Tag Archive | "Ami Roach"

Beth McCurdy and Ami Roach

Chasing Ami


Qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon is not easy to do. Some are able to pull it off on there first or second marathon. Others try to qualify for years and finally get there. And, then there are those who can never qualify no matter how much they want it.

I met Ami Roach at my neighborhood 5K nearly three years ago. She finished the 5k in 24 minutes which is a decent time, I thought. She shared with me that she would like to qualify for the Boston Marathon and needed a sub 3:40 finish time. She lit up when we talked about this. At this point, Ami had only ran a few marathons and her goal was to break 4 hours. I was excited for her that she was so driven to qualify for Boston but I knew deep down that she probably still had a long way to go. For most people, a lot is involved with knocking marathon times down.

Ami and I became running buddies after we met that day and began to run on a regular basis together. She shared with me that she used to weigh 254 pounds at 5’1”. Until she told me that she wore a size 20 shorts and showed me a few “before” photos, I really couldn’t imagine it. How could this super strong, powerful running machine once be morbidly obese? And on top of that, she had been overweight her entire life.

I tried to make sense of her weight problem by asking her a lot of questions. What was it like being that heavy? What was your daily life like? Did other people stare at you or ridicule you? And why couldn’t you lose weight?

Ami’s approach to weight loss was not by using fad diets, although she had tried many of them throughout the years. Over five years ago, she lost weight the good ‘ol fashioned way-eating less and moving more. She began to cook healthier and exercise by using “Biggest Loser” home video workouts and jogging on the treadmill in her home. She didn’t dare head outdoors out of being uncomfortable running in front of other people at such a heavy weight.

Ami explained to me that she had an epiphany after she ran her first 10K, which was in the 60 minute range, still at a heavier weight. She said that she realized at the finish that this was what she was meant to do…run.

I really wanted Ami to break 4 hours in the marathon for two reasons: 1) She wanted it desperately 2) What an incredible success story for someone to lose 130 pounds AND finish a sub4 hour marathon. We trained together and with others in our community and she continued to run marathons. Some of them close to the 4 hour mark and others were ten or more minutes off. I even paced in twice to finish in four hours but she still couldn’t do it no matter how much she wanted it.

At the Chicamauga Marathon last November, she missed the 4 hour mark by 6 seconds. Six measly seconds! She was determined to get a sub 4 hour marathon at that point and trained harder. She never gave up.

I used to wonder if Ami got sick and tired of always seeing me finish faster in every race that we do. Not that she is competitive with me but I can see how it could become frustrating at times. I also wondered if Ami would ever be able to get a sub 3:40 or even a sub 3:45 which is what her qualifying time changed to by turning 35 years old. I tried to be optimistic but I often thought, if she’s struggling so much breaking 4 hours, how is she going to knock off another 15 minutes? I continued to be supportive and of course never shared my doubts with her.

On a mission, Ami set out to run the Charlotte Marathon the following month and didn’t tell anyone except for myself and one other person. She was fed up with this, didn’t want any pressure, and headed to Charlotte to run a hilly marathon and break 4 hours. She not only broke 4 hours but she blew it away with a 3:53. Okay…now I’m thinking that she can qualify for Boston and she’s thinking that she can too.

A few marathons later used as training runs, she prepared herself to qualify at the Mercedes Marathon this past February. She had veteran runner, Scott Ludwig, pace her to finish in under 3:45:59. She finished in 3:44:12. This was Ami’s 21st marathon.  I have never seen her more happy in her life and she couldn’t wait to register for the Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon has become so popular in recent years that the standards to get in changed for 2012. Because Ami is in a competitive age group and she “barely” qualified, she missed getting in by 26 seconds. She was devasted but this fueled the fire even more. Hard training was not over. Now it was time for her to get ready to lower her time significantly for 2013 so that there is no chance that she will not make it in with her time.

Training became more intense and running buddy, Coach Joe Fejes pushed her even more. But, heading over to the park by herself to run a 0.67 mile significant incline at a 8:00 pace over and over was not unusual for Ami. She was driven. She wanted it. And she was not going to give up. The Savannah Marathon, which coincidently was one year later from the Chicamauga Marathon where she couldn’t break 4 hours, was the race that she had her sights on to crank it out. And, she was not using a pacer this time.

The morning of the Savannah Marathon, I was counting the minutes for the phone call. Did she break 3:40? Did she break 3:35? How did she do? When I got the call from her that she got 3:32:06, I was ecstatic and couldn’t control my enthusiasm. It’s a good thing that I was in a car parking lot with the windows closed or my loud screeches would have disturbed some people for sure.

Ami had an over 12 minute personal record AND she beat my marathon PR from 2009 by over a minute. She had done it and this was her 29th marathon.

A good friend of ours gave us free entry into the Zooma Women’s Half Marathon this past weekend so we both registered. Ami had run a 1:39 half just two days prior at the Thanksgiving Atlanta Half Marathon and I had a 100 mile race the following weekend, so we sort of decided that we would stick together and not push too terribly hard. When the gun went off, we suddenly found ourselves 2nd and 3rd overall and were running a 7 minute pace. Wow! I thought, I wouldn’t be able to keep this up. My goal for the rest of the race was to try and keep up with Ami who is clearly faster than myself at this point. I loved chasing Ami. She is finishing this race, on tired legs from a fast half marathon just 48 hours ago, before me. This was one of the best races of my life.

-Beth McCurdy

Posted in RunningComments (1)

Run It Fast on Twitter

twitter button free