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!