As I sit here trying to decide the best way to start this blog about my “Boston qualifying marathon”, I can’t help but come clean from the beginning. The truth is, I fell apart. I completely broke down and nearly gave up. And when the race was over, I cried, not because I came in under 3:40, but because I was so mad at myself for almost quitting.
Now I’ll go back to the beginning…
Honestly, I don’t know where the beginning is. Just a couple of years ago, I still viewed my BQ (Boston Qualifying time) as unattainable. My fastest marathon was a 4:21, which is a 10 minute pace. My BQ needed to be under 3:40, which is an 8:21 pace. That wasn’t comfortable for me for a 5 mile run, let alone a 26.2 mile run. I tucked it away as something I would always dream about, but never accomplish.
Then, last year (2014) I decided I wanted to try and break 4 hours in the marathon. I didn’t follow a plan that included speed work, and really had no idea if I’d be able to do it. Luckily, the Lansing Marathon had pace groups, and my pacers led me to a 3:58 finish. That’s a 9:05 pace. I was elated, and honestly surprised that I did it. And it wasn’t even that mentally challenging.
Apparently that huge accomplishment boosted my confidence enough to think that maybe there was a chance I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. So, in January of 2015 I charted out and began a training plan that included speed work, more mileage than I usually ran, and two strength/circuit workouts a week. I stuck to that plan like glue.
The night before the race, I organized my mile dedications and wrote them out on my arm. Each mile would be run for someone else.
The morning of the race I woke up without an alarm before 4:00 AM. I was excited and ready to get rollin’! For the most part, I felt confident about my goal, but there were still a few thoughts of self doubt creeping through.
Mainly I was scared because there weren’t pace groups for the race. I ran A LOT of my miles on the treadmill, and I wasn’t confident that I knew how to maintain the pace I needed outside without having someone to follow, or run with, that I knew was running the right pace.
I had a plan to run with Pella, a friend from my triathlon club, for as long as we could stick together. But, she had just run the Boston Marathon and wasn’t sure how well her body was going to hold up. We met before the race and talked about our game plan to thank all of the volunteers, cheer on the other runners, and basically just have fun and be positive the entire race.
(Me, Eric – who ran his 1st marathon!, and Pella)
Throughout the first 15-16 miles of the race, our plan worked great. We had a blast and maintained goal pace (which was actually an 8:12…finishing in 3:35). But then, Pella fell back and wished me luck to finish strong.
I was on my own. I tried to find other people to run with, but chatting wasn’t coming easily anymore, and I couldn’t find anyone who had the same end goal as me. Beginning at mile 19, I started to struggle. Thoughts of doubt were more frequent than thoughts of success. I just didn’t know if I could keep it going.
From mile 20-24 I fell apart. More than once I walked, putting my hands over my face, holding back tears. I thought about all the people I was running for. I thought about all of the people who believed in me, and how I was going to let all of them down. Those thoughts would give me enough of a boost to keep going for a while. Then, the wind would pick back up, the pain in my shin would grow more intense, the need to make a porta potty stop would seem like a life or death situation, and I’d fall apart again.
At one point I practically begged a volunteer at an aid station to run with me. I think she was about 17 years old. She was wearing tennis shoes and I just knew she could keep me going. I asked her three times, and she just laughed, not thinking I was serious. I was desperate.
Somewhere in that stretch, my Garmin lost its signal. This didn’t help my situation, as I didn’t know my exact mileage or pace anymore. There were times when I thought all hope to finish under 3:40 was gone.
Then, I hit the 24 mile marker. I checked my elapsed time on my Garmin and realized that I could still qualify for Boston. At that point I gave it my all. I pushed with all I had for those last 2.2 miles. When I crossed the finish line, I was kind of in a daze. I had heard people I knew cheering for me in the last half mile, and I could tell from their intensity that it was going to be close.
When I saw that my official time was under 3:40, but only by a minute, I completely fell apart. I realized that my meltdown from mile 20-24 was completely mental. My legs would’ve done the work to get me a 3:35 finish, but my mind wouldn’t do it. I’m tearing up again right now thinking about it. Why was I weak? What happened? It makes me completely disappointed in myself. It’s the first time in YEARS that I couldn’t control the thoughts in my mind.
When my husband finally got to me after the race, he knew why I was upset. In reality, my 3:38:59 finish is probably not going to earn me a spot in Boston. Just finishing under your qualifying time isn’t quite good enough. The faster you are, the better your chances are of getting in. So, there’s a good chance it will fill up before I get in. And I won’t find that out until September.
So now, I’m left with the choice of waiting it out, or training all summer to try and earn a faster finishing time and better my chances of getting into Boston. The truth? I really don’t want to run another marathon that fast. It was awful. It wasn’t fun (well, after mile 20 anyway…), and I didn’t like it. But, I know I could do it.
Even though I did something that I really thought I could never do, I’m still left with a desire to do a little better. And I guess that’s a good thing.
“God gives us dreams a size too big so that we can grow into them.” – Unkown
I plan to keep on growing.
Sparkle.Pounce.Grow into your Dreams.