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Come this April, I will embark on a road race I never thought I would ever be able to run: The Boston Marathon.

People look at me now, with an age-group marathon win and a Boston Qualifying time, and don’t believe me when I tell them that my running journey began with walk breaks every quarter mile on a 1-mile loop at a local park.  But, it’s true.  When my mom and I decided to train for our first marathon, the 2007 Philadelphia Marathon, we couldn’t even run a mile non-stop.  When we finally built some endurance, we celebrated a 10-minute mile.  And on those long stretches of road through Philadelphia, we chanted our mantra: we run to complete, not compete.  Running was a way to stay in shape, an outlet for stress, and a bonding experience.  It was by no means a competition.

We ran more races that way, completing another Philadelphia Marathon and two Philadelphia Distance Runs.  Then, I went off to college.

Attending a university in the Bay Area, I was blessed with year-round running weather.  So, I ran.  Nearly everyday.  With time, I became faster and could run farther.  The spring of my freshman year, I surprised myself with a half-marathon age-group win.  Inspired by such unexpected success, I knew I wanted to run another marathon.  So, I signed up for the Nike Women’s Marathon.  I told everyone I just wanted the famed Tiffany’s necklace, but really, I wanted to break four hours, a goal I hadn’t accomplished in previous marathons.

That summer, I woke up early to run before work every morning.  I dedicated my weekends to long runs and even ran on vacation.  I was obsessed.  But, I could see the payoff.  I was faster and stronger than I had ever been.  Running the Nike Women’s Marathon in under four hours seemed probable!  And a Boston Marathon Qualifying time was not out of the question.  I didn’t want to get my hopes up though; I had experienced the “wall” and knew all too well the grueling difficulty of those last six miles.   I decided to give the Nike Women’s Marathon my best shot.  As the saying goes, “que sera, sera.”

The Nike Women’s Marathon began before sunrise on October 16.  I found my stride, waved to the spectators, and loved every minute of those first 20 miles.  Then, I hit the wall.  I passed one woman around the lake.  “Keep going!” she cheered, “are you going for a specific time?”  All I could mutter in reply was “fast.”  Somehow, and I truly don’t know how, I kept running.  When I crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch.  3:23:37.  Did I read that right?  Had I really just qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon?!  I couldn’t believe it.  Now, I just needed to get in.

On September 12, at 10:01 AM, I submitted my registration to run in the 2013 Boston Marathon.  Yesterday, I received confirmation that this upcoming April, I will run the streets of Boston in the 117th running of the Boston Marathon.

My mom and I celebrated my registration with a run through our usual neighborhood loop.  As we shuffled along, I was reminded of training for our first marathon.  I remembered how much fun we had plodding along on our favorite running route.  I’ve decided that I’m not going for any specific time goal in Boston this April; I’m still feeling burt out from overtraining.  I will certainly put in the miles this winter, but I’m running the Boston Marathon like my mom and I ran our first marathon: to complete, not compete.  I can’t wait to enjoy the experience!