Everyone who has qualified for Boston has a corresponding story, however long or short it may be. Here is mine.
My earliest memory of the Boston Marathon is from 2002. I competed in Science Olympiad in middle school, and my school went to Nationals every year (and frequently won). As part of the National meet, there was a swap meet the night before competition, and all the teams brought items to swap that were representative of their state. The most popular items were inflatable animals and Mardi Gras beads, from what I remember. Anyway, in 2002 the meet was in Delaware, and I swapped everything I had for an official Boston Marathon shirt. I was tired of collecting pointless trinkets, and I knew the Boston Marathon was something special. The shirt is an adult large, and I was all of 14 years old, but I wore it plenty, and you can bet I’ll be sleeping in it next Sunday night.
After running two marathons for completion, I decided to try to qualify for Boston at the National Marathon in DC in March of 2010, during my senior year of college. My training was interrupted by a few life events, but I trained as well as I could’ve at the time. My friend Maggie traveled up with me and ran the half (she will be running Boston this year as well!) I ended up walking portions of the last few miles and just remember it feeling so far and hot and boring (the last few miles were not in the most attractive part of the DC area). I finished in 3:48:39, when I needed 3:40 to qualify. I was somewhat disappointed but mostly just tired.
After graduation, I was living at home while looking for a job. I set my sights on the Spinx Run Fest marathon in Greenville, SC at the end of October. It was close to home, a relatively easy course, and was a week after Boston registration would open for 2011. I figured I’d qualify and go register right away and be fine. Training went well, and I was definitely spoiled by living at home. I was working an internship in Atlanta, so I’d wake up, go to work, come home, run and have a home-cooked meal waiting for me when I was ready for it. Also, my hometown has over 100 miles of golf cart paths, so I never struggled to figure out where to run. A few weeks before the marathon, I moved to DC to start my first real job.
Even though I half-heartedly tried not to find out, I knew Boston 2011 filled up in a day, faster than it ever had before. So no matter what happened in my marathon, I wouldn’t be running Boston in 2011.
The weekend of the race, my mom picked me up from the Atlanta airport and we drove up to Greenville. The weather was perfect, and I just knew I was there with one goal in mind. I felt great from the beginning and even teared up at mile 14 because I felt so good and knew I’d qualify. Some guy passed me around mile 24 as I was slowing down, and I can’t remember what he said except something about how I was going to qualify, but it was somehow exactly what I needed to hear at the time. My finish time was 3:36:40, but it was a bit hollow – Boston 2012 seemed so far away.
In April of 2011, I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon in November, hoping to requalify there if needed. In the meantime, the BAA changed the registration procedures for the 2012 race, so that people who qualified by more than 20 minutes registered first, then those who qualified by 15 minutes, and so on. I had qualified by less than 5 minutes, so I was in the last group and unsure I’d get in. I was pretty nervous and read far too many armchair analyses of what the cut-off point might be. In the end, I was accepted (the cut-off time ended up being those who had qualified by a minute and 14 seconds) and all seemed right in the world. Plus I thought I was about to have a great race in Philly.
Long story short, Philly did not go as planned – I did not requalify and I developed some sort of mystery tendonitis that took months to a) diagnose and b) heal. On top of that, as I was training for Boston by pool-running (yes, 3 hours in a pool is just as boring as it sounds, but there was usually plenty going on between the kiddie pool and the former collegiate swimmers to entertain me), the pool was closed one weekend so I did my “long run” on an elliptical, which I rarely use. Part way through, my right knee started to hurt really bad but I didn’t think too much of it, I just cut my run from 3 hours to 2. It soon became apparent I had messed up my IT band, but I at least was smart enough to realize that Boston wasn’t going to happen for me in 2012. I considered not going to Boston that weekend, but I was planning to stay with one of my best friends, Lexi, so I figured I would just go anyway and get my number and shirt.
The Saturday of marathon weekend I was walking around Cambridge with Lexi when a few people called and texted me to say that BAA had just announced that they were letting people defer due to the expected high temperature for marathon Monday as long as they picked up their number but didn’t start the race. As unlucky as the past year and a half had been, this announcement made up for a lot of it. I’m so glad I didn’t choose to avoid Boston that weekend.
I’m guessing I have one of the oldest qualifying times, since mine is from October 30, 2010, and it wouldn’t be valid under the new rules. I still work to keep both the tendonitis and IT band in check, but I’ve trained well for the past few months, and I’m going to enjoy Boston 2013!