Despite difficulties, a BYUH student qualifies to run in the Boston Marathon
Written by
Taffie Kwok
Amanda Nielson gets ready for a run
Image By
Ho Yin Li

Amanda Nielson, a sophomore from Utah studying exercise and sports science, recently qualified to participate in the 2020 Boston Marathon. Nielson was described by coaches and friends as an example of determination and willpower. She shared how she exceeded her own limits along her journey of recovery from leg surgery.

“Everything we do in life requires priority,” said Nielson. “You need to know your reason why, and [learning that] gives you a purpose. By creating the ‘why’ and focusing on what is most important for you, you will be efficient in everything you do.

“You will find a new person inside yourself if you do something outside your comfort zone everyday,” said Nielson. She said she learned this principle from her first marathon in August 2018, as she was suffering from food poisoning and recovering from leg surgery at the time.

Nielson’s good friend Megan Marshall, a freshman from Arizona studying exercise and sports science, said Nielson has had two surgeries, one on each leg. The surgeries were necessary because the blood flow in each leg was cut off causing pain when she was in certain positions.

Nielson said she had surgery on her left leg in 2017 and surgery on her right leg was in 2018. She described how it took her a year to completely heal. She shared how the hard part was to be patient and trust the process, knowing getting back to where she was before the operation wouldn’t come overnight.

According to Nielson, her doctor predicted she would never be able to run again, and her coach advised her to quit. However, she just wanted to run her own race, Nielson said. “I dropped the expectation to finish in a certain time. I want to enjoy the journey and every second of it.

“Then I ended up achieving a better result because I had no pressure on myself.

”Tara McBride, a special instructor in exercise and sports science, said Nielson told her she experienced heat stroke exhaustion to a high degree, which was impressive because she “still qualified for the Boston Marathon by running her race with food poisoning. Amanda knows what it takes. Training for long endurance races takes a lot of time, energy and commitment.”

Training after recovering from her surgeries has prepared her for the Boston Marathon in April 2020, said Nielson. She shared she is now more confident about her capability. “Anyone can do anything when they focus on their goals. The reason I want to participate in the Boston Marathon is if I can [complete the first marathon], I can do anything.”

McBride said she has seen Nielson’s improvement since she has come to BYU–Hawaii, “The Amanda I met a year ago is not the same Amanda today, neither will she be the same Amanda a year from now.

“She is constantly challenging herself to become better. She is not afraid to push through the hard, unfavorable days of training. She does not quit.”

Nielson shared she is focusing on strength training until the end of this year. She said she will go back to her training pattern before the marathon for four months. She said she usually runs 15 miles a week within 6 to 8 hours for six days. Runners in her age group are required to finish 26 miles in less than 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Marshall described Nielson as a determined person and an example of willpower. She said Nielson won’t let anything stop her when she knows her goals and what she needs to do to get there. 

Date Published
October 21, 2019
Last Edited
October 21, 2019