Boston Marathon Roll Call: Martin Sommerschuh

Martin doing some weird running hands thing. Photo by  John Tran .

Martin doing some weird running hands thing. Photo by John Tran.

What does running your first Boston mean to you?
It’s a childhood dream coming true - or as close to that as possible. The third grader who had just started running a couple months before Atlanta ‘96, I of course dreamed of the Olympics, and it would have been in track. I realized later I wasn’t made for THAT kind of athletic achievement, kept on running, and while I was certain I would do a marathon at some point in life, for the longest time it was something distant, abstract. I was aware of Boston probably by age 10 though, even in Germany, and at 30 am happily taking it as the Olympics to which I never made it. 

What race did you achieve your BQ time at? How many attempts did you make before you achieved your BQ?
I qualified at New Jersey 2017 with a 3:00:07. It was my third marathon, and my first BQ attempt. On the verge of passing out, I was fully aware how close I was to missing the three hour mark. That did happen, but what mattered was that I safely qualified for Boston. Throughout high school and college, I had developed a track record (pun intended) for missing qualifying times by just a tiny bit. Breaking the trend turned the moment into a very emotional one, especially as I was surrounded by people I deeply care about.

Is your preparation for Boston different than the race your BQ race? Overall how would you rate your training? Was there a single workout or tuneup race where you thought, “Bring on Boston!” or conversely, “Oh my god I’m not ready for this!”
Compared to training for New Jersey I ramped up mileage significantly although I’m following a similar plan like I did for the Chicago Marathon, which I ran last fall (after NJ). I sequenced it differently than before - more mileage earlier, and the speed work following later, with the intention of peaking later than in past marathon seasons. Preparation went pretty smooth and I feel ready, particular after a two-minute PR in the NYC Half. The course preview confirmed that it’s a tough race - I have a lot of respect but I did my homework.

Martin achieved his first BQ at the New Jersey Marathon in 2017, narrowly missing out on a sub-3 marathon.

Martin achieved his first BQ at the New Jersey Marathon in 2017, narrowly missing out on a sub-3 marathon.

Did you do any specific workouts to prepare you for downhill start or the Newton hills in the second half?
I added weekly hill sprint workouts specifically for the Newton hills, which brought a taste of high school/college back, feeling simultaneously awful and accomplished after the workouts. I also made sure that my long runs were hilly enough, so went to the Palisades and did repeats of the upper loop in Central Park. Call it boring…I call it meditative.

Love it or hate it: Are you buying the jacket?
Confession: I already did.

What are you looking forward to the most about the race?
Experiencing the purportedly legendary atmosphere, knowing that several special people will be in the masses to support me, among them my parents and aunt, who will fly in from Germany, my boyfriend and a close friend, who are both coming up from New York.

What are you dreading the most about the race?
I have yet to hit the wall in a marathon. I decided that will happen in the one I’ll do after Boston. I'm also dreading that my parents will miss me as I run by, as they only get one chance to see me.

Is this going to be a PR attempt?
Of course.

Boston is a notoriously tricky course due to the placement of the hills. Not having run the full course, do you plan on banking time on the downhills in the first half knowing that you’ll slow on the hills? Or do you bank energy in the first half to try and attack the hills?
My plan is to start conservatively and pick up the pace a little every 10K. I will try to roll over the hills efficiently. If everything goes smooth and I’m on pace, I’d rather invest some time to not push too hard on the Newton hills and pick it up slightly on the downhills and few flat sections. 

Hypothetically, you struggle up the Newton hills and know the FRNY cheer section is going to be at the base of the toughest one: Heartbreak Hill. Do you avoid them in shame and jump on the sidewalk to disguise yourself as a power-walking spectator, or do you make a bee-line straight toward them to throw high-fives and feed off their energy to get you up the hill?
High-fives all the way. I need the encouragement. The louder the better.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a runner, and how do you think that will factor into the Boston course?
I am able to pace consistently, which should help me avoid starting off too fast. A few years ago, I shortened my stride to mitigate knee problems, which I see as an advantage for Boston. Shorter stride means less impact when landing on my feet in the downhills, and hopefully less fatigue in the legs. My main weakness remains my comparatively low mileage. But somehow I have managed to run decent marathons so far without 60+ mile weeks.

I double dare you: predict your time!

What’s the first beer you’ll have after the race?
No matter what. It’ll be tasty.

I apologize for ripping this off from the NBR blog, but in your head what celebrity do you think you resemble most when you’re running?
Leonardo DiCaprio.

Photo by  John Tran . Again.

Photo by John Tran. Again.

Steven Waldon