I had one of those amazing runs today where you get lost in your thoughts and lose track of how many miles you’ve run and how many miles you have to go. One of the things that I spent a lot of time thinking about was my fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I was thinking about how it is kind of selfish that I’m not satisfied with having already met my original goal of raising $14,000, but instead feel like I won’t be happy unless I reach the $20,000 mark. And I kept asking myself why that was. Why isn’t $19,462 enough? That’s A LOT of money! And, I think I found an answer. But, in order to really explain it, I feel like I have to go alllllll the way back to the beginning and tell my whole story. So here goes…(Sorry, it’s a long one).
I ran my first marathon in Alaska in 2002. My goal for that marathon was to finish in under 5 hours. I did accomplish that goal, but it was unbelievably hard and defeating.
After that experience, I was too scared to run another marathon until 8 years later. 8 YEARS! Marathons are stinkin’ hard!
Once I got back into distance running, I realized that one thing I love about marathons is how much they make you stronger, mentally. For a while, my only goal for each of my races was to not feel like I wanted to quit, to enjoy the run, and to know that I would finish (all things that I did not experience in my first marathon). Speed was never my goal, and it was not something that I thought was realistic for me. I always envied the fast runners, but didn’t associate myself with that crowd. The Boston Marathon was a bucket list goal of mine that I hoped to reach when I was much older. I figured if I kept running marathons and maintained my pace, I’d eventually qualify for Boston when I was around 60 years old. (I’m serious.)
Finally, I had successfully finished enough marathons that I decided to aim a bit higher and try to break 4 hours. I didn’t really do any speed work for my training, but somehow, I managed to accomplish that goal on my first try at the Lansing Marathon in 2014 with a time of 3 hours 58 minutes. This was a new personal record (PR) for me by about 20 minutes.
I was feeling confident, and devoted my next year of training to trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I would need to finish a marathon in under 3 hours 40 minutes (an average pace of 8:20/mile). Again, that would mean shaving 20 minutes off of my previous PR. I registered for the Bayshore Marathon and worked my butt off preparing for that race. Going into it, I didn’t feel like I absolutely knew I could do it. I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose. If I did it…AWESOME! If not, I was “young” and there was plenty of time to try again.
Well, after a tough race and a small mental breakdown around mile 21, I DID qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3 hours 38 minutes.
Unfortunately, I learned in September that my qualifying time wasn’t fast enough that year. It’s a rolling entry, with spots filling up first with the fastest qualifiers and working through as many runners as possible until all spots are filled. I had missed a spot by 90 seconds. 90 SECONDS. I felt defeated, but not hopeless. I was bound and determined to train again and try for another BQ in 2016.
This time, my sister got the BQ bug and decided she wanted to train with me and shoot for Boston so that we could go together! Of course, I loved that idea, and we spent the next year following the same training plan and texting almost daily about our workouts (we live a couple hours apart, so we were virtual training buddies). It kept me motivated and I don’t think I have ever trained so hard to reach a goal.
So, when I kind of fell apart at that race and didn’t even come close to reaching my goal time, I was heartbroken. I had worked so hard, but my body did not cooperate. Rondi, on the other hand, earned her BQ and was heading to Boston in 2017.
Bound and determined to get to Boston with my sister, I started training for a September marathon to try and qualify one last time.
Unfortunately, I developed some health issues during my training and was struggling with hitting my times on my speed work and on my long runs. I would get severe stomach pains, followed by decreased energy, and an immediate need to use the bathroom, which always resulted in lots of blood in my stool (TMI…I’M SORRY!). This had been going on for quite some time, following/during all of my long runs and strenuous workouts. I finally went to a doctor about the issue, who referred me for a colonoscopy.
The results of the colonoscopy came back and I was given a diagnosis of ischemia, which happens when there is decreased blood flow to the digestive system, and as a result, the body sheds the outer lining of the colon. The doctor could not explain why this was happening so frequently though, and he said that it could possibly be treated by increasing the size of the opening of some blood vessel, but that more testing would need to be done to be sure. I wasn’t interested in that at all, and was happy to learn that my symptoms weren’t caused by a serious problem. However, the colonoscopy also showed that I had a precancerous polyp and I would need to come back every 3 years for routine colonoscopies. (NOTE: I’m only 36 years old!) That freaked me out more than my other issue! But I was assured there was nothing I could do to prevent it, and there was nothing I had done to cause it. So…I just kept training as planned, and kept having the same issues.
Needless to say, I didn’t qualify for the Boston Marathon on my next attempt either. Rondi and I ended up running/waddling/walking a lot of the race together and it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. But we finished and crossed another state off of our list (we are working on running a marathon in all 50 states)!
During that race, we came up with a plan to get us both to Boston in 2017. Rondi was going because of her qualifying time, and I decided I was going to apply for a charity spot. At the time, I had no idea that those were actually really hard to get. I kind of thought that if I applied for a bunch of them, I was sure to get one. I should have known better. There is nothing easy about running the Boston Marathon.
I ended up filling out a bunch of applications, only to hear back from one charity, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. I had applied to LLS in honor of a co-worker, Angela, who is battling Leukemia. On the application, you have to put down a fundraising goal and a plan of how you are going to reach that dollar amount. I had never really done much fundraising, but I was pretty confident that if I didn’t put a goal of at least $10,000, I wasn’t going to be chosen. Long story short, after a phone interview, being wait listed, another phone interview, raising my goal to $14,000 (which I honestly didn’t think I could raise…) and lots of overly ambitious fundraising before even being chosen…I was finally chosen! Out of hundreds of applicants, and only 60 spots available for LLS, I was chosen.
And yet, I still didn’t feel that I had earned my right to run in the Boston Marathon. You see, for me, the Boston Marathon is a race for the fastest runners. That’s how you’re supposed to gain entry into the race. Be fast. That’s what I had dreamed about ever since I ran my first marathon in 2002, and that’s what I dedicated 2 years of my life training for and attempting, without success.
So, as I started my fundraising efforts, in the back of my mind I kept the thought that this wasn’t my “real” Boston Marathon. This was just my Boston Marathon when I would get to cross the finish line with my sister. It wouldn’t really count as me running the Boston Marathon because I hadn’t gotten into the race the way you’re supposed to.
But, as my fundraising efforts have soared, I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, I HAVE earned my way into the Boston Marathon. And, selfishly, I feel that if I hit the $20,000 mark for my fundraising, I will know that I’ve accomplished something even bigger and better than running a qualifying time for the race. After all, of the 30,000 runners that earned their spot that way, I’m thinking that they all couldn’t have raised $20,000 for charity.
So, even though I do want to earn a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon some day, today I feel comfortable with how I earned my spot in the race. Today I know that I’ve made a bigger difference in the world by running with a charity spot than I ever would have made by running a marathon 90 seconds faster.
Here’s to dreaming big, working hard, and making a difference!