Legion Profile: Deb Downs

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This profile first appeared in our Jul/Aug 2016 issue.

Deb Downs. Photo by Anthony White.


Name: Deb Downs


Height & Weight: 5’3” & 120

Residence: Watertown, MA

Day Job: Healthcare Process Improvement

High School: Bedford, MA, ‘94

College: UMass Amherst, ‘98

Club: Somerville Road Runners

Average Miles per Week: 35

Notable PR’s:

Berlin Marathon 2014 3:10:11

Boston Marathon 2015 3:11:23


Races: Boston Marathon, SRR Boo Run, Cambridge 5K series (Yulefest, Craicfest, Freedom 5K, etc.)

Workouts: Tuesday night track with SRR

Places to Run: Belmont/Arlington Heights, Boston/Cambridge long run (Charles River/North End/Charlestown), or anywhere new

Running Shoe: Merrell Barefoot Access and NB Minimus

Workout Songs: The voices in my head

Book: Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry

Hobbies: Camping, and I mean car camping. Nothing beats a cold beer by a warm fire with good friends, half the contents of my kitchen, and an air mattress.

Running Intangibles

Training Philosophy: Enjoy the journey. Let it be fun. Let it be challenging. Keep an open mind for growth. There’s always a way to improve and to get a little more out of the next race. There are plenty of PR’s left on the table. You just have to do what it takes to get them.

Prerace Ritual: Have a homemade energy bar and a glass of water. For marathons, add a pb sandwich and banana. Foam roll if possible. Apply SRR tattoos.

Career Lights

Highlight: Running Boston 2015 in a trash bag. It’s the best piece of gear available on the market for those conditions. Cost: $.05. It kept me warm and dry in 45° wind/rain conditions. Ventilation was totally configurable. I also put Vaseline on my quads to keep them warm and loose. I never felt so good turning onto the hills and the wall never reared its ugly head. The cold was preserving. I ran a 3.5 minute negative split to make it my Boston PR. More importantly, despite the horrendous weather, dozens of Somerville Road Runners were at the 30K mark cheering and supporting chilled runners from all over the world. They rule.

Lowlight: I had to drop out of the Yulefest 5K last December due to patellar tendinitis. Being restricted to the arc trainer for 2 months was a prison sentence, but I learned so much in the recovery process about what I need to do to stay healthy and improve. I am grateful for that. And luckily, the Yulefest folks delivered an epic post-party.


Short term: I’d like to break 3:00 in the marathon.

Long term: Finish the Boston Marathon every year until I realize (or someone tells me) it’s time to hang up my shoes.

Proudest Moment: Picking up my bib for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 2013. My boyfriend, Steve, a relatively new runner, had secretly trained for the half. I had no idea he was sneaking out for long runs while I was out on mine. After picking up my bib he said, “Now I have to pick up mine.” What??? I was almost in tears. So cool. He ran a great race and I was so proud of him.

Best Distance Runner of All Time: All of the pioneering women who paved the way for the rest of us, and to those who have shown what’s possible given the opportunity. I can’t imagine not being able to participate. Thank you Bobbi, Katherine, Joan, Kara, Shalane, Desi, and countless others who continue to make us proud.

Local Running Role Model: There are so many inspiring people at all levels. If I have to pick one, I’m going with Nichole Bukowski from SRR. She’s always looking for ways to improve and never says “never.” She’s passionate about every aspect of fitness and well-being, and shares that with others through her teaching, personal training, and contributions to the SRR community. Last year I ran my track workouts with her, and now I find myself on a mission to catch her. I appreciate her advice and inspiration. She’s extremely talented and strikes a great balance between running, work, and socializing.

Oddest Thing That’s Ever Happened to You on a Run: A guinea pig crossed my path on a residential street in Belmont. His cadence was great and he seemed to be enjoying his new found freedom.

Advice for The Legion: Keep learning. We can evolve as runners at any age. Incorporate strength and mobility work to stay healthy. (I recently purchased, and highly recommend, the Trigger Point Quadballer. It’s the ultimate in “foam” rolling torture.)

If you have not yet run a negative split in a marathon, create a plan to do so. To be in control and feeling good during the last 10k is an awesome experience. And it will help your total time! Ω


To read more from Issue #33, click here.

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