As I sit here, it is now 44 days until the 2017 Boston Marathon. Given my lack of any fitness, and various health problems (all discussed in Part I), it feels unreal that I am running this amazing race. While my journey from couch potato and soda fanatic to marathon runner was challenging, the road from running a marathon to running Boston 2017 was equally, if not more, difficult. It would be a test of my physical and mental fortitude, and included many peaks and valleys (or would a correct runner term be “had varied elevations?)
2013-2014: It begins
After running the Steamtown Marathon in the fall of 2013, I immediately became addicted to marathons. It sounds strange, but my favorite parts of the race occur from miles 21-26.2 because that is the “test.” Those miles are a true test of physical conditioning, and mental focus. I was particularly struck, as I started running marathons, how challenging it would be to keep running whilst seeing other runners walking, stretching, or laying on the ground in exhaustion. This, I would tell myself, is the tightrope between finishing and not. I was in love with the distance, and remain in love with it today.
I quickly signed up, which I heard is not uncommon, for the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2013. After having a fun race, I realized that I had improved my time in one month by almost 16 minutes. I was slowly figuring it out, even running Philly with gels (which I didn’t do at Steamtown).
If I am being completely honest, by the time of Philly, I was not engaged in, or knowledgeable about anything in the “running” community. I didn’t run cross country/track, knew no famous marathon runners, and didn’t know any details about qualifying for the Boston Marathon. By the end of 2013, however, I began to discover more of these details, and very quietly put a BQ in the back of my mind as a life goal.
I will leave a lot of 2014 out of this post because I have discussed that elsewhere. Overtraining, a pelvic fracture, and a fun 2014 NYC Marathon meant an interesting 2014 was in the cards for me. It was now 2015, when I was ready to chase the unicorn.
Pittsburgh, Erie, and Heartache
Waking up on 5/3/2015, I didn’t think a BQ was in the cards. I had been dealing with a little hernia pain, and life was getting a little ahead of me. A few weeks earlier, my wife was diagnosed with early breast cancer, and we were spending our days scheduling her surgeries, and planning things that I wish on no one. I was an emotional wreck. Through it all, my wife was my inspiration. She is absolutely in love with New England, and Boston is her favorite city ever. She loves the Red Sox and everything New England. When I woke up to run the Pittsburgh Marathon, there was a small spark in my mind that, if I can put it together, I would love to get her to see Boston on marathon weekend.
As I crossed the finish line, I could not believe my eyes, I had qualified for Boston when I crossed at 3:08:04. It was BQ -1:56. Based on people that knew more than me, I was Boston bound. I remember hugging my wife and crying at the hotel telling her, “I got you to Boston.” I think I smiled for a month, and it was great.
Me with my “Next Stop: Boston” sign after the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be in the cards.
During the summer of 2014, I trained for the Erie Marathon and was having some great success, PRing 10Ks and Half Marathon races. Unfortunately, a bout with salmonella poisoning the week of the race had me toeing the line having lost a lot of weight, and even more energy. Surprisingly, I BQd (by 10 seconds), but my heart was ok with it since Pittsburgh had “banked” me enough time.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and my application to run Boston 2016 was rejected because my -1:56 was not enough (it was 2:28). Thirty-two seconds had destroyed a dream, and prevented me from taking my wife to Boston. Honestly, I almost pulled the plug. My BQs had been tough, and I didn’t think that “lightning in a bottle” was possible again. At this point, I relied on my wife, my coach, Mark Hadley, and great friends like Kristy, Mark, Kris, and Laura for their support. They had all been to Boston, and let me know that I should keep going.
Hell Yes, Its On
After a few weeks, I decided to lace up my sneakers, and return to the 2015 Steamtown Marathon. I was determined to BQ, and was damn angry. I had a benefit in that I would be 40 for the 2017 race, thus making my BQ time 3:15 instead of 3:10, but I didn’t give a shit. I wanted to get that BQ by besting my Pittsburgh result. I did just that. I PRd my at 3:06: 50. I also PRd the course by about 1 hour and 40 minutes (in 2 years). I was mad that I had to wait until 2017, but knew that my BQ was enough. A monkey was off my back.
Me with my Mom, sister, and Step-Dad after Steamtown 2015. Boston Bound
Between Steamtown and the registration for the 2017 Boston Marathon, I ran two more marathons (Myrtle Beach which I earned my current PR of 3:03:40) and Pittsburgh (3:04:11). As soon as I could, I bought my Boston Qualifier T-Shirt, and was so happy that I could run in 2017.
Me and my son on the eve of the 2016 Myrtle Beach Marathon. Ready for a PR
It is possible
As I hope you have seen, the road to Boston is never easy. It can even tempt you to thinking that you have “done it” just in time for it not to be true. I am running the 2017 Boston Marathon remembering all those great, and not so great moments. My health, my Pittsburgh BQ turned to heartache, my wife’s health and recovery, and every moment my family and friends cheered me on. Even all the words of support and encouragement from my coach, Mark, and friends throughout the country will be in my thoughts that day. And yes, the competitive juices will be flowing, remembering the words of Max from the UVA Speed Clinic during my visit in 2016, when he said to me, “I think you have just scraped the surface, you can and should be running faster.” You got it Max…I will do my best.
For everyone who has dreamed of running Boston, take my word, it is possible. Ok Boston….game on.