Comptrain athlete Emma Gardner Runs Marathon to Prove Her Fitness
Emma Gardner has done CrossFit for nearly a decade. Having grown up in the golden age of CrossFit New England surrounded by Katrin Davidsdottir and the other elite Comptrain athletes that frequented the gym at the time, it’s no surprise that competing is engrained in every bone of her body. Training, focusing on her performance over all else, and living for competition is second nature to the 20-year-old.
This season, she had her eyes set on a second individual Semifinals appearance. In 2022, she placed 22nd at the MACC and was nowhere near done. However, she also missed qualifying this year in Individual Quarterfinals, which left her in a funk she couldn’t quite shake.
- “I wasn’t in a great place at the end of my season. I had that first week where I was not myself at all, just sad, overwhelmed, stressed, confused, and angry,” Gardner said. “I caught myself reanalyzing every aspect of my life.”
Once she eventually got herself out of bed, she sat down with her coaches to discuss what comes next. She knew she needed time away from the rigorous training she usually participates in and wanted to try something new. She was motivated to do something to challenge herself and finish her season out strong while still taking a step away from the box.
She landed on a marathon.
Mostly on a whim, Gardner signed up for a local marathon close to her with less than six weeks to prepare. She had run long distances before–up to ten miles–but each long run she did to prepare was the longest she had ever run. Her training was relatively laid back, with just one running day per week, but she says it was extremely eye-opening.
- “Usually I’m set with my Thursday and Sunday rest days, but somehow this worked,” Gardner said. “It was a cool challenge, to every Thursday morning just be like, ‘alright, we’re gonna go run more than we’ve ever run before.”
While her training had its challenges (like blisters in new places and lugging pounds of Epsom salts to the bathtub) Gardner made a few big revelations.
First, she employed intra-workout carbs in the form of Gatorade powder and gels to keep herself energized throughout the run. She says that while she’s never doing three-hour workouts in her regular training regimen, she is doing three-hour sessions, and having those carb resources can be a lifesaver. Also, she realized how stressful everyday training can be and the importance of an offseason.
- “It was cool for training to be less stressful this time of year. The tax and stress training takes on you, I’m realizing it’s a lot more stressful than I thought it was.”
Throughout the first half of her race, Gardner ran a consistent 8:25 mile pace, but realized at mile 15 that she didn’t have splits to follow–she could experiment however she wanted. From here, she ran under an eight-minute pace until mile 23, simply because she could. She says it reminded her of one of her first-ever competitions, the Lowlands Throwdown, in which she didn’t slow down, speed up, or change her strategy based on competitors around her. Everything was based on what she could do.
- “It was a hard thing to comprehend, to not overanalyze those types of things (like split times) but also not convince yourself that it doesn’t matter or you don’t care,” Gardner said.
The rut Gardner fell into after Quarterfinals was gone after the marathon. While her CrossFit season didn’t end the way she imagined, it was fulfilling and showed her just how strong she is.
Gardner: “I felt this power come back to me, like, I can do hard things.”