Parker Stinson on running through pain ahead of Boston marathon: “I choose to keep fighting"

Despite not being able to train for eight months in 2020, the USA runner shared with Olympics.com why he has high hopes for his comeback marathon run in Boston.

6 min By Evelyn Watta
Stinson 1

Parker Stinson is an aggressive runner.

He knows the pain of starting too fast and fading in the last kilometres of the race.

The marathoner from Boulder, Colorado has been weighed down by painful injuries, the most recent of which forced him to miss the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials after a stellar season.

The US record holder in the 25km has fought through pain several times to finish his races.

Like Olympic Champion Eliud Kipchoge, Stinson now has a plan for his pain, as he makes his comeback on the World Marathon Majors Series.

“The longer that you can keep your foot on the gas and the longer you can stay in an exciting position in a race... do everything you can just to stay on your goal and to stay excited about what you're doing, even though it hurts,” Stinson told Olympics.com from Colorado, a few days before he set off for Boston.

After an 11th place finish in a personal best of 2:10:53 at the 2019 Chicago marathon, the American hopes to regain his breakthrough streak on Monday October 11, at the Boston marathon.

Parker Stinson of the United States (37) leads the 2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon on in 2018.
Parker Stinson of the United States (37) leads the 2018 Philadelphia Half Marathon on in 2018. (2018 Getty Images)

The aggressive runner

Stinson is known for his aggressive racing style.

In his first marathon run at the California International Marathon, he led through the first 21km. But his last 6km were painful. He stopped several times as he struggled with cramps.

From leading the race, he staggered home in the 31st position.

Stinson has openly shared his setbacks.

“I just wear my heart on my sleeve, and I've had to work on having a little bit more execution, patience,” he admitted of his approach to races.

“But I think that's what people love about me is they see that I go for it. They see that I do struggle, you know, everything doesn't come easily to me every time. And a lot of people can relate to that. That's running for a lot of people. it's one in every ten races goes great.”

The 2019 season was a good one for the runner, who represented Team USA as a junior.

He finished sixth at the 2010 IAAF Junior World Championships in the 10,000m and won the 2011 Pan-Am Junior title.

But he was forced to withdraw from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, where he had a decent chance of making the team as he ranked seventh nationally at the time.

Stinson on the his 'deal with the devil' surgeries

That marked the start of a long and painful battle with injuries.

As he pushed through the discomfort of a niggling right knee injury, his left foot gave in.

The injuries left him utterly deflated.

“It was incredibly difficult, super tough. I just didn't see a lot of hope in my situation. I couldn't run for six to eight months, and I didn't know what the future held for me. It took so much to get back to be an elite athlete again,” said Stinson.

“I had so many setbacks, and so I would say what I'm most proud of in my career is overcoming these surgeries and getting back to being the best version of myself. I didn't know if that would be possible at some point.”

“Getting surgeries like the kind I've had until now, they're kind of like a deal with the devil because they fix your problem. But your new problem is that you've got surgery because you have scar tissue. You're just not the same for a while. It was the hardest moments of my life, for sure. But I think it changed me and it and it made me tougher, and I think that's going to help me.”

Boston Marathon hopes

Unlike most elite runners who returned to the Majors circuit this year, Stinson was unable to train at all for at least eight months, and didn’t run at all in 2020.

But he learnt how to become mentally tough.

He hopes it will serve him well during the infamous punishing incline on the Boston course.

“It's definitely helped me in this Boston Marathon training cycle and hopefully, it can help me on race day, help me be grateful for running and tougher than ever.”

He continued on his new race strategy: “I used to just want to run and believe like if I was tough enough, I could I could accomplish anything. But just like going in the marathon, you've got to do things right. You've got to fuel right, you got to be patient. Something I've been doing good is just tweaking my fuelling system. It went well at Chicago.”

What’s his target for Boston that has a loaded field that includes up to 13 former winners?

“I think a successful day in Boston would be seeing me climb over that Heartbreak Hill and having something left in my legs after Heartbreak Hill on the next four or five miles. I just want to compete the whole twenty-six point two miles. I want to keep choosing to show up. I want to keep choosing to fight.” - Parker Stinson on Boston marathon hopes.

“The international field in Boston this year is unbelievable, so a top 10 and a world marathon major is always a good result,” added the 29-year old, who is coached by retired American long-distance runner Dathan Ritzenhein.

Finding success in the pain zone

The physical and mental adjustments are already paying off.

He won his season-opening half marathon in Naples, Florida in January.

Last August, he also ran his fastest ever 10km at the Falmouth road race in Massachusetts, where he finished eighth in 32.37.

And like Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, he’s learning to find success in the pain zone.

“I've actually been doing something similar lately. The longer you can keep your foot on the gas and the longer you can stay in an exciting position in a race and do everything you can just to stay on your goal and to stay excited about what you're doing, even though it hurts, that's when you can accomplish supernatural things and really, really have a great performance,” reckoned Stinson who boasts seven top-three finishes in major road races ranging from 10km to 25km.

“I think when we fall short in performances is when that pain comes, and we just kind of let those thoughts creep and we go, ‘Oh, well, if I just back off a little bit, I'll be able to pick it up later. I can go pick it up later’. That doesn't happen very often. Once you once you back off that pain zone and kind of out of that discomfort, it's really hard to get back on it.

“I agree with Kipchoge you can't you can't attack the pain too much, but you need to be OK with it, you need to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

His ‘pain zone’ has also reawakened his Olympic dream.

“I've thought about Paris [2024]. I think I have what it takes to make the Olympic team in the marathon. I have a chance to be an Olympian down the road. That's a big passion and dream of mine.”

“But I also want to be respectful and acknowledge that there's steps that I need to take to accomplish that I need to like get back on the big stage at Boston and back and run well and get on the scoreboard at a world marathon major again.”

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