This morning we wrapped up our second to last run of the training cycle. All that stands between us and the starting line in Hopkinton are four easy miles tomorrow morning, a race bag to pack, a cross-country flight and a 2-mile shake-out run along the banks of the Charles river on Sunday morning.
In 2010 the day before the Boston Marathon I left the hotel on a cool morning and jogged down to the river. I literally ran right into some of the international elite athletes who were running their easy workout before the race.
Watching them float along effortlessly at a pace well under 6 minutes per mile was humbling. They looked as if they were just out for an early morning cruise.
An effort that for me produces a pace slightly over 8 minutes per mile.
That is one of the things that makes Boston so special.
In some circles, among some runners – anyone who has qualified for the Boston marathon is an “elite” runner, whatever that term means to them.
For those of us chasing a new PR or a stretch goal like breaking 3 hours for the first time in the marathon we look at those runners in the corrals ahead of us in absolute awe and admiration. Each of them has been where we hope to go.
Standing behind us will be runners hoping to be where we are.
Behind them, even more runners who hope to be where they are.
At the back of the last wave the charity runners will stand hoping one day to run Boston as a qualifier.
It makes the race, which truly is an International event, bringing out the top distance runners from every corner of the world accessible to the masses.
I feel as if I will be running literally in the very footsteps of Ryan Hall, Meb and Mutai. 30 years ago was the famed 1982 Duel in the Sun between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley. Before them it was runners like Bill Rogers and Johnny Kelly.
On Monday we will run through the same small towns of Ashland, Framingham and Natick.
We will roar down the road past Wellesley College and the famous screech tunnel.
We will fight our way up and over the Newton Hills, past Boston College at the top of Heartbreak Hill and summon everything that we have left to race the final 5 miles to the finish line on Boylston Street.
When I stood at the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009, my second ever, I wondered if I was truly capable of running a Boston time.
I remember being a bundle of nerves and nervous energy in the starting area before the gun. I wondered if I had trained hard enough, if I was prepared enough, if I was fast enough. Did I want it badly enough?
I surprised myself that day and executed a near-perfect race plan to qualify with a 3:17:43, making my Boston time by more than 2 full minutes.
This week I am chasing another lofty goal – a sub 3:00 hour marathon with the same feelings of nervousness, humility and on some level – fear – to be completely honest.
Three years, five marathons and more than 7,000 training miles later – things haven’t really changed very much at all.
I am fighting an internal battle, trying to push myself as close to the edge of my capabilities as possible – while still running a smart, technical, disciplined race.
One that if we pull it off the way we are hoping, we will be running for more than 2 hours and 30 minutes before things really get “interesting”.
It will be those final 30 minutes, with roughly 4 miles to go that will make or break our race.
They will be painful. They will seem to stretch on forever. Every small ripple in the road whether it is up or down will seem mountainous.
But those four miles are the ones that I am most looking forward to. In New York, I let off the gas.
I was content with running a huge PR – and when I reached the hills in Central Park I just stayed steady and ran through to the finish. Guarding against pushing too hard and blowing up a mile or two from the finish line at Tavern on the Green.
This time the goal is different, the race course sets up more “fair” over the closing 4 miles than New York does with its late hills on 5th avenue and Central Park East.
It is going to be about wanting it badly enough and blocking out all of the negative thoughts and emotions for just 30 more minutes.
Gradually opening the faucet ever wider until we spill everything that we have left onto Commonwealth Avenue, Hereford Street and Boylston.
There will be plenty of time to rest once we are done. But for those final miles, we need to go to a place we’ve never been before. A place quite frankly that 5 days from race day, I’m a little afraid of.
Running Boston at one time in my life seemed as absurd as me becoming an astronaut.
The thought of a sub 3 hour marathon? Sheer lunacy.
When you think about it. That describes just about every great success story.
Time to go get ours.