There was a time when running the Boston Marathon was my absolute, no questions asked, number one goal when it came to distance running.
In May of 2009 I calmly stood at the starting line of the Pittsburgh Marathon after the most aggressive and difficult training cycle I had ever completed with a couple of numbers etched in my mind. 3:19:59. 7:37.
7:37 pace would give me my qualifying time of 3:19:59. If I could lock in, navigate the hills in Pittsburgh and run strong to the finish I would find myself at the starting line of the greatest footrace on the planet that April.
In one of the top 5 race plans I have ever executed regardless of distance, I ran fearlessly to a 3:17:43 finish at 7:31 min./mile pace. I, just a novice runner who took up the sport in 2006, running in my third ever footrace at any distance and second marathon had qualified for Boston. The experience was surreal.
In just over a month we would be made aware of Dom’s illness. Cancer would come into our lives for really the first time up close and personal. Boston became much more important than just a footrace. It became part of a two marathon in 13 day adventure that changed my life forever.
In 2012 I went back to the Boston Marathon not running for Dom or against cancer or for any other “statement”. I was now a multiple marathoner having run a 3:08 in New York in 2011 and I went to Boston as the 5,280th fastest qualifier for the race. I “belonged” in Boston and was looking forward to my second attempt at slaying the dragon which is the course from Hopkinton to Boston.
Fate threw us 87 degree temperatures in 2012 and I never really got to do any racing. I decided I would just “trot it in”, live to fight another day and reload for a different marathon somewhere down the road. “Boston” had been crossed off of my list not only once, but twice and I doubted that I would ever return to Hopkinton and if I did, it would be a long time down the road.
Perhaps when I turned 50 I thought or if I was still running marathons at age 60, maybe that would be a race that would mean something to me.
Last Monday a lot of things changed for a lot of us.
“Boston” all of a sudden became something that I know in my heart that I need to do next year. I am a runner and more appropriately, I am a marathoner. And the place where a marathoner belongs next April is at the starting line of the Boston Marathon.
For the first time in a few years I do not have a “Boston time” in my back pocket when registration opens in September. Knowing the outpouring of support in the running community for the victims of the blasts last Monday and the support for the city of Boston and its iconic road race – this will be the most competitive registration process ever for Boston. Registration will open in the middle of September and the race is going to fill up faster than ever.
Due to some changes in the way the registration process works that started for the 2012 race, runners with times 15 minutes better than the qualifying standard will have an exclusive registration window to go first. Then runners with a time 10 minutes better than their qualifying standard. When that period ends, it will be runners with better than 5 minutes and then finally everyone with a qualifying time that is :01 second to 4 minutes and 59 seconds better than their BQ or Boston Qualification.
The “faster” runners with the better times will get in before the “slower” runners vs. their goal time. So the cutoff will more than likely be somewhere in the 2 minute to 4 minute range based on previous years.
As a runner who will be 46 years old next spring at Boston my Qualifying time is 3:25:00. 7:48 pace.
A 3:20:00 will more than likely get me a ticket to the party – right back to my friend 7:37 pace. The irony is not lost on me.
With a solid training schedule and good health, we should be able to comfortably run a marathon on a neutral course in neutral weather conditions in 3:05-3:10. 2:59:00 is really the target goal that we have our sights set on. But the marathon is a fickle race and a lot of unexpected things can take place. So we are going to be taking nothing for granted.
The biggest problem for us right now is the “when” not the “if”. I needed to find a fall marathon that would give me an opportunity to run my Boston time prior to registration opening. After looking long and hard at all of the races around the country, very few in the month of September presented a great chance for cool weather and a flat or fast course before September 16th.
After a lot of consideration today we registered for our next marathon. Big Cottonwood in Salt Lake City, UT.
A race quite frankly I had never heard of before last week’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. A race that was run for the first time last year. But the dramatic downhill course coupled with a 6:40 a.m. start (7:40 Austin time) and it’s point to point nature if weather conditions are optimal will allow us the opportunity to toe the line with a great chance of executing our race plan and earning our way back to Boston.
At some point on September 14th the battle is going to start. My body telling me that it is ready to quit and my mind telling me that we have more to fight for. In a strange way I am looking forward to the pain, because just like 2009 I know that I have what it takes to set all of that aside and fight tooth and nail for that Boston time.
If I run a new PR, good for me. Break 3 hours? Even better. But if things don’t set up that way for me through the half-way point and we are not clipping along at 1:28:30 and the elevation is taking a little bit of a bite out of us – not to worry. We still have a lot to fight for and come hell or high water I can honestly say that I am willing to do whatever is necessary to hang on like grim death over the final 10 kilometers to the finish.
I am going to be flying out to UT alone on Friday morning, running the race on Saturday and flying home alone again on Sunday morning shortly after sunrise. There will be no wild celebrations, no post-race breakfast parties or dinners out with friends, no hugs from Dawn and Landry at the finish line or high fives to my runner buddies here in Austin.
This is nothing more than a business trip. I am going to collect my medal, pose for the post-race picture and savor the day for a few moments. I will then immediately start thinking about April 2014 and how we are going to prepare for our greatest effort at the greatest road race in the world.
I would not miss being there for anything.