Rethinking Boston

My father grew up in the Bronx, about 10 blocks from Yankee Stadium. He was born almost 100 years ago, so he saw Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play. He passed the love of baseball – and the Yankees – down to me. We were a family of staunch Yankees fans. Our rivals? The Boston Red Sox. I remember sitting out in the right field stands on Labor Day one year with my dad for a game against Boston where it seemed the entire crowd of 57,000+ was shouting something negative about Boston. I was a little embarrassed since we never cursed in our home – but it was clear from that moment, we (my dad included) really didn’t like Boston!

The irony of course is that now, as a runner, all I have been doing for the last five years is training to achieve that holy grail of running: a coveted Boston Marathon Qualifying Time! And in the last few miles of the Surf City Marathon earlier this month, I was trying to remember why. As I was trying to dig deep to find that motivation to keep me moving at the pace I needed, I just didn’t have the right answer.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon wasn’t even something I had considered in my first 15 years as a runner. Fast people – experienced marathoners – ran Boston. That wasn’t me. There were such big gaps – years – between my first three marathons that I didn’t even consider myself a real marathoner. Then in 2014, coming off a year in which I ran 13 half marathons, I decided I wanted to tackle the full distance again. I hired a coach. I was in great shape going into training because of all the running I did the previous year and because of strength training and cross-training that became a consistent habit after coming back from an injury in 2012. My goal was a personal record, so better than 4:11. I broke 4 hours! Finishing in 3:57:51, I missed a BQ by less than 3 minutes and that goal wasn’t even on my radar. Before that, it never occurred to me that I was “worthy of Boston.”

I signed up for this year’s Surf City Marathon last year as my BQ Plan B, meaning I’d run it for a Boston Qualifying time if I fell short of that goal in Chicago in October.  When I had a slight injury at the start of Chicago training in early June which landed me in PT and realigning my strategies, Surf City became Plan A, Chicago just part of a long training cycle. 

Two weeks of recovery after Chicago and I was back training. This time I hired my former running club coach from back in New Jersey to work with me virtually November through January. Having run a fairly strong race in Chicago, I was hoping to build on that. Still, taking 15 minutes off my Chicago time would be challenging (the Boston qualifying time for women my age is 4:05, but because of the demand, I needed to shoot for 4:00 to actually get into Boston). I had run that 3:57 in 2014 and 4:05 in 2016 when my BQ times were 3:55 and 4:00 respectively, but hadn’t come as close in any of the other four marathons I’d run in the last five years. 

Me at the Boston Marathon Finish Line. Boston, Massachusetts. August 2016.

When I toed the start line three and a half weeks ago at Surf City, I believed I had a pretty good shot. I was in the best shape I had been in years. I did the training, stayed healthy, was well-rested, well-fueled and well-hydrated, and the one thing I had no control over – the weather – was cooperating too. If I was honest with myself, I knew I was more than 5 pounds heavier than I was for my PR in ‘14 (and none of that extra weight was muscle). I wasn’t as strong and then there was the obvious fact that I was almost 6 years older. I pushed all that to the back of my mind.

If you read My Surf City Marathon Experience post, you know I missed it again, by 2 min and 34 seconds. This was my 10th marathon – my 3rd fastest. It was 8 minutes faster than my Chicago time just 3.5 months ago. Age-graded (because at my age we have to consider these things) it was a personal record! I have a lot to be proud of even if I didn’t make my goal of qualifying for Boston. And this brings me to my point. Maybe qualifying for Boston isn’t the right goal for me. It’s not actually that important to me.

That’s not to say I don’t think I am capable at some point of qualifying, I just don’t think it’s “the cause” that will motivate me to dig deeper in the final miles. I’m thinking that shooting for another sub-4 or personal record are much more motivating goals (that incidentally will also get me that BQ) which put the focus on me not on an arbitrary definition of fast created – and changed over the the years – by the B.A.A. 

After finishing Chicago last year, I received an email that said “congratulations on your fast time” letting me know that my fast time had earned me a guaranteed spot for this year. Yay! Chicago thinks I’m fast!  Now I’m 8 minutes faster than that! So Chicago it is! My next marathon will be Chicago 2021 and then in 2022 I want to run New York City because that’s were it all started 25 years earlier. After that? No plans. I could stop there.

In less than three months I turn 55. A new Age Group! This year I’ll be focusing on staying fit, building a little more strength, bringing home some age-group awards, being a member of the 3Run2 cheer squad for the Chicago Marathon, and enjoying Kurt’s company on the run which we haven’t been doing together enough lately. Maybe we’ll even get to see the Yankees play when they’re in Chicago.

Kurt and me on our last day in California, after the Surf City Marathon. Huntington Beach. February 2020.

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