Category Archives: marathon

How to Qualify for The Boston Marathon

Many runners dream of one day crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I know this because I was one of those runners. When I was fifteen, I saw the Boston Marathon on TV. Ever since then, I dreamed of running it. Then, finally, in April 2015, ten years after I first saw the race on TV, I lived my dream. 

To say that crossing the finish line was a life-changing experience is an understatement. Despite being about 50 minutes too slow to qualify for the Olympics in the Marathon (Canadian Standard is sub 2:30), completing the Boston Marathon made me feel like an Olympian. There were so many people watching the race and cheering for all of us. Although we were nowhere near the elites, we all still got a lot of accolades and high fives.

It also took a lot for me to get there. When I toed the start line of my first marathon, I never thought I’d qualify. Then, I actually did. If you have been chasing a BQ for the past few years, please don’t despair.

Below are tips to help you qualify for The Boston Marathon:

  1. Review the qualifying standards carefully. Once you’ve reviewed the qualifying standards, understand that to guarantee your spot in the race you must run at least 5 minutes faster than the qualifying standard for your age and gender. There are so many people applying to run the race. Therefore, running a 3:34 when your standard is 3:35 will not get you in.
  2. Figure out what pace per mile (or KM) you need to run to be able to achieve that goal time. For example, if you need to run a sub 5 min km for all 42.2km, it’s very good to know that.
  3. Pick a fast course to attempt to qualify. An ideal course would be relatively flat with minimum sharp turns. It would preferably be done as close to sea level as possible and in temperatures that are not too hot and not too cold. I ran my personal best (3:18) at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon, which I think is a great course. I’ve also qualified for Boston at the BMO Vancouver Marathon twice. Another good example of a PB-friendly race is the California International Marathon/.
  4. Give yourself enough time to train before your goal race. An ideal length of time to train consistently for a marathon is 6 months.
  5. Don’t skip your long run. The long run will help you improve your aerobic fitness and boost your confidence that you can actually go the distance. You should do at least 3 or 4 runs that are longer than 32km before your marathon.
  6. Hills are your best friends. Learn to love hill workouts. Hill training helps increase leg strength and power as a result of the resistance that hills give you. It will also help prepare you for the faster and more demanding workouts that are ahead of you.
  7. Train at goal race pace. You should strive to train at your goal race pace once a week, especially after you are done the base-building phase. Your race pace training run doesn’t have to be super long. However, it will give you the confidence that you can keep it up.
  8. Don’t be too stressed about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. There will be plenty of other chances if it doesn’t happen at your next marathon.
  9. Enjoy the journey. Listen to your body. Make your workouts fun. Cross-training will help you decrease your risk of injuries.

If you found these tips helpful, please share with anyone who hopes to one day qualify for the Boston Marathon.

SUCCESS STORY: Jerry Hughes’ SECRET to Sub 40 min 10k and Much More

A little over a year ago (December 2014), Jerry Hughes hired me to be his running coach. It all started because I had a Christmas special on my “fly solo” online training plans. When we first started working together, we have only met each other once or twice in person before that.

What’s amazing is that after about a week or two of following my running program, Jerry bought a training package with me for his wife. To me, this meant a lot because he originally started out as an online client and he trusted me with his family after such a short time of knowing each other.

I knew that Jerry, just like the clients before him, would improve significantly as a result of my training plan. I predicted that he would be a lot faster.

Prior to starting his training program with me, Jerry’s best 10k time was 44:53 at the 2014 TC 10k in April and best half marathon time was 1:36:12 at the Goodlife Fitness Half Marathon on October 12, 2014.

When he started training with me, he was just getting over a few injuries that kept him from running  to his full potential, which at the time, neither of us were fully aware of.

The one thing I knew about Jerry is that he works very hard, he’s not afraid to ask questions and he knows how to follow instructions. That, to me, is a prerequisite to success.

Jerr Hughes and Yana at Mile O after completing their 63km run fior the Help Fill a Dream Foundation. Photo by Ian Simspon

Jerry Hughes and Yana at Mile O after completing their 63km run for the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.
Photo by Ian Simpson.

Fast forward to April 26, 2015, which is about 4 months after he started training with me. Jerry ran his first ever sub 40 min 10k, finishing the TC10k in 39:41. At that moment, I knew that bigger personal victories are ahead of him.

Shortly thereafter, Jerry ran a half marathon personal best of 1:27:45, which is over 8 minutes faster than his previous best time. JerryHughesHaldMarathonPB2015

As we continued to work together, his list of accomplishments continued to grow exponentially.

Together, we have raised thousands of dollars for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

Help Fill A Dream is an immediately responsive charitable foundation based in Victoria, British Columbia. They provide hope, help and happiness for Vancouver Island children under the age of 19 with life-threatening conditions by fulfilling their dreams, improving their quality of life and assisting their families with care and financial support.

We also ran from Duncan to Victoria together in order to raise funds and awareness for Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

I witnessed him come within 2 minutes of qualifying for the coveted Boston Marathon. Jerry ran his first ever marathon in 3:11:48, which is a significantly faster pace per km than he used to do for his 10k.

Most recently, he has been achieving one personal best after another in all distances across the board. His new 10k PB is 38:46.


Above: Jerry on his way to a new 10k personal best. Photo by Lois DeEll

His 10k time is now officially ~6 minutes faster than it was when he started training with me. This equates to about a 40 second per km improvement as a result of my training and his continuous dedication and commitment to excellence.

Jerry’s story is very remarkable in that he takes away all the excuses people make when it comes to working out. On average, he works over 60 hours a week. He works as a chef, which means that he spends his entire work day on his feet. Not only that, but he and his wife also have 2 young kids.

However, that’s not all he had to overcome to get to where he is. Jerry was born with a rare aggressive genetic disorder called Gardner’s Syndrome. When not diagnosed early enough, the prognosis is not very good. It claimed Jerry’s dad’s life when he was very young.

Despite all the challenges that Jerry was facing, his results speak for themselves. He never ever complained and he always put in the work that I told him to do. Jerry had every reason to make excuses, but he never ever did.

I created a plan that was tailored to his work schedule and circumstances and it worked.

What was his secret? It was a combination of a proper training plan and a genuine desire to achieve his goals no matter what curveballs life throws at him. He persevered in times when other people would have given up.

This is what Jerry had to say about our journey so far:

“Rarely in life do you meet someone that will change the course of your life forever. That day happened to me when by chance I saw a running coach that was super passionate about training runners. That was Yana Hempler. She was the first person that really believed in my abilities. Her encouragement and programs have changed me and inspired me to follow my dreams. I’m now able to talk in front of people live or in front of the camera. We have done charity work together and will continue to do so forever. There have been so many things I have accomplished due to her training from climbing 40,000 stairs, ultra marathon 55km, 12000 ft elevation, 2 marathons. One of the marathons I did was 8 days after doing the 40,000 stair challenge. Participating in Yana’s program has really changed me. My future with running has evolved into crazy marathons, ultras, and biking all to raise awareness for Gardner’s Syndrome and conquering cancer. I really believe if I never met her none of this would have happened. Thank you, Yana Hempler.”


I’m extremely proud of everything that he has accomplished so far. It has been amazing to watch him develop into a confident individual who thrives on public speaking and inspires many to follow their dreams. Jerry’s dedication, hard work and persistence deserves to be recognized.

People often say that the trainer inspires the client. That’s not always a one-way street. Jerry inspires me in more ways than I can express in this post.

From the bottom of my heart, Jerry, thank you for trusting me to be a part of your journey and I look forward to seeing what you will do next.

Want to achieve amazing results too? Let’s connect and I will help you get there.

SUCCESS STORY: Kent Ainscough’s SECRET to Chopping Nearly Half Hour Off His Marathon Time

Without a doubt, my coaching client Kent Ainscough had a strong showing at the 2015 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon.

In fact, if you compare his 2014 to his 2015 finish time on Raceday Timing, you will notice that in 2015, he was 28:09 min faster than last year. This equates to approximately a 40 sec per km faster pace in 2015 than he was in 2014.


Above: Kent proudly displays his 2015 marathon finisher medal. Big thumbs up!!

So, what was his secret to chopping nearly a half hour off his marathon time? How was he able to finish strong and show a 40 sec improvement in pace on EVERY SINGLE kilometer over 42.2km?

The answer is simple: It’s what he did between October 12, 2014 and October 11, 2015.

Kent first ran the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half marathon (21.1km) in 2013. Shortly thereafter, he started training with me (because his girlfriend recommended me) and worked himself up to doing the full marathon in 2014.

In 2014, 16 weeks before the race, I created a “first timer” marathon program for him where my only goal was to help him get across the finish line (and hopefully under 4 hours).

After he finished his first marathon in 3:59:xx, I recognized that he needed a more structured, progressive running program in order to get a faster time in 2015.


Above: Kent’s Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (42.2km) time in 2014, prior to starting my monthly online running program. He was 616th overall out of all the finishers (1570 finishers total). This put him in the top 39% of the entire field, which is still very good for his first attempt at the distance.

That was when he asked me about my monthly running programs. The advantage to my monthly running programs is that they have a very high degree of customization.

Kent doesn’t have all the weekends off work so the Sunday long run is not always possible for him.

In addition, his work schedule changes every month and I took that into account when designing his monthly running program. I also took his previous running experience into consideration.

As a coach, I believe it’s very important to be fully aware of every potential challenge that a client may face (scheduling, other workouts, vacations, etc.) as well as what their capabilities are. I never gave him more than he could handle and I always made sure to check in with him on how the program is going.

My programs are always adjustable and I believe that his good communication with me and diligence has been the key to his success. Not only that, but he followed my program closely and was always open and honest with me. Kent never complained and he never lost sight of his running goals.

Without a doubt, I knew that Kent was going to run a personal best in the marathon this year. I just could not predict how much faster he would be.

Therefore, I was extremely happy to see him cross the finish line in 3:31:22. Kent looked very strong at the finish and he also walked up and down the stairs as if he never ran a marathon at all (meaning he recovered very quickly). I was very impressed with his recovery time this year.


Above: Kent looking strong in the big race!

His 28:09 min improvement over 42.2km means that he ran every single km on average 40 seconds faster than last year. That’s so amazing!


Above: Kent’s time in the 2015 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon after following my monthly online running program. As you can see, he was significantly faster. Kent finished 176th overall (out of 1200 finishers total), which put him in the top 15% of all the finishers. Without any doubt, that’s quite an amazing improvement.

Most importantly, Kent was able to run faster while continuing a normal life, including the occasional treat and a vacation. He worked hard and at the same time was able to enjoy his life.

This is what Kent had to say about his journey so far:

“I had procrastinated about entering the Goodlife Half Marathon for years. On a whim and with no running program or practice to speak of, I entered it on the Tuesday before the run. I got a 1:40 on my first half and I was sore and walked funny for about a week after that. My girlfriend had Yana for a training program and had nothing but great things to say about her. I really wanted someone to help me with my running goals and to generally kick my butt during workouts. That is exactly what I got: a running program to fit my schedule, never ending encouragement, new routines, and the stairs….oh God ,all the flights of stairs and the #abparties. I am now fitter, happier, and healthier (and close to qualifying for the Boston Marathon) thanks to Yana.”

Kent’s tremendous improvement also put him into the semi-finals for my Get Fit & Win $1000 challenge. 🙂 I can’t wait to see how he does at the next event!!!

If you also want to run a new personal best, you can find more information about my coaching programs HERE.


Above: Glad to hear Kent had fun. It’s no small feat to accomplish a marathon.

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Race Recap: Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon 2015

Every year, this is the biggest running event in the fall in Victoria. I always look forward to doing it. The crowds are fantastic and the atmosphere surrounding the event is great.

For the past 3 years, I did the marathon (42.2km), but this year I opted to run the half marathon (21.1km).

I felt that after finishing the Boston Marathon, I had to take a break from the 42.2km distance in order to focus on running shorter races faster. Doing one marathon after another becomes too much so I had to switch things up.


I decided that until I run a half in under 1:25 (or a 10k under 40 minutes), I will not do another marathon. The reason being is that 1:25 seems to be the elite or sub-elite standard at most races and my PB is a couple of minutes too slow (1:28:15 at Comox Half Marathon 2015).

Since I was dealing with a few challenges (moving and an incident with a cyclist on the trails) leading up to this year’s race, I knew that I wasn’t in shape to get a personal best, but deep down I believed that I would get relatively close. After the incident with the cyclist, I took a full week off running, which I think was a good decision.

What I was most looking forward to was seeing how some of my coaching clients will do in this race. Two of them were doing the marathon and one was doing his first half. By the way…they all more than exceeded my expectations of them (but that’s for another post as I feel each of them deserves a separate one highlighting their amazing individual achievements).


After my week off from running, I decided that I was going to have fun at the race and that I won’t look at my Garmin more than 4 times in total. In the past, I would find myself staring at my wrist for the majority of the race and that’s not good.

In fact, some of my best races have been the ones where I didn’t stare at my wrist so much.

At the start, I saw many of my running friends. We all wished each other luck in the race and off we went.


The first 5k felt very easy. Then, the next thing I knew, I was already passing the 10k mark, in a shocking time of 41:06!!! What???

For those of you who don’t know, my 10k PB is 40:56, which, if my math is correct, is only 10 seconds faster than I was at the 10k mark of the half marathon. This means that I almost ran a 10k PB while racing a half marathon.

Shortly thereafter, I was at the turnaround point. Coming back was a lot of fun. I saw many familiar faces and at that point I was so happy that I wasn’t staring at my Garmin.

Instead, there I was, enjoying the moment rather than worrying that I only have X amount of minutes before I have no hope of running X:XX.

As I was starting the last km of the race, all I thought about was how much I enjoyed it. Truthfully, I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to end.

To my surprise, as I approached the finish line, I saw that my time was 1:30:xx. It was my second fastest half marathon time ever. Most importantly, I felt no stress and no pressure to “perform”. Sure, it wasn’t 1:25 but at the same time, I was in the Top 100 overall finishers and over 3000 people finished behind me.


Shockingly, I ended up being 3rd in my age group (out of 263) and 24th female overall (out of 2008).

The good thing about finishing was that I was reunited with my friends and clients. Let’s also not forget the post-race food….delicious!! 🙂

Why I’m NOT Running Boston Marathon 2016

When I ran the Boston Marathon 2015, I re-qualified to be in the 2016 race, if I wanted to do it again.  I finished the 2015 Boston Marathon in 3:23, which means I was over 10 minutes faster than the qualifying time for my age and gender.


However, I don’t want to be in the 2016 race for a really good reason…

No, this year’s bad weather did not scare me from doing it again next year. No, I’m definitely not angry that I ran slower than I would have liked and did not get a personal best on the historic course.

When I registered for the race back in September of 2014, I was shocked at the number of people who ran a qualifying time and did not get accepted into the 2015 field.

An astonishing number, nearly 2000 people, worked so hard to run a qualifying time and they did not get to go. For some, that may have been the only chance they had to run the race.

Many runners dream of finishing the Boston Marathon. It’s a huge accomplishment and finishing it, to the average runner out there, feels like you just went to the Olympics. It’s a bucket list item for many runners.

Finishing the Boston Marathon was my dream too. Ever since I was 15 years old, it was my life goal to proudly wear the beautiful and coveted finisher’s medal.


I feel so fortunate that it finally came true for me in 2015. I overcame quite a few setbacks, from past injuries to financial difficulties while I was a student, but in the end, despite the fact that I didn’t break 3:10, I still emerged victorious across the finish line.

I didn’t need to win that race (especially given that the elites run it about 45 min faster than me)or break 3:10 for it to be called a victory. Finishing was a personal victory and it was a good stepping stone for what has to happen next.

Since many runners dream of finishing the Boston Marathon, I felt that if I skipped the 2016 race, then it will allow another runner to achieve their dream. I wanted my qualifying spot to go to someone who hasn’t done it before.

It could be someone’s first and last chance to race the Boston Marathon and I don’t want to be greedy and take that away from them. If every Boston Marathon finisher thought this way, then maybe more first-timers would get a chance to check this item off their bucket list. Every runner who worked hard to qualify for Boston earned every right to be there.

I can always re-qualify when I get faster, which brings me to my next point. I feel like I need to get faster before I attempt the course again. It’s a very technical and challenging course. I’m also going to be racing in a different part of the world in 2016, focusing on a different kind of racing challenge (more on that later).

I hope that every person who dreams of finishing the Boston Marathon gets to experience that joy so they too could celebrate their personal victory. THAT is why I gave up my spot in the 2016 race. I know that it probably won’t make a big difference (or any at all) in the number of first-timers that get to go to Boston, but it’s the least I can do.

Thank you for reading.


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