Exactly one month ago today, German au pair Nancy Schwerdtner finished her first marathon. But not just any marathon, the Boston Marathon—the oldest annual marathon and one of the most prestigious races in the world. And she wasn’t the only person to finish her first marathon that day—her dad joined her for the race to celebrate his 50th birthday and to fulfill a goal he has had his whole life.
Nancy’s host mom said, “We were super proud of Nancy. Because my kids are in school all day she was able to train here in our house on our treadmill through the very long winter. She would also fit in runs while my daughter was at her competitive cheer practice during the week. When time was really tight she would do her runs late at night! Nancy has been an excellent role model for Brooke and Lauren. Her healthy lifestyle, dedication to meeting goals and helping us keep our house full of healthy foods makes her the perfect big sister for our family.”
Nancy and her dad before the race.
Nancy herself shared more details about amazing experience.
How did you and your dad decide to do this together?
My dad has had a wish since he was a child—to run a marathon before he turned 50. He remembered this two years ago and started to train for a half marathon last year and then a marathon this year. There was a marathon in Germany scheduled for one day after his birthday and he was going to run this one, but once I knew I was going to the U.S., I had it in my mind that should do something big. I researched big marathons, and the Boston marathon was just perfect on his birthday. I told my mom about it. She liked the idea as a gift for him and actually I liked the idea of running a marathon [myself] at 19. I always did a lot of sports with my dad, we cycled a lot when I was younger. Well, I told him about my idea to run a big marathon and that I would run it with him and he loved the idea. That was the day when I started to run.
How did you train?
I started at zero and whereas my dad had better basics. I just started running 8 months ago when I was sure that I would run a marathon. I was sporty before, but I never ran longer than 2 miles. [Neither of us] really followed a prepared training schedule. All in all I ran so much more than him. I did more longer runs and more runs in total. My dad knew my pace so he trained for this, and at the end we ran perfectly together.
Nancy running strong at the half-way mark.
How did you manage to train and still do your duties as an au pair?
I have two older twins who are in school, so I was off-duty every morning until the afternoon. But I had to manage and plan my time well. I tried to combine a lot. When I was on my way home from the gym I stopped to do groceries. All the laundry I did in the morning before the gym or when the washing machine was running I went for a run. I tried to use every minute [of my time] in a useful way and combine a lot of things and it worked out. Nevertheless, my host parents are absolutely into the running and supported me all the time—they where like my personal coaches. It was a tough but great time.
Nancy’s dad after conquering Heartbreak Hill, the most challenging part of the course.
Can you describe how you felt before, during and after the race?
Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous in the morning. When we started the race we were in scores of runners, it was a mass movement. The first hour went by so fast and then we looked forward to Wellesley College; my dad was so excited for this. Only one hour later we were there and I did my first official half marathon, it felt so easy which I didn’t expect. We always had something to look forward to—the next thing was Heartbreak Hill where my mom waited for us. I think I was looking for her for 40 min, but when we saw her I was so happy because then I knew there was just one fourth [of the race] left. My mom asked us if we ran because we looked too relaxed after 20 miles, but until this point we had no problems. The last hour was probably the hardest one. My dad still had so much energy which nobody could believe. He clapped everyone’s hands on the side and was the happiest man on the earth for 4 1/2 hours. That inspired me and made me so happy. I didn’t have as much energy left but we continued without walking and the last two miles felt longer than anything before in my life. But, we sped up every mile, that was so unbelievable. I don’t know how we did it but when we got to the finish street I got out the little poster and we run through the finish together and we were both the happiest dad and daughter! We got our medals and felt super proud. A little later somebody called me and I looked to the side and saw my host dad with his brother and a friend. We went over to him with the biggest smile—I was so surprised and glad to see them. I couldn’t really talk and I even don’t remember what I said because I was so overwhelmed.
All smiles after crossing the finish line.
How did the day end for you?
Because of the weather we were freezing and had to go to our hotel. I didn’t want to because then everything will be over but we had to. Everyone told us that we would be so sore the next day and wouldn’t be able to walk down the stairs but when we woke up we could feel that we ran for sure but we weren’t sore at all! All I can think now is: I will never forget this day.
Au pairs, have you done something during your au pair year that you are proud of? We want to hear about your accomplishments—big and small! Submit your story here.