 20 years ago. But this time, there will be no eleventh-hour long run or panic training—at least I hope there won’t be. In her typically gentle, but convincing way, Bec’s routinely reminding me to train smart and steadily build the mileage so I get to the Twin Cities injury free and able to cover 26.2 with enough cushion to maybe, just maybe, qualify to line up on that legendary starting line in Hopkinton in April of 2024.

I’ll be honest: The marathon distance still intimidates the heck out of me. But at the same time, I truly feel like I’ve got nothing to lose.

Except my toenails. I’d like to keep those this time around.