May 22, 2017

Heath Johnson's Experience of Running the Boston Marathon

While a runner for all of his adult life, Heath Johnson, a certified personal trainer and President of Colorado-based Get Fit With Heath, Inc., participated in the 121st running of the Boston Marathon. [Disclosure: I serve on the board of directors of Get Fit With Heath, Inc.] At the age of 46, this was his first time participating in the world's oldest annual marathon. Given my interest in digital health, as well as following Heath's journey as a runner over several years, I saw value in interviewing him about his experience of running the Boston Marathon on Apr. 17, 2017.

The following interview had been edited for clarity and length.

What was your experience of running the Boston Marathon and what steps did you take to prepare for the event?

HJ: Running the Boston Marathon was a great experience!! I particularly appreciated the organization of the race. With respect to my preparation, since Jan. 1, 2017, I put in over 800 miles in training runs since Jan. 1st. Hearing that the Boston Marathon's course has a lot of uphill and downhill, I tried to focus my training runs with a similar topography. As of February, I did speed work.

Did you use any mobile applications or wearable devices in preparing for the Boston Marathon?

HJ: I did not use any mobile applications, but I used a Garmin GPS watch to track my time including miles ran. While I probably should have during the Boston Marathon itself, I never track my heart rate since wearing the device is uncomfortable and I question its accuracy. I did read books about the Boston Marathon such as Michael Connelly's 26 Miles to Boston: The Boston Marathon Experience from Hopkinton to Copley Square.

What diet or nutritional guidelines did you use to prepare for the marathon?

HJ: I stuck with a high-protein breakfast such as steal-cut oatmeal and milk. I tried not to eat a lot of processed food. In the evenings, I tried to eat fruits and vegetables together with a protein sources such as eggs, fish, chicken. On average, I tried to eat 4-5 meals a day.

What was your routine for race day?

HJ: I slept well the night before and felt comfortable in the morning up to my start time at 10:25 am EDT. I may have been a little worried about the weather forecast since it was expected to be unusually warm and perhaps hydration would be a factor that would impact my performance.

What was your experience of running the race itself?
The race course was challenging so I was happy that I was properly prepared. I stayed hydrated as there were water stations located throughout the race. However, I did see a lot people near the end of the race course withdraw as a result of dehydration. My goal was to finish between 3:20:00 and 3:30:00. I ran the first mile in 7:33 and finished at 3:26:01.

Do you have any final thoughts about your experience of running the Boston Marathon?

HJ: The journey is the most important thing. People told me to enjoy every mile of the race and I took this to heart because you do not know if you will get this opportunity again. So many things have to go right to have this opportunity. Qualifying for the race is actually more important to me than the race itself--running the Boston Marathon was the celebration.

I want to thank my friends and family for their wonderful support during this remarkable journey. I also want to thank my wonderful fiancée, Anita Lyle-Glenn, for her love and sharing the experience with me in Boston.

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.


  1. So proud of your determination to achieve this goal! You rock!!!

  2. We are so proud of your determination to achieve this goal!!! You rock!!!
    Keith and Ann