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Post-Pandemic into the Boston Marathon

The following double-blog post is written by co-founders Maria Wong and Edwin Guzman. Starting with Maria and then following up with Edwin, they both discuss their experiences through the COVID-19 pandemic and their renewed motivation for racing since then. Both will be representing QDR at the 125th Boston Marathon this Fall on Monday, October 11, 2021.

More than a year ago, I was flying high — I had gotten a new job, I signed a new lease, and I was in the best shape of my life. And then it all came to a screeching halt.

To be honest, I didn’t believe that the US would get impacted by COVID-19, based on previous airborne diseases that have transpired in China. I was so ready to run the Boston Marathon in 2020, but when the NYC Half got cancelled a few days before it was supposed to be hosted, I knew that everything would change. I had my last hard training run that weekend and then I caught COVID-19. 

Those two weeks were the dimmest days of my life. I could barely move, eat or talk. Everyday felt foggy but I could always hear the sirens late in the day and early the next morning. It was a scary time. When I ventured out a few days after I felt no symptoms, my body didn’t feel like my own. Anxiety seeped out of me. My breathing was short and erratic. I couldn’t focus on my run because I had to dodge PPE littered on the road and flattened roadkill every few steps. My internal self was battling with my physical self and I couldn’t get either of them to cooperate. When I got home, I didn’t want to go out again. But Kevin would convince me and stay by my side each time. Still, it would take about eight weeks for me to feel like a semblance of my old running self again.

After recovering, I fell back into my old pattern of taking the summer off and trying to enjoy the miles. What I didn’t see coming was the turmoil of the nation’s unresolved racial discrimination and injustices highlighted at height of summer. Everything bad just seemed to keep compounding. It affected me deeply and I couldn’t run without bursting into tears or feeling a tightness in my chest. But I soldiered on, with Kevin by my side. 

Even though many things were still uncertain, I felt that I needed something to keep myself “sane” and in control. So I started marathon training again. At first, I felt a jolt of excitement, but the anxiety of the summer came back. I would try to override it, but it was always lurking in the background — at every workout, every training run. I tried really hard last fall and this past winter to grasp onto that motivation that had powered me through many training cycles, but it was just out of reach. I was disappointed in myself and questioned my purpose every day. Why am I running? How could I focus on running my best times when people were dying and being killed? Do my workouts even matter? I donated so much money and time into causes and protests that I believed in last year but it didn’t seem like enough. 

The one bright spot of last year was using running as a way to help people and organizations that mattered to me. In between training, Queens Distance Runners raised funds to support teammates that didn’t receive stimulus checks; our leadership called teammates to see how they were doing and if they needed financial help; QDR hosted virtual races to raise funds for local community organizations and groups; and we put together socially-distant training runs and races approved by the Parks Department. It was hard navigating the new circumstances and restrictions but I felt better knowing that people who needed help were getting it directly through us, immediately. Though I wasn’t proud of my own training, I am proud of helping my Fam, the community and local organizations that needed it.

At the beginning of this year, I felt another wave of sadness when the news of the Atlanta shootings and the attacks on Asian elders proliferated all news channels. It felt like my teenage years were coming back to haunt me — that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, American enough. These feelings directly translated to my training and I perceived myself to be falling behind, yet again. I felt helpless and hopeless. Somehow, I found the courage to put together a protest in Flushing and was overwhelmed by how many people showed up in support. It made me realize that there were good people around me that reminded me often that I am good enough and that I can do it. I think this realization really helped my mental state and my running finally clicked in the last two weeks of my training cycle. I was finally hitting the prescribed splits and I felt like me again.  

On April 18, I ran my twelfth marathon at the Coach Medina Marathon in Rockland State Park. It is my second fastest marathon in my ten years of running. Even though I felt great in the past two weeks, truthfully, my head and heart were not fully in the game. I blame myself — I had little to no motivation throughout the whole training cycle and I allowed a lot of external factors to affect me. During the entire race, I kept thinking, why am I doing this? Kevin ran 18 miles with me and I was surrounded by teammates and training partners, but where was my purpose? I felt disappointed in myself when it was over. I was smiling on the outside but frowning on the inside. I was truly happy for my teammates and training partners but it would take me another two weeks of reflection to acknowledge my own feelings about my performance. 

And then two days later, I hesitantly signed up for Boston 2021. 

You’re probably thinking, is she crazy? Why would she sign up for another marathon after experiencing such a bad training cycle? You’re not wrong in thinking that. 

In the days after, I reflected a lot on the past year. I examined everything — from the snacks I decided to eat to each rep of each workout. I took a lot of long walks and did a lot of yoga and meditation. It really helped me to slow down, step back and just look at the facts. Yes, emotionally, it was my hardest training cycle. My splits weren’t that bad but I didn’t believe in myself and allowed the negativity of my own thoughts to swallow me. I knew that not every run was going to be good, but it was difficult to see that when everything else was already out of my control. 

These past six weeks, I’ve paid more attention to how my body feels versus what pace I’m going. It’s because of these runs that I decided that I would gauge my efforts more seriously and focus less on my splits and times for my next training cycle. After this past year, I need a change and, so far, I feel like I have rediscovered some of my confidence. It helped that restrictions are being lifted and people are getting vaccinated. Things have been on the upswing and I feel a shift in the air, which has shifted my outlook. I feel myself looking forward to running again; I feel a renewed purpose and excitement to run again. And as things continue to ease, I am excited to be able to run in a major event with fellow competitors from around the nation again. It feels like a lifetime ago, but I finally feel motivated and hopeful again. 

Maria Wong

Last February in 2020, I felt a deep sense of dread from all the COVID-19 news. The number of people infected with COVID-19 started to increase steadily, the City was confused, and rumors were flying around about whether this or that location would be closed due to an infected case in the building. And even through all of that, trying to adjust to a pandemic world and now the aftermath after a vaccine, I can’t shake off a lot of the negativity, just yet. Thankfully, future race events have changed that for me.

Once the 2020 NYC Half got cancelled and I received news about working remotely for (at that time) a month, I knew everything would change. Of course, no one knew how long it would last and that we’d be in lockdown for over a year, but once cases and deaths due to COVID-19 kept rising after the initial “let’s shelter in place for two weeks”, it made a lot of sense to stay inside for the foreseeable future. It also, as much as it hurt, made sense to see all big races get cancelled or postponed for the fall or for the rest of the year.

Luckily, I didn’t get infected. I think. If I did, I had minor symptoms that made it slightly harder to run for two days, but I ended up taking a week off just in case. It was tough hearing about friends and family suffering through the early months of summer in 2020. Even as others got sick and some passed away from COVID, many kept complaining about cancelled races or contemplating when they’d be back. Others not reading the room, or not being aware of the state of the world, really messed with my motivation to get back to racing. As much as I enjoyed working hard for a PR or running with friends, it was just that much more important that we stayed safe so we could return to some sense of normalcy.

Prior to the pandemic in early 2020, I signed up for the 2020 TCS NYC Marathon. It was my goal race of the year not just because it was the NYC Marathon but because I signed up with Make the Road NY (MRNY) to fundraise for their Legal Services department. MRNY provides a wide range of legal services to families, but the work they provide for undocumented and DACA recipients in NYC means a lot to me. I’ve been through the DACA struggle personally; it still haunts me in certains ways every day, and it’s easy to feel hopeless. Unfortunately, that initiative fell through because the 2020 TCS NYC Marathon got canceled, but I hope many donated to the organization and the cause (and you still can).

In addition to race cancellations, COVID-19 wasn’t the only event that affected everyone in 2020; we all encountered racial and social injustices personally, or saw how it affected others and systemic injustices in the systems we live in. In many ways, I put running first because it was an escape from everything I had to deal with for the majority of my life. Although doing so can help, you can’t run away from problems all the time. It wasn’t just the insecurity of growing up as an immigrant and feeling like I didn’t belong here, but also having the nagging thought every day that I actually did not belong here.

In some ways, living through a pandemic has shown me what kind of person I am and what kind of person I want to be. The leader inside me didn’t come out in ways I wanted to because I focused elsewhere. Although I helped QDR organize funds for teammates who needed support during the height of the pandemic or helped organize virtual races to fundraise for local organizations, it felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

After getting vaccinated against COVID, I felt a big sigh of relief. What really pushed my confidence towards returning to “normal” was being able to set vaccination dates for my parents and siblings; hours spent refreshing trying to find a vaccination date, time and site lifted my hopes up when the registration confirmations came through. Even though I’m fully vaccinated, I still feel uncomfortable in many situations with large crowds. But seeing the city and teammates being comfortable eases my nerves. 

Now, we are starting to have races with larger crowds and with minimal social distancing. As many more get vaccinated and the number of cases decreases, we’ve been a part of races with a good size of runners; and we, as QDR, have hosted many races safely and without issues. Although I bike-paced many waves of the Queens Marathon in the Fall of 2020 and the Spring of 2021, it didn’t hit me to sign up for a race until I helped pace Kevin at the Faster Together Half Marathon in April of this year. The feeling of lining up at a race start line and being in a race (even though I dropped out after finishing pacing duties) felt great and motivated me to sign up for the 2021 Boston Marathon.

So here I am now, getting drenched in sweat after running for five minutes outside and re-thinking my decision to train for a marathon through the blistering hot summer. As awful as it is to feel the sun burning my skin and dehydrating me towards the end of a run, I am as motivated as ever to run another big marathon this Fall. Seeing more and more vaccinated friends running and training together is bringing a sense of normalcy for the running community and it’s beautiful to see. We are not out of this pandemic yet, however, and when we get through this we will still deal with the aftermath. For now, stay safe, keep following the guidelines and I’ll see you out on the roads.

Edwin Guzman

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#FasterTogether towards World Championships Qualifier

The following was authored by Coach Marie-Ange Brumelot. Along with Coach Medina, they have built a community of athletes working together towards their goals. It is, therefore, great to see that the encouragement she instills in others is matched by her own inspiring work ethic, attitude, and achievements. Even with so many goals achieved, there are many more right around the corner to work towards.

Through the Queens Distance Team, #FasterTogether family, and the driven NYC runner’s community, I have had the chance to grow as an athlete and always thrive for more. Everyone supports and motivates each other to keep moving forward and chase their own personal goals. This is gold.

Three months ago, at the Chicago Marathon, I achieved my A-goal by running a low 2:36. I was definitely happy with the performance but celebrating it with everyone is what really made it special. Achievements are only truly appreciated when shared with loved ones. It is later on when I realized that this was the second-fastest French marathon performance in 2019 that things started to sink in. With the Half-Marathon World Championships coming up in late March, I now set the chase of making my first National team.

I have had the goal of making a World team for some time, but never expected it to be a realistic possibility by 2020. But here we are. The training cycle towards the Houston Half-Marathon on January 19, 2020, was quite short but I believed it would be sufficient towards at least making the standard set by the Federation at 1:15:00. We took a couple of weeks to get back some lost aerobic fitness after recovering from Chicago and having fun pacing the NYC Marathon, and we focused on learning to run faster and embrace intensity. Everything worked out smoothly. We let the training talk for itself and set the A goal to sub 1:14:15 and A+ goal to sub 1:14:00.

Race day conditions were favorable despite a strong wind that would face us on the second half of the race. Aware of that, Dmytro and I did not worry much about coming out slightly fast through the first 10km. The second 10km was a battle against the unforgiving headwind. The pace had definitely slowed drastically. A quick time-check at the 20km mark, I was 24 seconds behind my split for my A+ Goal. I ran that 1.1km with the mentality that I could totally make up that time, sped up on this portion where the wind was not a factor anymore, and drove all the way through. I ran for every second, as if the clock would show 1:14:00 and I had to squeeze under. Finish Time: 1:14:12. The best I could do on the day and happy with this result. “A” goal achieved.

3+ min PR
World Championships Standard met by 48 seconds.
Current second-fastest French HM performance towards making the team, as of January 2020.
And 100% confident that I can run a lot faster.

I am at a point in my running when I am slightly disappointed about not surpassing expectations. This comes from setting higher goals and having a better sense of my true abilities. I have to adjust my mindset and learn to appreciate more achieving the A goal. In each stage of a journey, things change and that is something to embrace.

I love the process and the community. Thank you for the endless support, warming congratulations messages, and all the love. What’s next? My eyes are set on making that team. Maybe I’ll squeeze in one more race to better my mark and increase my chances of making the team, or maybe not. That is still in the works. The team will be announced March 3rd, let’s see where I stand then!

Dmytro, Marie, and Luciano
at the Houston Marathon and Half-Marathon expo

Thank you again, and cheers to fast miles for all of us in 2020!

*Congratulation to my loving husband for a smart and strong race finishing in 2:36:19, a 7-min PR!
**Also, thank you to my favorite pacer, Dmytro, for the company, the help, and the blazing fast early miles!

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NYC to Philly

The following was authored by Robert Sanderman, one of the hardest working athletes we’ve had the pleasure to train with since early 2019. Snowy days did not stop Rob from coming to QDR track workouts at Juniper Park in early 2019 and since then, he’s come a long way as an athlete and a teammate. We hope his story resonates with many who have ever felt intimidated to join any running group. You get as much as what you put into your running group. So, come out and surround yourself with other individuals who will push you further!

Rob trains with QDR coaches, Coach Medina and Coach Marie of Coach Medina NYC, who train athletes from any club. For further information regarding their plans, check out their site!

Queens Distance

Before joining Queens Distance Runners (QDR), I was a very casual runner. I ran to supplement my strength training. My first race was the NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K in 2013 and then the 2013 Brooklyn Half. I did them because a friend encouraged me to run with her and I was also inspired by my coworkers whose offices were decorated with finisher medals. At that time, I did not put a lot of thought and training into running. For the Half, I prepped by running 5 to 8 miles a week or so a few times before the race but that was the extent of my training. I always told myself that I would never hate myself enough to run a full marathon. During the Brooklyn Half, on May 18, 2013, I saw a sign that read “you are only half crazy.” I nodded in agreement as I tried to push through the last few remaining miles.

Then, on one fateful day in the Spring of 2018, my job informed me that they had spots for the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon. For whatever reason, I was like “why not?” This was my first time training, especially with a disciplined schedule (I used the Nike Training App and the NYRR Virtual Trainer). I thought that as long as I followed the plan, I would be fine. During the grueling “hot boy” summer training, I ran into an old college friend—Kevin Montalvo—while I was running in Central Park. He eagerly told me about his running club, Queens Distance Runners (QDR), and prompted me to join. This all happened within the seconds as I continued my stride past him and the QDR cheer station. “Sure”, I responded, but I later asked myself “why would I want to join a running club?” I was close to the end of my training and I didn’t want to do anything new. This would also be my first time joining a club so I was intimidated because I thought it would be an overly competitive environment.

Rob running with Luciano Medina
Photo courtesy of Coach Medina NYC

2018 TCS NYC Marathon

On November 4, 2018, I completed the NYC marathon—my first! To this day, it’s the best course I’ve run. The NYC marathon is a run across all the boroughs and each borough brings its unique energy. It is a thrill to run past the crowds. It’s as if you are a star in the biggest parade in the city. My goal was just to survive, a.k.a. finish, but I learned a lot from the experience. 

I ran way too fast in Brooklyn. Therefore, I slowed down significantly after mile 9. By the time I made it to the Bronx, I only had enough in me to twitch a bit to the salsa and merengue emanating through the speakers. I was so happy I survived and finished at 4 hours and 16 minutes. Realizing that I might have improved my time if I started out slower, held a steady pace, timed my hydration, and did less zig-zagging on the course encouraged me to do another marathon and to set on my journey to improve my marathon time.

Spoiler!—I Joined QDR

In January of 2019, I somehow reconnected with Kev and realized that QDR held weekend runs 20 minutes away from my home in Jackson Heights. Therefore, I had no excuse. Upon my arrival to my first meet, we all introduced ourselves and took a group photo and began the run, which already gave me a “this is more than running” vibe. I usually ran by myself but that day I met new people—folks from the community—who enjoyed running. I spoke with people who ran several marathons, completed triathlons, and ran in races across the world. I thought I stumbled upon a group of professional Olympic athletes. It was incredibly encouraging and inspiring to learn of their past accomplishments and future goals.

I also connected in a different way: I had a professional connection with one of the runners. The “speed dating”-esque style of getting to know one another during a long run was pretty awesome. I soon realized that this was a great group of people with running goals ranging from leisure runs to triathlons. The familial feel of this group generated excitement to participate in future runs. Luckily for me, QDR created a training series for the 2019 Queens Marathon. That’s how I found my second marathon.

2019 Queens Marathon

My goal for the 2019 QDR Queens Marathon was to finish under four hours. I thought this was achievable because through the winter training cycle, I learned a lot about hydration and pacing from my fellow QDR fam. Also, the regular QDR runs and the Strava app kept me honest. I never used Strava before signing up for QDR but I was motivated to see the running community getting it done, whether it’s a 5 a.m. easy run or an ultra-marathon. I eagerly branched out from the weekend long runs to join other groups throughout Queens where I met other great QDR members. Wednesday track workouts were my favorite because it was the first time I seriously incorporated track work into my training regimen (the Nike App had a few but I did those sporadically and in the neighborhood—I literally never ran on a track before). Thankfully, I was able to take advantage of the Queens Marathon training runs, which provided additional opportunities to run with other running clubs such as Woodside Sunnyside Runners (WSR). I learned a lot.

At the QDR Spring Marathon Tune-Up, on March 24, 2019, I surprised myself (and some of the folks in the pacing group) by finishing at an 8:17 pace per mile (ppm). The Queens Marathon was still a month away so I was encouraged by what I thought I could accomplish. On my last long run leading up to the marathon, I did 16 miles at an 8 min ppm. I felt ready!

On race day, April 21, 2019, I ran with the amazing 3:30 pace group. I felt strong the first 17 miles but then realized it was hard for my body to keep up. My legs felt heavy, I was dehydrated, and I started to feel a sharp pain in my side. My pace slowed significantly to the point where I transitioned from running to jogging to walking and finally standing. I stopped three or four times! This was devastating for me because I only stopped once, to use the restroom, at the NYC Marathon. I was further discouraged because I thought a significant amount of time had passed (my watch died at this point) and that I was not going to beat my 2018 NYC Marathon time, much less my sub 4 hour goal time. Although I am not a huge fan of looped courses, I was so grateful that day because I saw familiar faces (QDR members, loved ones, strangers with hilarious/motivating signs) multiple times as I ran through the loops. It also helped mentally to say to myself, “3 loops down, you are halfway there…2 more loops…1 loop to go…there is the Unisphere!” which pushed me to the finish. The expectation of knowing that your support group is in a specific spot was also comforting, unlike my NYC Marathon where I had no clue where people were (I didn’t see anyone I knew).

As I was struggling to jog it out, finishing the race instantly became plan A, B, and C. And I did just that. To my surprise, I somehow beat my NYC Marathon time by 30 minutes. I finished in 3 hours and 45 minutes.

Training with Coach Medina

Photo courtesy of Coach Medina NYC

I learned about Coach Medina NYC when I signed up for the Queens Marathon but it wasn’t until I was paced by someone who ran with him that I decided to look into it. I noticed at the marathon how Coach Medina and Coach Marie ran around the course cheering on the runners. Dwelling on why I stalled after mile 18 at the Queens Marathon, I figured it would not hurt to reach out to Coach Medina for tips. Although I have learned a lot since my first marathon, I figured I had a lot more to learn (and third time’s the charm). My new goal was to finish the 2019 Philadelphia Marathon under 3 hours and 30 minutes.

After signing up with Coach Medina at the end of May of 2019, a month after the Queens Marathon, I saw some big 5K PRs. This was a big deal for me because I never considered myself fast and although my goal was to improve my pace, I did not expect this type of progress. Unfortunately, after training with Coach Medina for roughly a month, I injured my calf (I rarely stretched and I slacked on my strength training although I ran fairly often). I couldn’t run for 6-7 weeks. This is the moment I realized I loved running. During my recovery break, running was constantly on my mind. I did everything I could to get healthy. Also, since I was new to running and didn’t know how common injuries were, I was concerned that my injury would have lasting negative effects on my ability to run.

However, I was super grateful for the Coach Medina group, QDR folks, and my physical therapist for counseling me through the injury. I started to take better care of my body: stretching before and after runs, foam rolling, and strength training. I try my best to keep this up now. After I was cleared to run, I did the Governor’s Island 10K on August 10, 2019. I planned to do an easy pace but I felt strong and ended up with a 6 minute and 36 second PR. I was ready to start training with the CMSub330 group again.

I greatly benefited from having coaches that worked with me through my injuries. Just like how I see QDR as a second family, I had this additional support group with the CM runners—particularly, the CMSub330 group (the group’s goal is to complete a marathon under 3 hours and 30 minutes). We pushed each other to be better, supported each other when we raced. I learned in a very short time that it was more than just running fast or hitting that target pace because training through the elements and witnessing all the hard work my teammates put into their training, I started to realize that we are making each other better—period! That means a lot.

Closer to my marathon date, I reinjured my left calf a few times but I was just grateful that I could still run and give my best effort. Towards the end of the training cycle, my runs were trending faster but I was concerned because my prior two marathons did not end as I hoped, although I was grateful for the PRs. I understood that I could not control everything that may happen on race day but I was less concerned because I knew I was going to sign up with Coach Medina again for the winter training cycle and that there would be more opportunities to hit my goal pace.

2019 Philadelphia Marathon 

On race day, November 24, 2019, I was super excited because it was my first race in Philly and I heard great things about the course. I sweat easily and my body warms up super quick so I had to figure out what to wear during that cold and rainy day. I started off with the 3:20 pacer which felt like a very comfortable pace. I broke off at about mile 14 and still felt strong. I started to feel tired around mile 21 but I pushed since I was just trying to convince myself that 5 miles were nothing. My watch died (it’s a recurring marathon theme but I did not have one during the 2018 NYC Marathon) so I didn’t have the playlist that I spent weeks putting together and I was ignorant to my pace. I only knew that the 3:20 pace group didn’t pass me and that I was passing others on the course.

Mile 24 is when it got real. For some reason, I tried to convince myself that I did enough and could jog the last two miles to the finish line since I was on pace to finish under 3 hours and 30 minutes. Luckily for me, seeing QDR and WSR members, either cheering or running the course, gave me life. A little past mile 24, there was a large group of spectators cheering us on, and that gave me the energy I needed to push through. As I got closer to the finish line, when my energy was beginning to fade out again, I saw a WSR member, one of the first athletes I met at my first QDR run. Him yelling out my name and giving me a hi-five resulted in the push I needed to muster all that I had left to cross the finish line at 3:19:08–a 26 minute PR!

I would never have thought that my pace would have improved almost 57 minutes within a year. Qualifying for Boston was not a thought last year or earlier this year but now it seems more feasible. I’m surrounded by friends who inspire me to be better and people who have already accomplished the goals I am now setting for myself. QDR, the Coach Medina crew, WSR, and others have been essential to my growth and progress.

Cheers to having fun, building community, and chasing future PRs!

QDR and CM Chase Pack Member

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B.O.A. Chicago Marathon 2019

From Berlin we made our way to Chicago for the second World Marathon Major of the 2019 Fall season! What an exciting weekend it was for all of us. With over 30 runners, and even more friends and family members, Queens Distance was well represented in the Windy City. This year’s weather fared so well for the runners that many achieved big PRs, one more star closer to completing the six World Marathon Majors, and one more city to tick of the marathon bucket list.

Thanks to everyone who joined us in Chicago! From meeting up at the expo, to eating together, there were plenty of events to meet up. Since everyone flies into the city at different dates, with different time schedules, it is hard to coordinate. We’ve been told “sorry” before when teammates go to a race but cannot meet for events. Remember that there are no obligations to meet up. Doing the best to your ability is all we ask!

Chicago Team

There were many, many big PRs this year in Chicago. Yes, the 30+ runners who participated in the 5K and the Marathon put in all the work but let’s not forget the supportive friends and family who came to Chicago! Running a marathon is an amazing accomplishment and that feeling is better when shared with everyone who has supported you through the training, through the bad races, through the PRs, through trying new nutrition or new workouts, they know everything you’ve gone through to make it this far.

This year’s QDR cheer stations were held at the same spots as last year but many went to their own spots to cheer for their loved one. This is fine and encouraged because it helped the runners; there were more chances to hear all the “Go Queens Distance!” shouts on the course. Sometimes, however, it may be hard to spot and take pictures of everyone. Take it from Mike Bocchinfuso who said

1. Cheering and supporting our FAM (and all runners) is a lot of fun and the smiles, seeing your crew cheese for photos, etc, are totally worth it. It’s definitely worth coming out if you can.
2. Tracking multiple runners AND handling photography is TOUGH. I have a new level of respect for the work that Albert and Jose put into their race photos that we get. Not that I got photos anywhere near their quality, nor did I put in the work they do, but I appreciate even more what they do even more now as Horse and Duck.

As hard as it may be, we will be there cheering for you! Not only is it fun, but it’s one of the most inspiring things you can do.

International Chicago 5K

First up for the weekend was the International Chicago 5K. This 5K is similar to the NYRR Abbott Dash to the Finish 5K as it celebrates all the countries who have participants in the Marathon. It’s one of those events where you see a lovely mix of culture in an athlete’s attire; one runner from Australia had an inflatable kangaroo on her back, a group of Japanese runners had cute anthropomorphic pineapples on their heads, and many had flags of their countries as capes.

For our teammates, many ran it as a shakeout for the Marathon. That means two medals for the weekend and a gorgeous beanie souvenier. Others raced it, like Edwin who cracked the top 10 overall in 17:10 and coming very close to a PR.


Get this, we had 30+ Queens Distance members run the Chicago Marathon! For a race outside of NYC, that’s incredible. Many teammates we spoke to were inspired by last year’s Chicago Marathon and wanted to have a go at it. For others, it was another chance at running it from deferring it last year. And for some it was their first marathon in a long time. We can only imagine the nerves everyone had leading up to the race!

Put in the work and the goals will be achieved! Congrats to everyone who raced this weekend, whether it was a 5k, a half, or a marathon. Here we have three athletes who all had incredible PRs at @chimarathon. Johnathan achieved a cumulative personal best of 31 minutes with Berlin and Chicago! Marie came in 20th overall female with a new PR of 2:36! Diana achieved a 29 minute personal best since the NYC Marathon last year! We love reading all the stories from everyone so please share! Even “bad” races bring experience, grit, and motivation for the next race. The grind doesn’t stop! #queensdistance #queensdistancetravels #chicagomarathon #26point2 #marathoners #medalmonday #mondaymotivation

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Last year, the Chicago Marathon was a humid and rainy race. We know very well how those conditions can affect a race, just ask the three QDR co-founders who ran the race together (both Edwin and Kevin helping pace Maria). But this year, the weather was in everyone’s favored as it was a chilly and clear morning.

Every marathon is a new experience. If this training block wasn’t perfect, it was very close to it. Although summer was rough and I did not quite accomplish everything I wanted to, I put in all the miles, completed some stellar workouts, raced faster than ever, and was 100% healthy throughout. Race day weather was perfect, I just had to capitalize. Goal: 2:36:xx I was VERY nervous. I did not want to mess it all up. I hadn’t ran a marathon in a little while and did not want to disappoint anyone or myself. The race was never easy although it did not get really hard until mile 21. I focused on trusting myself and tucking in behind guys on the windy portions (thank you 🤗). Then I just worked one mile at a time. The pace was still clicking, something beautiful was unfolding. The last 2km were not so pretty, and will be remembered as very brutal. My quads were completely destroyed. But we made it. 1:18:13/1:18:10 I have never been someone to force a pace, but rather embrace trusting myself running with the mentality “If it feels right, it is right”. I am not sure I can ever run a better even split. 😅 2:36:23 4+min PR 20th overall 3rd fastest French (Female) Marathon in 2019 Another huge step in the right direction and 110% confident that there is a lot more in the tank. Thank you all for the support, cheers, and sweet congratulatory messages. You make this journey so much more special 💕💗 #FasterTogether #ChicagoMarathon #FasterThanMyHusband #QueensDistance #ChasingADream

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Marie-Ange Brumelot led the team coming in 20th place overall female with a time of 2:36:23! This is the fastest Marathon in QDR Women’s history and also the second fastest overall QDR Marathon time! It was a spectacular performance we will not forget and we know there’s more in the horizon from Marie and her husband, Coach Luciano Medina. 

Just as amazing were all the other races. There were so many PRs that day; some by a few minutes and some by more than 30 minutes! Not everyone runs for a specific time goal, however, as a few were unfortunately pestered with injuries in the past months. We’re very glad to see that they are now healthier to complete the marathon without further hurting themselves. And, of course, some ran this race as a long run for other upcoming races!

Completed my 3rd marathon overall and it was the best one yet! Next up hopefully Berlin! 🤞🏽 All I wanted to do was break my previous marathon time of 5:10:18. My goal was to get under 5 hours and I ended up getting even closer to 4:30 at 4:31:45. Thank you to everyone who made this possible especially @wingsie for coming for this short weekend to stand in the windy, cold weather to support me and to watch me past her by. Thanks to @wingsie, @nancyyv12 and @itsktw for cheering us all on and chasing us to 3-4 stops. You guys are the real champions, you did your own race! Thank you to @queensdistance for all the pre-marathon training and the support out on the course. Congrats to all the finishers especially @raycv322 and @fiya_at_will on your PRs! Not 1:59:40, but close enough! 🤣 . . . . . #chimarathon #chicagomarathon #chicagomarathon2019 #jetwithdjwingsie #marathon #marathonfinisher #medalmonday #marathonmonday #queensdistancerunners #queensdistance #running #runforbling #motivationmonday

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Laura Pisani even ran for two as she announced to everyone that she and Joseph are expecting a baby! What a wonderful way toannounce such a joyful life event.

#chicagomarathon Had our hearts full and I can’t deny it… I am still getting teary eyed!!! It was a day we will NEVER forget. There was no better way to announce that baby girl Betancourt will be coming in April than with both mommy and daddy PRing today!!! 21 mins PR for me, 10 for Joey and so so so much love from the crowd with these bibs from @race2remember !!! So much love from the teammates, friends and family… will be probably gushing indefinitely about this, but now it’s time for shower and nap!!! This #badassmotherrunner is TIREEEEED!!! 😴 👶 ❤️#nohumanislimited – – – @nyrr @queensdistance #pregnancyannouncement #pregnant #tcsnycmarathon #bestoftheday #runners #run #fitmama #marathon #marathontraining #runhappy #runchat #NYRR #runnerscommunity #igrunners #womenrunning #runitfast #runner #runnerspace #fitfluential #runnerslife #runlikeagirl #runtoinspire #runnerspace #fitfam #fitness #fitfamily #runnersofinstagram #runchat #getouttorun

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We really love seeing everyone’s achievement and send everyone a huge congratulations on such a phenomenal day!

Full B.O.A. Chicago Marathon Roster:

Ana Soto
Brian Wysocki
Cannigia Laluw
Chinedu Ogueri
Christine Nasol
Cinthya Sandoval
Daryl Valerio
David Dominguez
Deki Yangzom
Denny Moran
Diana Wong
Ellen Hoo
Gloria Morales
James Liu
Jeff Munoz
Jenny Hwang
John Pierre
Johnathan Tom
Jonela Mola
Jordan Lee
Josep Betancourt
Katrine Stroyberg
Kieran Garvey
Laura Pisani
Marie-Ange Brumelot
Michale McCaffery
Nancy Silva
Ray Valderrama
Roy Menendez
Sara Lee
Victor Kyi
Wiliam Wong

See you next year in Chicago!
Queens Distance

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BMW Berlin Marathon 2019

The following was authored by Nicholas “Flock” Rachowicz, the “QDR Midwest Chapter President” as he puts it! He has graciously helped Queens Distance numerous times even though he currently resides in St. Louis! The commitment to the team goes even further as late last year he set up a spreadsheet detailing, per month, races that QDR members have signed up for. That way, one can find out someone else on the team who is going to a race, especially if it’s a destination race outside of NYC. We thank him for leading the team out in this year’s BMW Berlin Marathon!

Queens Distance

The Berlin Marathon is one of the world’s most prestigious and largest marathons. As one of the Abbott World Majors, Berlin makes for tough competition to get in. The Queens Distance Runners Family had a sizable contingent present for the festivities with over 15 runners. The race is known for being very flat and providing for very good times which is evident when you see how the team did overall. Many emotional wins for the QDR squad as they ran from the Victory Column through the many sights of the once divided City of Berlin ending with a pass under the Brandenburg Gate and then the last 400m to the finish.

Team Results

Even in the rain, team member Daniel Rivera crushed his marathon time giving himself a new personal best over 5 minutes faster than any previous marathon. Daniel described excitement about his victory despite dealing with jet lag, seeing kilometer markers instead of the mile markers and dealing with the paper bibs. “My bib at one point ripped off and I had to re-pin my bib to my singlet as I ran. All of this made it much more satisfying to cross the finish line with a five minute personal best.” In an Instagram post, Lillian Kim exclaimed that this race was an “…incredibly unforgettable way to see my very first city in Europe” as she closed the books on her second marathon. Vikram Singh celebrated Berlin as his 25th marathon and part of his triple crown of races this fall season. Martha Panora and I ran the race together and we both noted that running together helped both of us feel stronger and able to complete the race feeling strong. Martha was able to shave 12 minutes off her best time! We caught up with Keyvan at the end for some medal biting photos and high fives. 

While not able to run this year, Ashley Hall captured action shots and cheered us on while on the course. She gave many of us a needed boost as the kilometers climbed. Valerie Lores noted on her Facebook that Berlin was a “…PB in fun” and that it was an amazing experience. Elsie Alonso scored big with a seven-minute personal best according to her Instagram. She was even able to give her parents a hug at mile 22! Nelsey Coste felt right at home running her third marathon with the team even though she, like me, no longer lives in Queens.


The expo was located at the Tempelhof Airport. The airport has a rich history. During World War II, the airport was a place where dive bombers were made, but it was most notably used as the place that western allies flew in supplies to the Soviet-blockaded West Berlin. The expo itself took up the majority of the facility. It could easily be compared to NYC or Chicago in size. Though massive, it was very crowded. Valerie suggests coming early and that it would be “less stressful, less crowded, and that more merch would be available.” The race merch was in short supply by the afternoon on Friday. Many sizes had sold out. I, too, suggest coming on Thursday if you can. The expo was a walk in the park that day. Daniel Rivera was a hero to most of us when he pointed out that most if not nearly all of us were in the last corral and that if you could provide a faster marathon or half marathon, you could be moved up in corrals. Several of us were able to move up two to three corrals and start as much as an hour sooner. This would prove to be a big help as it rained for much of the 26.2 miles. Many of us got a few drier kilometers to run during the race.


On Saturday before the marathon, there was the Generali Breakfast Run. This run, in friendship, was a slow shakeout that began at the Charlottenberg Palace. It was there that runners from different countries and cities showed off their flags in celebration. The run was full of energy that lasted a full 6 kilometers but only increased in intensity as we entered the Olympic Stadium or Olympiastadion. This stadium hosted the first televised 1936 summer Olympics and we were able to run a lap on a track that is shared with greatness like Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt, and Tyson Gay, as well as where World Cup soccer has been played. The team took a photo under the Olympic Rings once breakfast was had.

Race Advice

I asked for some thoughts from the team on different elements of the trip for the QDR family who didn’t attend with us and want torun Berlin in the future. Several family members answered the call with some advice:

Jet lag. Several teammates reported that the jet lag was real. Howie suggests that those wanting to run Berlin to “give yourself a few days to acclimate”. Valerie Lores suggested that those running will want to stay near the starting line in order to minimize their travel time after.

Watch out for cups. the Berlin Marathon uses plastic cups. Daniel Rivera noted that they get slippery at the water stations. Some of the cups were recyclable and were difficult to grip. Many teammates noted that the fluid stations were different than any other race they had run. Nelsy suggests you may wish to bring your water belt with you.

Remember your cash. Some places in Berlin did not take credit cards so cash was a necessity. 

Check-in with Nike and Adidas. Elsie, Keyvan, Daniel, and others attended shakeouts through the stores. Daniel noted that the Nike store was offering free cryotherapy and recovery boots too.

Coach Medina. Nelsy, Kristin, and Martha credit our Coaches Luciano Medina and Marie-Ange Brumelot for helping them have successful races.

Traveling Europe

Post-race, the team parted ways and some, like Valerie or Johnathan Fu, went on to Oktoberfest in Munich and Bavaria. Lillian could be found climbing up mountains in the Swiss Alps. Vikram went off to Barcelona to explore the Pyrenees. Diego Britez came back to the Brandenberg Gate after the dust cleared to take one last photo with his medal. I got on a train to Paris to fly back to NYC (learning a valuable lesson about traveler’s insurance and with an unexpected stop in Madrid) to enjoy a couple of days in my old stomping grounds before heading back to St. Louis. 

All in all, everyone seemed to have a great time in Berlin. Your chance to be a #BerlinLegend is now! Registration continues through Oct 31.

Nicholas “Flock” Rachowicz,
QDR Midwest Chapter President
dchiflock on Instagram