Sioux Falls marathoner completes the 'majors' cycle in Tokyo
Susie Patrick qualfied for and finished the six big races required to earn the Abbott World Marathon Majors medal.
SIOUX FALLS - Susie Patrick took on the world.
The 53-year-old Sioux Falls woman recently completed the Tokyo Marathon, completing all six of the major races around the world. Patrick was awarded the Abbott World Marathon Majors medal, something only 11,000 people around the world have accomplished since it was introduced in 2016.
It was not an easy journey.
To begin with, the majors are some of the biggest marathons in the world, so it’s difficult just to get in. The training is long and arduous, travel and logistics can be a nightmare.
And then a foot injury nearly derailed the whole plan.
All those thoughts were flowing through Patrick’s head while running the streets of Tokyo on March 5.
“The training runs, injury rehab, support system and cheerleaders. But most of all the experiences of running the marathons that the elites covet, in six cities, that now mean something special to me,” she said. “I did it.”
Patrick began the worldwide journey 13 years ago when a high school friend encouraged her to try a marathon. Her first 26.2 mile race was Chicago in 2009 where she “caught the bug.”
That led to qualifying for and completing the Boston Marathon in 2011, New York in 2013 and Berlin in 2019. Last year, she finished London and finally Tokyo earlier this month.
The training is tough, with many early morning runs in the dark and cold on the Sioux Falls trail system. Then last year, a stress fracture in her left foot put the six-marathon medal pursuit in doubt.
What allowed her to make a comeback, however, was the suggestion to start deep-water aqua jogging. A floatation belt keeps the head and shoulders above the water, while the arms and legs still simulate the running motion.
Water running provides the aerobic workout and muscle building from the resistance without the body strain from pounding the pavement.
Patrick “ran” for 45 minutes to 2.5 hours a day at the city’s Midco Aquatic Center.
“I think the lifeguards thought I was crazy,” she said.
But it worked. She credits water running with “100 percent” of the reason she was able to recover for Tokyo.
Patrick praised the Sioux Falls Park and Recreation Department for the aquatic center and keeping the trail system cleared and open in the winter.
“I think they are the crown jewel of the city,” she said about the department. “I feel passionately about it.”
Not only are the trails open year-round, but they are away from traffic with porta-potties available during the cold months when permanent park facilities aren’t open.
Patrick usually finishes between 3:40:00 and 3:59:00 for the 26.2 miles.
“That last two tenths of the mile are the hardest,” she said.
There wasn’t any serious pain in her foot during the Tokyo run where she picked up the final “star.”
With the injury, she was expecting to finish quite a bit slower, even worrying about the cutoff time. But the water training and other precautions worked out and she was able to come in under five hours, way ahead of expectations.
“I was thrilled with my time,” she said. “Sub five hours was a huge win. It still took mental math from the 20-mile mark, which is inevitable when running 26.2 miles, no matter what your goal is.”
One of the challenges of completing the majors is simply getting in. Boston has its famous qualifying process. There were 30,000 runners in Tokyo, picked from 300,000 applicants.
Patrick received the six-star medal immediately after the race, once the finishes were verified through Abbott.
She said she couldn’t have done it without the strong support of two training partners, RuthAnn Venrick and Cynthia Mickelson.
Patrick is the co-owner of the four Breadsmith stores in Sioux Falls and credits her family with helping her along the way.
Husband, Kim, is a “great cheerleader,” she said. Also her father and two adult children, Katie Titus and Ryan Patrick, have been strong supporters.
“You just can’t do this without a support crew,” she said.
Patrick said she will likely continue running marathons despite reaching her major goal.
She has been in the Boston Marathon four times and the Sioux Falls Marathon twice. She has also competed in events in San Francisco and Washington D.C., for a total of 15.
“I like the bigger marathons,” she said.
In Tokyo, she thought, “You know, I really love this.”
So the journey continues.