How does someone that hates running go from a 48-minute 5k to training for the Boston Marathon? I’m so glad you asked!
Wait…you didn’t ask? Well, I’m going to tell you anyways. It’s my blog. I do what I want.
I talk more about my journey from a non-runner to a runner* on my fundraising page , so head over there to read that story, and while you’re there, help a sister out and consider donating!
I ran my first half marathon in October, 2015, in 2:46 and change. It was after my second half marathon less than a month later that the idea of running Boston started creeping into my brain. If you know me, you know that I’m constantly pushing myself to go bigger, work harder, and set the bar higher. A half marathon to a marathon is a HUGE jump. A half marathon to the Boston Marathon is an even bigger one. If I was going to run a marathon, though, why not run THE marathon, in my hometown, and a city that I love?
I mean, look at this girl. Does it get more Boston than this?
On Patriots Day this year, Joe and I did what we always do. Get up early, head to Fenway, go to the Sox game and then to Boylston Street to cheer on the runners. This was a special year, as I had three friends running, and was hopeful to see them as they neared Boylston. In typical fashion, I missed all three on the course, but was so excited to celebrate with Siobhan and Conor and their families/friends with drinks at a local bar after they finished. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see Bryan, but I was cheering him from afar and tracking him on my app. More to come about these three awesome people, and the roles they have played in getting me to this point in future posts.
While I have gone to the Marathon as a spectator countless times, being there as someone toying with the idea of running the race in the future was a different experience. It was a warm and sunny day for April, and I felt bad for the runners. A great day for a Red Sox game, but not such a great day for a marathon. Watching the runners on Hereford making the turn onto Boylston, and the emotion that crossed their faces as they realized they were about to finish, made me want to experience that for myself. I fully expect that I will be a blubbering mess for the majority of my marathon, so get excited for that.
As I went through the summer and early fall, I was beginning to doubt myself. Boston seemed like such a HUGE undertaking. Simultaneously training for my first marathon AND being responsible for raising a ton of money seemed like an impossible task. It was a hot summer, and I found excuse after excuse to let my running slide. When I started training again for my fall races at the end of August, I was discouraged and angry with myself for not sticking with running through the less than ideal conditions. My endurance crashed, and I found running my “easy” 3-mile loop to be difficult. I stuck with it, repeatedly running the 3-mile loop until it got more comfortable, and then started adding mileage back as I trained for my first half of the season.
I had 3 half marathons on the calendar for fall; the BAA Half (Columbus Day weekend), the Newburyport Half (October 22), and the Cambridge 5k Half (November 13). My previous half marathon PR was achieved at the Run to Remember in May, at 2:32:46, and my goal was to hit a sub-2:30 half in one of the 3 on the schedule.
The BAA Half was miserable. It was POURING, I didn’t feel trained, and the course was very tough. It was the final race of the BAA Distance Medley, so I had some sweet bling waiting for me at the end of the race — if I could make it. I was cruising through mile 8, and then I hit the hills. I unraveled, both physically and mentally. I was feeling the lack of training, as my legs just didn’t want to work beyond mile 10. The rain was cold and miserable, and the loops through Franklin Park at the end were making it difficult to gauge where the finish was. I finished at 2:41:12; not my worst half marathon, but not close to the sub-2:30 I was working to hit this season.
All of my BAA bling from the 2016 Distance Medley (5k, 10k, half)
Newburyport was better. It was cold and windy, but I was thankful for sunny skies and no rain. The course description stated rolling hills, which I typically enjoy, so I was hopeful that my sub-2:30 may be a possibility. Again, I felt great to start. Too great. I went out fast, which I know is a big no-no, but I still found myself faster than I should have been. The rolling hills featured more downhills than uphills for the first 7 miles, and my quads were shredded. Despite not running a smart race, by the start of mile 11, if I could maintain a 12-minute mile for the last 3.1, I’d be able to hit my goal. The last 2 miles, my legs were not cooperating, and I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I finished at 2:32:40, and was SO MAD at myself. I know better than to go out like I did. Had I dialed in back, I likely would have had more in the tank and hit my goal. I didn’t feel well after the race, I think I was dehydrated, as I felt better after I had a Gatorade. It was a long walk back to the car, and a long drive home to the shower.
I decided that Boston just wasn’t in the cards for me for 2017. I had begun to doubt myself as a runner, and I just didn’t think I could do it. It would be too hard, I wasn’t ready, and waaaaaaaaaaah. I thought about entering the lottery for the Chicago Marathon; it’s a known flat course, a friend from my running group was already signed up to run for St. Jude’s, and Chicago is a great city. If I entered the lottery and got in, then it was meant to be and I could focus on the running without the pressure of fundraising. If I didn’t get in, then it wasn’t meant to be. I was going to wait for the general lottery to open up, and throw my name in and see what happens.
I’m the type of person that needs to have something to be training for to keep me honest with my running. I found a really cool race, The Eastern States 20-miler, which starts in Maine and ends in Massachusetts in late March. That was going to be my next challenge; there’s something less scary about going from 13.1 to 20 than 13.1 to 26.2, and it would keep me training throughout the winter. I had decided — Boston was out for this year, and I was going to focus on the 20-miler.
Literally two days later, I got a text from my friend Mia that said “soooo….any interest in a bib for Boston?” Even though I had just decided it wasn’t in the cards for me, I asked her for more information. She told me about The Title IX Girls, and I was in awe of the organization. I started thinking about Boston again, albeit with reservations. But, there was an answer for everything. “That’s a shitload of money” was met with “You know a ton of people, and Title IX will support you”. “Boston is a RIDICULOUSLY difficult course” was met with “if you’re going to train for a marathon, training to run one in the city that you love is a game changer”. Jumping from a half marathon to a full is a BIG change, but I was planning on running the 20-miler THREE WEEKS before Boston anyways, so I’d already be training. What it came down to, though, was a simple statement from my friend/soulmate, Erin; “you’ll regret it if you don’t”. And she was right. I would regret it. Who wants to live with regrets, especially when you have the opportunity to do something incredible, and help out a great organization along the way?
I know this was long, and if you made it this far, thanks for reading! I’ll be keeping things short(er) and (somewhat) sweet going forward, but this whole process proved to me just how important timing really is. I also thought it was important to share that I know what a huge decision this was, and it was not one that I took lightly.
So, here we are. I’m running the Boston Marathon, and I’m scared. But doing things, and completing things, that scare you has to be the best feeling in the world.
*I still feel funny calling myself a runner. I feel like a fake runner, because I’m not fast. But, the more entrenched I get in the running community, and the more people I meet, I’ve realized what makes you a runner isn’t your speed or how many miles you put in. If you lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement, you’re a runner.