In addition to discussing her blazing fast marathon PR and running background, I'm excited to share some of Pam's thoughts on motherhood and the marathon as well as her comparison of the strengths of two of the country's best running towns, Chicago and Boston!
Pam won the 2014 Chicago Spring Half Marathon!
What is your running background? More specifically, how did you begin running marathons?
I have been a runner in some way since I was 14. I ran track in both high school and college as well as field hockey (so I did not run cross country). I went to Dedham High School, outside of Boston, and then Trinity College in Hartford, CT which is a NESCAC school, Div III. Since it was a D3 school I got to run and play field hockey which was great. I ran the 800 mostly and was so against trying the longer distance[s] that I now think it is pretty funny that anything shorter than a marathon feels like a short race to me! That being said, I did run my first marathon in the spring of my senior year [of undergrad]. I just jumped into Boston Marathon 1999 in Hopkinton (it was easier then) and ran a 4:07. I think I had run 13 miles once before trying this. I come from a family of athletes, some runners but a lot of hockey players! My parents are very fit and active and I watched the marathon every year of my childhood at the same point on heartbreak hill. I remember watching it with a crew of cousins and my sister and we just played in the grass while thousands of runners went by us. It wasn't a foreign idea to me; to run a marathon.
That first marathon was just to do it and I never really thought about what I could do if I trained. I continued to jump in the Boston [M]arathon with no number for a few years[.] I got a charity number one year from a friend at John Hancock. I ran the next 3 marathons [in] exactly the same time: 3:47. I did train a little bit more than my maiden voyage but not much. I got married when I was 26 and my life kind of settled down. My best friend also moved to Chicago and I decided to visit her and run the marathon [there], I think I was 28. I decided to “really train” for this race but I maybe did about 40 miles a week and thought that was extreme. I ran a 3:16 and this got me started… I wondered if I could be a “contender.”
[Editor's note: Pam requested I edit out that last line however it's this mentality that I wanted to capture in my interviews! You don't have to be a sub-3 hour performer to have this "fighting spirit," but I think it's clear that so far all 2-Something interviewees have this in common. They're all looking to be a contender in the struggle to be the best possible runner-selves.]
Can you describe your marathon progression?
My marathon progression and philosophy is very much tied to each phase of life. I ran that 3:16 in 2007 and then ran 2 marathons in 2008. Each one I trained a little more but still just on my own[;] no coach or club. I ran a 3:10 in Boston and then a 2:55 in Hartford, CT. This, obviously, was exciting. I lifted a lot more (especially sport specific plyometrics) but still trained mostly on my own. This time [2:55] prompted me to contact the BAA about training programs. I joined their team in the summer of 2009. Since I had dropped such a big chunk of time between marathons, I kind of thought I might be able to do that again. I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon which was the [USATF] Women’s National Championship Race that year. I trained very hard, [doing] long runs with the BAA. I was so psyched for that race, I went out way too fast, ran a 1:21 for the first half and then struggled in the second half and ran another sub 3 marathon but not my best time. I was disappointed and probably would have had to reaccess training and goals except I got pregnant shortly after this and spent the next three years having two baby boys (Jack was born in 2010 and Luke in 2012) . I did run Boston 2011 in between pregnancies in a 3:07.
2013 was my big come back year! I was still training just long runs with the BAA, doing a little speed and tempo on my own. After having Luke in May of 2012, I ran Fort Lauderdale [in early] 2013, won it in 3:00, ran Providence 2013, [for] 2nd, ran my fastest 5K at 18:07, and then ran a PR (by 30 secs) in New York 2013 with another 2:55.
My husband and I decided to move to Chicago for his career in the spring of 2014. As soon as we made this decision, I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. It was great to have that to focus on as we moved our family halfway across the country, away from our family and friends. The result of this focus and training with Fleet Feet/CES on the lakefront path was a new PR of 2:52 and that made it all worth it.
How has your marathon philosophy evolved throughout this progression?
My marathon philosophy has changed from just completing a race to competing in it. Marathons allow me to surprise myself, hopefully in a good way. I see it as a bit of a science experiment to see what I can do with my body. I have [been] able to compete with fast times [despite] low training mileage. I have always thought this was because of my background in many different sports. I am strong and muscular, probably more so than many thin, long-legged distance runners! I still run lower mileage than many women that run my times but I have slowly learned (and admitted) that I do have to add in the miles along with the strength and speed if I want to continue to chase PRs.
Until this summer, I was also a teacher and a coach in our town outside of Boston: Duxbury, MA. My marathon philosophy has always been to fit it in, make it work, and get it done. I am just starting to add in more of a science and method to it. I have always been a competitive person and marathons are an outlet for competition that has adapted with my life.
Pam with her little ones after a second place finish at 2014's The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women's Half Marathon.
You're a mom of two, how has motherhood changed your approach to the marathon?
That same philosophy of fitting it all in has amplified since motherhood. I leave the house to run shortly after 5am. I do plyometrics while watching Disney movies. My 4 year old thinks my red running shoes are the “Fastest shoes" he has ever seen and I often have to go into his closet to find my racing flats. But this has made my running even more important. I think it teaches my kids to be active and fit people. My husband is an athlete as well and supports me. I think my boys see this as an example of being a good “partner” to each other. I am also teaching my boys that moms (women) can be strong, athletes - not just their dads.
[Editor's note: Yes!]
Since having kids I have also slowly given up other parts of my life. I used to coach, but retired from that in 2012. I taught full time, then dropped to part time, and now I am a stay at home mom. But running has never been on the chopping block. I see marathons as not just a medal but a sign to the outside world that I still have my own goals, my own abilities, aside from being a mother.
After running 2:52 in Chicago this year, what are your goals for next year and beyond?
I do feel like the clock is ticking for me! I am 37 and I want to run at least a sub 2:50 before I die!! Haha! After this year’s marathon, I was put in touch with the New Balance Chicago Racing Team coach and I just committed to running with them for the 2015 season. The coach there, Michael Lucchesi is very knowledgeable, the team is small and training is personalized. I think I am going to race a several shorter events in the spring; maybe even an indoor track meet! I’ll try to get some leg speed and maintain a faster pace in a 10K. The idea will be to hold this speed as I add the miles back in when training for Chicago 2015. I’m hoping for a sub 2:50; how far below will be determined by my times in the spring races.
I'm not sure this is germane to the rest of the interview, but I've been interested in the tradition and lore of running on the east coast. Now that you've been in Chicago for a bit, in what can Chicago learn from Boston? Vice-versa?
I am so happy to answer this question. There may be an edge to the Boston scene that Chicago does not have; a history of competition. New Englanders are known for being pretty cut throat! There are great runners in Boston [and] great coaches, but not the community of support that exists in Chicago. At least it was harder to find for me in Boston. When I moved here, knowing no one, I was so lucky to join a group of people training for similar times in the Fleet Feet/CES training group. It was such a diverse group of people with a similar goal. I know there are other training groups out there on the path every Saturday and other pace groups that have the same camaraderie. Two women in the group; Beth Panke and Katelyn Draths, invited me to join them for speed and tempo workouts  and after being here for about 2 weeks, I had found amazing training partners. I do think the lakefront path itself creates this community. You see the same faces. I also learned how you have to really be cognizant of other runners and bikes; my first few runs on the path ended with four letter words at bikers. I calmed down though and most of that Boston girl has adapted and learned how to stay to the right.
(Left to right) Katelyn Draths, Pam, and Beth Panke enjoying a tune up 20 miler on Chicago's Lakefront.
I also am impressed with the presence of pace groups in so many races here. They exist in Boston but not in such frequency. I think that is part of creating that supportive training community. Faster runners are constantly helping others reach their goal and probably learning something about themselves as runners in the process.
Moving to Chicago was a [big] decision for my family. There were many pros and cons but a huge “pro” has been the running scene here, the people I have met, and the opportunity to learn a lot about running even though I've been doing it for 20+ years.
Thanks to Pam Manley for taking the time to share about her marathon journey! I look forward to hearing of her continued success as she plugs away at her goal of sub-2:50!
Thanks for reading!
Thoughts or questions? Leave a comment below!