At rabbit, we believe in running local and supporting local running communities. As part of that vision, we have partnered with several local running clubs and organizations.
Last year at the Mountains to Beach Marathon we met Believe Train Become founder and coach Susan Loken. We could not be more proud to partner with this amazing club out of Phoenix, AZ. Their dedication to training and their support of rabbit this past 8 months been remarkable. Because this group of athletes inspires us on a daily basis we wanted to share with you some of their secrets. We had the chance to interview founder Susan Loken. Not only is Susan an amazing coach and just all around wonderful women, but her running resume is incredible. Susan Loken is the founder of BTB Coaching and a USATF Level 1, Lydiard, RRCA certified coach. She is a 4-time US Master Marathon Champion and 3-time USA Olympic Marathon Qualifier. Susan is passionate about helping others improve their fitness and self-belief through running. She has coached hundreds of runners over the course of her career, both through her coaching business and during her five years as Program Director of the Non-Profit organization, Chances for Children. Now in her 50’s, Susan strives to take her running to the next level, while coaching and inspiring others along the way.
PC: Brad Rogers
Can you tell us about your introduction into running?
After the birth of my third son, I became a stay-at-home mom. The opportunity to stay home with our boys was wonderful, but also quite an adjustment. Throughout my career, I had consistently worked 40-50 hours per week, challenged myself to accomplish ambitious goals, and set aside plenty of much-needed “me” time. Suddenly, my hours changed to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days per year. I loved it, but I desperately needed both a break and a new goal. I began walking (and then running) to give myself some alone time, enjoy the sunshine, lose weight and--perhaps most of all--to experience a sense of accomplishment in my new lifestyle.
I met many friends through running (several of which are still my closest friends today) and eventually began training for a marathon with one of them, hoping simply to cross the finish line. After completing my first marathon at age 36, I was not only hooked on running, but had the confidence and passion to delve in deeper and push myself even further. With that newfound passion and self-belief, I began setting big audacious running goals and dreaming of what I could achieve!
Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to pursue running at the Olympic level?
My fourth marathon was a 3:01:55 and I felt that I could have gone faster. One of my running friends suggested that I work with a coach to qualify for the 2004 USA Olympic Trials. It sounded like a great goal! I enjoyed running, loved my new friends, benefited from the healthy lifestyle, and was happy to set a good example for my boys. I wanted more, so I hired Coach Brett Schumacher and began training.
With training, my 5th marathon was a 2:51:15 and my 6th one was 2:44:19. That was my first marathon win and a ticket to the 2004 USA Olympic Marathon Trials! I continued the tradition, setting the goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials every four years. I made two more--2008 and 2012. Despite training with all my heart and soul leading up to 2016, injury and aging (53, but still young at heart!) slowed me down and a fourth Olympic Trials didn’t happen. I’m okay with that because most of the fun is in the pursuit of a goal, the journey and evolving into an even better version of yourself!
How do you balance being a wife, mother, grandmother, coach and elite athlete?
I am extremely fortunate that I love all the roles I play in life, which makes balancing them easy. My passion for running has transformed into my purpose, and a drive to help others improve their lives and reach their dreams--both in running, and in everyday life. I schedule my own running around my running buddies and those I coach, which gives me the flexibility to babysit my granddaughters and be present for my husband and family.
I have always strived to set a positive example for my sons. Now that they have grown, I hope to set the same example to my grandchildren and teach them that no matter their gender, age or ability you can still accomplish big things!
I’m still chasing my dreams because that’s what makes me feel happy, passionate and alive. Since I’m not really at the Elite level anymore, I set goals that spark the same excitement in me, like breaking the Veterans (women over 50) course record in Boston this April. I feel so grateful that I’ve discovered my passion and my purpose of coaching others towards their dreams, and that I’ve found a way to interweave all areas of my home and work life into one beautiful tapestry!
Tell us a bit more about the BTB coaching program and your team in Phoenix?
After the 2012 Olympic Trials, my goal was to leverage my experience and passion to help others on an individual basis, as well as create a supportive community of runners. BTB stands for Believe Train Become and is comprised of beginner runners, Boston qualifiers, and Olympic Trials hopefuls. Within BTB, every runner supports one another, holds the others accountable and acts as a cheerleader when someone needs extra support. What I love about BTB is that no matter the fitness level, we all respect that each member has the goal to be their personal best. We’ve recently expanded our awesome tribe through a partnership with Triplex Training to offer runners a program that combines all the tools necessary for comprehensive well-being and training success (running, strength training and injury care).
The BTB Team is also committed to giving back to our local community by supporting local races, the Healthy Kids Running Series and teaming up with Fantasy Flight to provide running shoes for underprivileged kids.
What about coaching inspires your own training?
Everything! I love sharing in the journey with my runners, helping them to improve both their fitness and their well-being. It’s beyond rewarding to watch someone choose to improve their life--to boost personal happiness, to grow in self-belief, to build strong friendships and a support system. Observing and being involved in this process drives me to lead by example and practice what I preach. I know how much heart these runners put into their training, and they inspire me on the especially challenging days. Winning a race or qualifying for the Trials is amazing, but nothing brings me more joy than watching Team BTB members push themselves through training and then come out at the end smiling from ear to ear. Success comes from surrounding yourself with active, passionate, energetic people and having a supportive tribe that truly brings out the best in you. I’m so lucky that I get to experience the inspiring high of watching my runners succeed all the time!