Chasing the finish line with Heather Pech

Even though races are still canceled, three-time Boston Marathon winner Heather Pech is not letting the pandemic stop her from performing better than ever.

Jan 15, 2021
Britt Gunsser, DPT


On May 28, 2020, the Boston Marathon was canceled for the first time in its history. Then, World Marathon Majors, national and international races were canceled as well. The pandemic forced runners all over the world into a difficult position: they trained year-round for these events that they could no longer participate in. If they were not careful, the elimination of a literal finish line would lead to decreased training, motivation and poor performance.

The unstoppable Heather Pech

Heather Pech, three-time Boston Marathon division-winner, fourth graded division-marathoner by United States Track & Field, master title winner of multiple national races, experienced McKirdy and Road Runners Club of America running coach, long time Performance client and Darien resident, was not going to let that happen to her.

“This is the gift you are given right now – IF you want to use it,” she said. “We have the opportunity right now to work on things that we usually don’t have time to do. We can take care of our bodies, listen to them, take a pause, be quiet and thoughtful, work on nutrition and improve our sleep,” she said.

Motivating her fellow runners

Heather has used this time for her and her athletes to improve on their training, rather than slow down or take a break. As an experienced coach, Heather recognizes that training for a race is not a 12 to 18-week activity. Rather, she and her athletes target key events under a 12-month calendar, and train leading up to those events. Even then, Heather recognizes running is a year-round endeavor.

Heather identifies an athlete as someone “wise to train, not race. Racing should be wisely chosen, planned and then trained into.” This extra time offers Heather and her athletes an opportunity to truly train for their particular distance and pace. “My athletes are running better than they have and their fitness is only going to improve,” she says. During this break from races, they’ve been more consistent than ever, achieving new personal records.

The gift of time

Time can and should be used to one’s training — or recovery — advantage. If you are dealing with any injuries, now is the perfect time to work on your rehabilitation. It is an opportunity to come back stronger than ever and educate yourself on further injury prevention. After all, learning how to listen to your body and take care of it is essential to success on the racecourse. Heather, who is based in Darien, continues to use physical therapy and training services at Performance's Darien location, crediting our Optimal Health specialists with helping her improve over the past year.

Do your one to two-mile warm-up and cool down; don’t skip one or the other. Get that weekly sports massage to help you recover after your weekend run. Invest in a coach, trainer or other professional to take your training to the next level. We may not have a finish line, but we do have time: a non-renewable resource. When the races come back, we’ll be ready.