Today, runners all over the world, many of whom qualified by running a competitive finishing time at another marathon, completed the Boston Marathon! Congratulations to all the finishers! I love this race because it’s an icon among not only the running community but among the general public. It’s the race that people think of when they think of marathoning (and the New York Marathon, given that it’s usually the celebrity marathon of choice), even if they don’t know what a fartlek or Yasso 800 is.
Because of the qualifying standards, the Boston Marathon represents so much of what we as runners love about our sport – hard work, pushing the limits of our personal capabilities, and achieving goals that we once thought were impossible. The Boston Marathon is also incredibly meaningful because it represents hope and perseverance after the tragedy that occurred there in 2013. There are so many reasons why the Boston Marathon is a race I want to run one day, but right now, I’m not letting the opportunity I may or may never have to run the race have power over how I feel about myself as a person or as a runner.
On May 28th, I am going to run my 7th marathon, and if you’re counting, my 4th Boston qualifying attempt (read about attempts one, two and three). However, I’m not looking at it like that anymore. While I still think Boston is an incredible race for the reasons I listed above and a really cool milestone in anyone’s running career, it’s not the reason I’m running Mountains 2 Beach. Yes, it was the reason I ran marathons for a few years. I really let the idea of qualifying for Boston affect my running, the way I felt about myself as a runner, and my happiness at times (although just temporarily).
But, I’ve already experienced failure. I’ve already experienced the worst. I’ve already felt the sting of disappointment. And you know what? It’s ok. When I fail, I’m sad, but in the end, the only person who really cares if I qualify for Boston or not is ME. Even when I’ve shouted from the rooftops that I want to qualify for Boston and then failed, once, twice and then three times, it hurt, but I’m still me. I’m still happy. It didn’t affect who I am as a person. Failure makes us stronger – IF we decide to pick ourselves up and try again.
At the end of the day, Boston is just a race. And a Boston Qualifying time happens in less than 3 hours 35 minutes (if you’re a female under 34 years old). Training for a marathon happens over the course of countless footsteps, immeasurable conversations with running partners, and many track workouts, hill repeats and tempo runs. There are good runs, bad runs and GREAT runs. There are moments where you feel more alive than ever – the times you ran in the rain and smiled all the way home as you soaked the seat of your car with your soaking wet pants, the times you hit paces you never felt possible, the times your legs felt like led but you had a good friend to chat with and distract you from the pain, the times your legs ached and you walked a little funny in the hours following a long run, but you feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment that you ran 20 miles that morning.
I love training for marathons. And I love training to get faster at marathons. The disappointment and devastation that I have felt at the finish line of a marathon that didn’t go as planned is worth the journey that got me there. The race itself is just the icing on the cake. It’s not the cake. Honestly I need a better analogy becuase I don’t even like cake. Maybe ice cream!?
I’ve said from the beginning that I want to PR at Mountains 2 Beach. I didn’t say BQ, although it’s somewhat implied given my PR is 26 seconds off. A BQ would be nice. But will I let my success or failure to achieve a goal set by some stranger who thinks a woman my age is considered fast just because she can run 8:12 minute/miles or faster for 26.2 miles define me? No. My success on race day this year will be defined by whether or not I run the race I’m capable of. I want a good race. I want to negative split a marathon. I know I have it in me to PR and have a great race, and I would love to prove it. I’m in control of how I pace myself, fuel myself, and stay mentally tough in the final miles of the race. Those are the factors that I can control and if I do everything I can in those areas on race day and finish slower than a Boston Qualifying or PR time, I will still be happy.
Boston, I’ll see you one day. But until then, I’ll be here running, and loving it.
Have you ever tried and failed to qualify for the Boston Marathon? Do you want to run it one day?