For Jess Galer, Boston Marathon Training Involves Lots of Running, Lots of Pizza

Jess Galer, 29, from Fennimore, Wisconsin, runs with Children's Hospital's "Miles for Miracles."

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Every Friday, in preparation for the next day’s long run, Jess Galer, 29, eats cheese pizza from Emilio’s Pizza & Sub Shop in Boston’s South End, down the street from her apartment. She’s training for the Boston Marathon, to be run on April 18, Patriots Day. Pizza might seem like an odd training food, but if Dean Karnazes – the man who once ran 50 marathons in 50 different states in 50 consecutive days – eats it, there must be something to it.

The morning of the run, the 5-foot-7, 160-pound Children’s Hospital pharmacist from Fennimore, Wisconsin, eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

She dons her training gear. First come the black crop pants from Lululemon Athletica, whose “Luxtreme” fabric quickly wicks away sweat (transfers the sweat from the surface of the skin to the surface of the fabric, where it evaporates without lowering one’s body temperature). Then she puts on two or three layers of shirt – usually pink or teal – of varying length (she likes sleeves that end in thumbholes) so she can stay warm or cool as necessary. On Patriots Day she will wear the pink-and-blue-checkered jersey of Children’s Hospital, whom she is running and raising money for. Last come Brooks “Adrenaline”-model sneakers, white, blue and gray, size 9.5 wide.

Galer stretches, then goes. On Saturdays she usually trains along the Boston Marathon’s course. These Saturday runs have been building incrementally since she began her training 18 weeks ago. Her first Saturday, she only went five miles. For her last long run in March, she ran 21 miles, starting at the race’s start in Hopkinton, Mass., and finishing after the hills in Newton.

Galer runs with Miles for Miracles, the 300-runner fundraising group for Children’s Hospital. She maintains what she calls a “conversational pace” during the Saturday runs, talking mostly about work.

Galer always starts her long runs amped up, so she has to make sure she doesn’t come out of the gate too fast and burn up too much energy. It takes her five miles to get into rhythm, which is why she says she likes the middle miles so much.

“It’s like you finally don’t have to try to run anymore, your body is just doing it,” she says in an e-mail. “You’re feeling great and everything is in synch.”

The easiness passes around mile 18 and gives way to exhaustion. The sweat starts to pour. The sneakers feel heavy as they pound the pavement. The face goes slack, as keeping those muscles taught saps much-needed energy.

The breathing gets heavier. Galer tells herself, “with every breath I get stronger,” and she says the phrase helps her maintain her focus. She uses a similar reframing with hills, telling herself she loves them instead of dreading them.

Galer pushes through the final miles of a long run by remembering that stopping would hurt more than continuing. The most painful part of an 18-mile run, which took her through Boston to simulate the end of the marathon, was when she had to stop and wait for streetlights to change.

Every three miles Galer drinks a mixture of Gatorade and water, to rehydrate without hurting her stomach. Every six miles, she eats a GU Energy Gel, which combines caffeine with the sugars and carbohydrates needed to maintain energy levels, and electrolytes to help stay hydrated. Galer’s favorite flavors are “Chocolate Outrage” and “Espresso Love.”

After running, Galer drinks chocolate milk to recover.

During her three weekday runs (and occasional solo long run), none longer than six miles, Galer listens to music on her red iPod Nano. Her musical preferences range from country to hip-hop to Lady Gaga. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, she also listens to Zooniversity Music’s “Teach me How to Buck” (UW’s mascot is Bucky Badger).

“I really try to listen to songs that make me happy, because it makes the running more enjoyable,” Galer says at an Apr. 2 fundraiser at the Baseball Tavern in Boston’s Kenmore Square.

She will also sometimes zone out when running by herself, trying to clear her mind and relax. She calls running her “free therapy.”

Though this is her second marathon – her first was the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in June 2008 – Galer says her 18-week raining schedule would suit an even less experienced distance runner.

“You’re supposed to be able to pick this up even if you haven’t been working out before,” she says.

When she isn’t running, Galer takes an hour-long spin class or lifts weights for an hour at the all-women’s Healthworks in Copley Square. The weight training involves lighter weights and many repetitions, which tones existing muscle instead of building fresh bulk.

Galer’s training hasn’t caused a drop in weight, mostly because she eats “way more” than she used to.

“It’s absurd,” she says. But the training turns fat into leaner muscle, so Galer lately finds she fits into smaller-sized clothing.

As much as the training physically tires her out, it also has made her more focused, more organized, more put together.

The training regimen’s structure has made her feel far more positive, confident and fit heading into Patriots Day, a change from her first marathon, which she says she didn’t run so much as “willed myself through it.”

Galer has so enjoyed the changed lifestyle that she has already signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C.

Though Galer’s training hasn’t limited her diet, it has definitely limited her socializing habits. She drinks far less alcohol than she used to, and finds herself going to bed most nights before 10 p.m., needing longer, deeper sleep to combat the physical exhaustion she feels by the end of the day. When awake, she usually talks about her training with her coworkers. Responses have been mixed.

“Some of my friends who I used to go out with more told me I’m maybe not as much fun,” Galer says, laughing.

On Friday nights, Galer always stays in.

And eats cheese pizza.

Update: Galer finished the Boston Marathon in 4 hours, 56 minutes and 59 seconds. She ran 41:07 faster than she did at the 2008 San Diego Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon.

Galer finished the 2011 Boston Marathon in 4:56:59

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