Summer Sanders’ New Sport: Marathon Running

In 1992, the swimmer won Olympic gold, but now she hopes to survive Heartbreak Hill.

By | Hub Health |
Summer Sanders photo via Joe Seer/Shutterstock.

Summer Sanders photo via Joe Seer/Shutterstock.

Name: Summer Sanders
Age: 40
Resides: Park City, Utah

Have you ever run the Boston Marathon?
I have never run Boston, but I have qualified every time I’ve run a marathon. After Chicago I finally said to myself, You need to run Boston…who knows how many more times you will qualify! I am super glad I listened. I couldn’t be more excited!

Why are you running the Boston marathon?
Bucket List Baby! I have always wanted to run Boston; I just never made the commitment. I can’t wait for the start, for every rolling hill, all the pain, and most importantly the last 300 yards where I get to cross the finish line and cross it off my bucket list! Dream come true!

What is special about the Boston Marathon to you?
Everything! I remember meeting Kathrine Switzer right before I ran my first marathon, ‘99 NYC, and she was a huge inspiration. To me, to make it to Boston is the dream. Now I just have to survive Heartbreak Hill.

What’s harder mentally and physically: Preparing for a marathon or prepping for the Olympics?
Prepping for the Olympics was a 15 year journey. Prepping for Boston was 4 months of fun with my girlfriends! Marathon training is tough, but training to make and win at the Olympic Games is in a category all its own.

We know you love swimming, but what made you love running?
Quite simply, I get to experience a view and scenery with every run!  When I was working for the NBA, I learned every coffee joint, restaurant, and store in town because I ran the city. NBA cities are amazing for running.

What did your training regimen look like?
Very imperfect. It was a tough winter with sickness, but I trained as best I could. I live in Park City, Utah, so my 20 mile training run was in 15 degree weather. You know it’s cold when the water on your belt is 10 times colder at mile 20 than at mile one. I had a lot of friends supporting me with every snowy, icy run. And I watched Harry Potter movies on my iPad to make the treadmill runs more entertaining.

What was the hardest part of training?
Honestly, nutrition. I love pushing myself physically but with my schedule of travel and mommyhood, the hardest part is fueling myself properly. I learned from the USOC [United States Olympic Committee] and their dietitians this past year that the most important meal is the “recovery snack” or the meal within a half hour window after your workout. For me, the perfect snack is my favorite KIND bar, Almond & Coconut, which packs the perfect carb/protein punch.

What’s your favorite pre-race (night before) meal?
A mellow meal of fish or chicken, pasta, and veggies. It’s tough when you are not at home.

What is your favorite post-race meal?
It’s hard for me to eat right afterwards but you MUST. A piece of fruit, and some ice cold chocolate milk, then I am all set! Not much different than the perfect after school snack for my kids! And then, much later I eat anything my heart desires!

How will you stay motivated during the course?
I take it all in and feed off the energy of the crowd. I love clever signs that make me laugh. My favorite one from Chicago read, “This parade SUCKS!” I was busting up for at least a 1/4 mile after reading that one.

Do you have any racing superstitions?
I completely slather my toes in Aquaphor. It is my go to healer of everything!

What will you be doing the day after the Boston Marathon?
My flight leaves Monday at 5:15 p.m. from Logan so the day after I will be waking the kids up for school and getting them to the bus stop…might be a bit slower than usual.

What inspired you about running for Right to Play?
Everything inspires me about Right To Play. The call from fellow Olympian Johann Koss came at the right time in my life when I wanted and needed to give back. Sport has given me so much, and is such a great vessel for learning so many things about life. I took my first trip with them to Rwanda six months after the genocide, and the children’s smiles and amazing spirit, even that soon after war, still inspires me to this day.