Every gal has a dream. Or maybe not a dream, but just something that she’s like to check off her bucket list. Couple this with a strong type A personality and a slight addiction to running, and you have…well, one messed up gal.
But along with that messed up gal (i.e. me) comes a goal that I mentioned in a few past posts. It’s a goal that I’ve always secretly kept with every race, but only proclaimed to the world for the Chicago Marathon. It’s a goal I worked for, one that I babied, and one that I eventually accomplished at the Chicago Marathon. This goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
For my gender and age group, that means running a certified race in under 3 hours and 40 minutes. That’s an average of 8 minute 23 second miles for 26.2 mile. 8:23 miles? Seems reasonable, no? But do that 26.2 times over, and you have a different story. So this, my friends, is my Boston qualification story.
The 7:30 race start seemed a bit late, but I managed to accept it for what it is: more sleep time. After a quick shower, race breakfast (oatmeal, mini-bagel and peanut butter), I kissed Chicken Face goodbye and he looked up at me with his crusty-eye boogers still intact and said, “Good luck.” He’d meet me at the finish line.
Thanks to our conveniently located hotel, I was able to walk to the start line. Yes, I said walk to one of the World Major marathons. It was a nice change of pace from the New York Marathon commute (subway to ferry to bus to start line), and I embraced the amazingly organized event. Why yes, I’d like to check my bag in the clearly marked bag check area. And yes, how lovely, I’ll stand in the moderate port-a-potty line and wash my hands with the provided sinks. Well done, race organizers.
It wasn’t long before I found my way into the seeded corrals. I find that it’s the port-a-potty lines and the corrals that people scope out their “competition” and talk as if they’re professionals. People talked themselves up and boasted about past PRs, while some proclaimed their goals with strong doses of doubt. But I was by myself. So I stood there, and like a creeper, listened in on other people’s conversations while pretending to fiddle with my laces and staring at my PaceTat.
One national anthem later, we were off…
I’m not the type of runner that remembers my stride, my breathing or even the scenery sometimes. But instead, I’m the type of runner who focuses on how I’m generally feeling, if I’m properly fueled, and my pace. So what did I feel and/or remember for 26.2 miles? A bit of stress, only minimal GI issues, a certain spectator, and a whole lot of heat.
For 26.2 miles, I closely monitored my Garmin ensuring that I was clear of the 8:23 pace, I maneuvered my way through old and young runners alike, I stopped to pee (only once…hurrah!) and I smiled for the camera hoping this time they would snap a good race photo. But then the heat started to pour in, enveloping me and everything about the run; thus, strategies quickly changed. I ripped off my shirt, I dodged for shade, I relished the pre-soaked sponges and I maneuvered to whatever side of the street spectators were hosing people down on. When I saw the “heat severity” flags change, I knew that we were in for something we didn’t bargain for.
But along the way, something amazing happened. I saw a friend that I met through blogging and Twitter, Nicole. She was holding a sign for my other blogger buddy, Tara, but when I randomly saw her right next to me, she was jumping and screaming and smiling and ringing bells like she had just seen Elvis brought back to life. And then…I smiled.
A little giggle, a little smile, and we were back on our way. Every mile was a countdown and I managed to play head games enough to keep myself motivated. First, look for the mile marker. Check. A bit past the mile markers, you will see the following in this order: aid station, toilets, Gatorade, water, people. Check each one off your list in your head, and before you know it, you’re at the next mile marker. Rinse, wash and repeat, people. With this method in hand, my legs and heart finally came together as a team. They began to work in unison and felt as if they were easily doing the motions I needed them to do. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t sore; instead, I just had to keep the body temperature down. I do my part, the legs and the heart will do theirs.
3 hours a 30 minutes later, I was approaching the final stretch. The spectators started to get louder (and that’s not just because my iPod died), the intensity greater, and the anticipation ever-present. I looked at my Garmin and realized, oh my God, I did it. It’s real. But being the type A that I am, I wanted to beat the race clock. Sure I had three minutes on my side as I crossed the start line three minutes after the gun went off, but now I wanted the digital race clock to read no more than 3:40. So I pushed it. Even up that last hill (by the way, why put a HILL in the last stretch of the finish?). I saw the finish line and just started living the moment…today is that day. Push. Push. Push. Go. Run. Faster. Finish. Go. Push.
Finished. Official time: 3:37:20.
At that exact moment, I think my body went into shock. I wanted to hug someone. I wanted to look around and tell someone. I wanted to sit down, right there is the middle of the finish line and cry.
Instead I made the traditional marathon finish processional: blanket, medal, food, and water. Then I found my way out of the craziness to find Chicken Face and when I did find him, he said he missed me coming in as there were simply too many people. But when he asked what my time was and I told him, the first tear found its way down my face and the rest of them soon followed. I sobbed and said, “I don’t know why I’m crying…” But I did.
I know, I know, it’s not like I qualified for the Olympics. I mean, thousands of people do this every year. But I will now admit here, that in my entire life, I’ve never genuinely felt truly proud of myself until this exact moment. I unabashedly felt proud of myself and it was one of the best days of my life.
Until April 18, 2011….