With the Boston Marathon now just three weeks away there is not a whole lot of heavy lifting left to do for the athletes who are finishing off their training plans and preparing for one of the greatest single day sporting events in the world.
“Boston” is watched by more people around the United States than any other single-day event aside from the Superbowl.
For distance runners, Boston is our Superbowl. Our Daytona 500. Our Wimbledon Final. Our US Open.
It just doesn’t get any bigger and it certainly doesn’t get much better.
I’m among the fortunate. I’ve been there before, racing Boston as a qualifier back in 2010. Many amateur runners try to qualify for the Boston Marathon for years. They make numerous attempts at the marathon distance to run a qualifying time on a sanctioned course.
Now the stakes are even higher as not only do runners have to run a qualifying time based on their age and gender, but they have to do so by a wide enough margin to gain entrance into the race. Only the fastest of the qualifiers will actually receive bib numbers to race on Patriot’s Day in Boston.
This year that meant not only achieving your “Boston Time”but beating that standard by more than one minute and 15 seconds or so. As the years pass I would not be surprised at all if it takes runners a time close to 5 minutes faster than their qualifying standard to actually make it through the registration process before the race fills up.
Athletes will train harder, run faster and the competitive field will get faster and faster at one of the Marathon World Majors.
For me, this is the end of the line at Boston. I know that it is not wise to say “never” when it comes to the marathon, as I think that for a lot of us, the race chooses us as much as we ever choose it.
Perhaps when I turn 50 or on a special anniversary of Dom’s passing I may be tempted to give this thing a go once again, dust off the old training plan, the race flats and go another round with the marathon.
But to run Boston is to run two marathons – one as a qualifying race, and then of course Boston itself – roughly within a year or a year and a half depending on when the qualifying race was run.
For now, that’s just not on my priority list. We are going to focus on competing as a triathlete, becoming a stronger swimmer a better cyclist and of course – a faster runner. That goes without saying.
But to do so, I am going to be focusing on shorter races. More speed work. Less long, steady 20+ mile Sunday runs and a much different approach to training and racing.
The marathon is going to be there for me when and if I ever need it. At some point, I probably will.
But for now, I’m focusing on these last three weeks to race day. Getting my body 100% right. My mind sharp, my race plan committed to memory and enjoying the journey to what very well may be my last trip to the starting line in tiny Hopkinton, MA.
I’ve thought about the Boston Marathon at least one time every day for the past two years.
It’s now time to make my return, run my race, come through the chute and no matter what the clock on Boylston Street says, know that I gave absolutely everything I had in pursuit of a near perfect effort.
I am going to collect my medal, my heat sheet, my banana, water, bagel, Gatorade and dry bag. I will take off my race flats, put on my compression gear from 110%, a warm top, a ball cap and my Boston Marathon Finisher’s jacket.
I will collect my wife and daughter, hug them tight, cry a few tears of joy or disappointment and start the process of saying goodbye to the marathon for a while.
There will be days that I’m sure I will miss it. There will also be rainy Sunday’s when I roll back over in bed with the sound of rain hitting the windows outside the bedroom and I’ll smile. Knowing that I only have a dozen or so miles to run that morning instead of 20 or 22.
They can wait until after breakfast that week while somebody else is out there training for their chance to run Boston.
I hope that they get as much out of the experience as I have since running my first qualifying time in Pittsburgh on May 2, 2009. The journey to the starting line of the 116th Boston Marathon has not been easy. There have been ups, downs, injuries, great races and crushing disappointments, but truth be told, I wouldn’t change a single thing.
On to Boston.