Darien's Heather Pech succeeds again at Boston Marathon
It was 38 degrees, with steady rain and strong headwinds, at the Boston Marathon this past April, but the conditions didn’t slow down Darien’s Heather Pech.
The 56-year-old won her age group, women ages 55-59, for the second year in a row with a time of 3:10:15. Her time was so fast that not only did she win her bracket by a margin of seven and a half seconds, Pech also beat the winning time in the 50-54 age group by three and a half seconds.
“At the awards ceremony, Amby Burfoot handed me my award — he’s the 1968 winner of the Boston Marathon, and he’s very famous in the running community – and the words he used were ‘in a blazing time,’” Pech said.
Pech — who packed, by her account, 17 different outfit options for the marathon this year due to the harsh weather — finished the race frozen and with an injured hamstring. But she has no plans to stop running marathons. In fact, the elite runner hopes to qualify for a new event that will be held in the spring of 2020 specifically for runners over 40 years old: the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championship.
In order to do that, Pech will need to run two marathons in the coming year, something she has never done, and earn “points” based on net time and place in each race. Pech plans on running the Chicago marathon this coming October, and then compete in her ninth consecutive Boston marathon in 2019, in her quest to make the cutoff for the world championship.
Pech chose Chicago because the course is relatively flat; as a result, many marathoners set a personal record there. She thinks she can possibly run a sub-three hour marathon on the Chicago course, a feat she has not been able to accomplish in Boston.
“Boston is always hard — that’s what makes Boston, Boston,” Pech said. “It’s not a PR course.”
As part of her marathon training, Pech adheres to a rigorous workout schedule, running roughly 95 miles a week, mainly at a recovery pace about two seconds slower than her marathon pace of 7:12. “I run slow, to run fast,” Pech said.
In addition, she follows a weekly routine of strength training, massage therapy, rolling, cryotherapy and dry needling, all of which can add an extra two hours a day to her running schedule. Pech credits her team at Performance Physical Therapy in Darien, including Kevin Cota, as well as Chris Kieras at U.S. Sports Therapy in Westport, for helping her maintain her top physical condition. She also adheres to a strict diet focused on whole, organic food. “I don’t eat anything out of a box or bag” Pech said. “No grain, sugar or dairy.”
Pech, who followed up her win at the Boston Marathon by finishing in the top one percent of women at the Brooklyn Half Marathon in May, said that she is particularly meticulous with her training because of her age. Most marathon runners, she said, peak in the 30s.
“There's only a certain amount of miles before the body will start to break down, and I already have a lot of miles on me,” Pech said. “I know my window is probably at a minimum this year, maybe next year, that's why I’m trying to do what I’m trying to do. I know my clock is ticking. I ask myself all the time: how much time do I have? Not a lot. And I should have been out of time. So we'll see."