The Boston Decision: what it *might* mean for me

Running the Boston Marathon is a dream for a lot of runners, and I am no exception.  For 11 of the past 12 years of my life though, it was a dream that I can honestly say I didn’t believe would ever come true.  Up until a little less than a year ago, I was a 4:35 marathoner who thought that one day I could become a 4:00 marathoner at best.  I would joke that if I was able to hang onto that fitness and not get any slower with age, maybe when I was in my 60s I could qualify for Boston.

This past year that kind of thinking went out the window for me.  I began to work harder than I ever had in my life.  I made big changes to the way I approached my training and racing.  I started to BELIEVE in myself.  I wanted to know what I was capable of and I found out that I was made of way more than I ever even would have imagined possible.

At the beginning of last summer, I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon.  Going into the training cycle I believed that with a lot of hard work and dedication I could lower my marathon time down to 4 hours.  This would have been a 35 minute PR for me, and was a bold goal to set.  I knew it was ballsy, but I am telling you I believed it right down to my very core.  As I trained though I discovered that I was capable of a faster marathon than even 4 hours.  My times in every distance were dropping drastically.  My fitness and my confidence were improving tremendously.  As the summer came to a close, I believed I could make my Boston dream a reality.

In order to qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon, I had to run a 3:45:59 by September 12, 2011.  After that date I would have to wait another year for the 2013 Boston Marathon, and my qualifying time would be made harder by almost 6 whole minutes – I would have to run a 3:39:59 at MCM in October.  And qualifying for Boston doesn’t mean that you get to run Boston.  The way it works is that the people with the fastest qualifying times get in first, so the more you qualify by the better your chances are of getting a spot.  But there are no guarantees.

I made a hasty decision to try to run a 3:45 before the 2012 cut off.  Within less than a week of deciding this, I found myself at the starting line of the Lehigh Valley Marathon in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2011.  I hadn’t tapered.  I hadn’t even full trained.  But I took the risk and went for it.  It was a brutal marathon.  Hot, humid, hilly and very little course support.  I was on track until about Mile 18 when I began dealing with awful stomach issues.  I crossed the Finish Line with a 25 minute PR in 4:09, but didn’t come anywhere close to achieving my BQ.  (You can read the full race report HERE).

About 6 weeks later I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  I ran a strong race and fought to the finish, running my best marathon at the time.  In order to qualify for Boston I would need to run it in 3:40 or less.  I crossed the Finish Line in 3:41:56, with a tremendous PR but shy of my BQ by less than 2 minutes.  It was bittersweet.  I wasn’t going to give up though.  I knew I could do better.  (You can read this race report HERE).

Finishing at MCM 2011

This past winter I worked even harder.  My determination to run my fastest marathon and get that BQ was stronger than strong.  I wanted it BAD.  I wanted to do it because I believed I could do it.  I ran the Rock n Roll USA Marathon on March 17th and I DID IT.  My time was 3:34:46 and I qualified for Boston by more than 5 minutes (race report HERE).

Finishing RnR USA 2012

I was so happy to run such a strong race that day, and to get that BQ I’d been working so hard for.  But my dreams didn’t stop there.  My dreams don’t end with qualifying for Boston.  In many ways, it feels like it is just the beginning for me.  I’m excited to discover the depths of my capabilities – not only as a runner, but as a person.  I learn something about myself every time I lace up my shoes for a run, whether it’s a 5k, a tempo run or a marathon.  Every. single. time.

I want to run Boston some day, I really really do.  And I KNOW that I will.  My hope is that it will be for the 2013 race, but there simply are no guarantees about that.  When they decided to allow the 2012 runners to defer to 2013 because of the heat yesterday, I admit that at first I didn’t really understand the policy change.  It seemed to me to be a dangerous precedent they were setting for a variety of reasons – and on so many levels I still feel that way.  What will they do if this weather shows up again next year?  How do they handle people who aren’t being honest and are taking advantage of the system – deferring because they are injured, not because of the heat?  But it is what it is and I can’t worry about how it may or may not impact me personally when it comes time to sign up.  It’s possible that lives were saved yesterday because of this decision! – who can argue with that?

The fact is, I’m going to keep striving to be a better, stronger and faster runner.  I’m going to keep running marathons and I’m going to keep improving for as long as I can.  I’m going to qualify for Boston again — not because it’s about Boston but because it’s about being the best me that I can be.  Running Boston will be a dream come true for me — when the time is right.  I’m going to trust in that, and keep moving forward.

joining the club

On Saturday morning I ran 18 miles with the last 4 miles at race pace.  I started out slower, running the first 5 miles at right about a 9:00 mile.  Those miles were really wonderful as I shared them with my good friend Amy.  I’ve been doing most of my long runs solo this training cycle and it was just so nice to have Amy’s company for the first part of my run.  She is working really hard and seeing great improvements in her speed, efficiency and endurance and I think we will be running more together as training progresses, which makes me super excited!!

The paces I’m training at this time around are for a 3:30 marathon finish (my BQ time is sub-3:40, so this should give me some wiggle room), which would be an 8:00/mile average on race day.  According to the McMillan Pace Calculator, my long runs should be done at a pace somewhere between an 8:31-9:31 mile.  I’ve tested the waters here and have been really happy that all of my long runs have been at the faster end of that range, usually right about an 8:30 average.  Sunday’s run was no different.  I averaged an 8:32 pace and my last four miles were 8:16, 7:49, 8:01 and 7:50.

I finished strong.

The other day I read a post by Eric Eagan that really got me thinking.  He talks about his dream of qualifying for Boston and how we often make excuses for why our dreams don’t matter or why we will never accomplish them.  He also talks about failure – and how not reaching our goals right away is not only okay, but good for us.   He calls it the “Failure Club” – and I love this idea.  Keep fighting, keep failing, pick yourself back up and go after it again.  This post really struck me to my core, because I know that a year ago I had the same kind of mindset when it came to my running – I was a bit shy about my running dreams and didn’t let them thrive.

Not any more.  That is not the way I think these days.  I am okay with failing.  I will not give up on my dreams.  I will shout them from a mountain top for all the world to hear.

One a year ago my 5k PR was 25:22, which is an 8:10 average pace.  I remember running that race and thinking to myself WOW, that was fast. That was HARD.  Because it was.  I was absolutely SPENT – heavy breathing, nausea and legs that felt like they were made of jelly – when I crossed that finish line.  I gave it my all.

The fact that I am now training to run 26.2 miles at a pace even faster than that, and that I know I am capable of  it, just stuns me.  Every time I think of it, I cannot help but smile.

I know I haven’t crossed the finish line of a marathon with a BQ time yet.  But I also know that it WILL happen.  Maybe on March 17th.  If I don’t get it then though, you better believe I will pick myself up and try again.  I am not afraid to fail.

So, do not doubt the possibilities.  Do not rule anything out.  Do not stomp on your dreams because you think they sound silly (or because someone else does!).  As my friend Dorothy would say – no dream is too big!

BELIEVE in yourself.

If there is even the tiniest sliver of a dream shining inside of you, don’t ignore it.  Don’t dismiss it and put it off for another day.  Say it out loud.  Go after it.  Do NOT be afraid of failing.  Join the club!