Tag Archives: Boston

Mr. Boston

This weekend exactly a year ago.

3 weeks until Boston.

I had a 22 miler as my last long run, and I was feeling burnt out on my routes. I simply could not stand to have to think about where I was going. I needed to run, and zone out, and not have to make any decisions. I chose a straightforward out and back on the Burke-Gilman trail, and I set out early to avoid the crowds and cyclists and general weekend chaos. It was a beautiful and mild day: perfectly chilly, perfectly sunny, noticeably windy, but nothing was stopping anyone who runs in Seattle from getting out on a day so perfect and rain-free in March.

I came to a stop at one of the trail crossings, and a tall older man was stopped. He asked what I was training for and I told him Boston. He smiled slowly, bent forward a little, and showed me his hat. Boston 2010. He continued to run with me for the next 8 miles and told me everything I needed to know but couldn’t read about “the race of my life”. He had decided not to go back in 2011, but had been there every year for quite some time and was very worried about qualifying again. Splitting his time between Seattle and Arizona (Phoenix?) he was even spending more time down South to get more consistent and quality training in to make it for 2012.

That run and that day gp down as one of the most memorable and perfect runs that I can remember. I was running in the low 8 minute/mile pace, and it was effortless for the whole 22 miles. It was easier than walking. It felt like I was flying, like my feet weren’t touching the ground. I remember finishing the run and wondering what I had done differently to feel so incredible. I chalked it up to finally reaping the benefits or hard work. The onset of PF hadn’t become more than soreness (the next day it would), my neuroma hadn’t gotten too irritated (two days later it would), and my stress reactions would wait until post-Boston to really trouble me.

Looking back, I peaked too early for Boston. On this exact day a year ago, with 3 weeks to go until race day. Even without injury, I wouldn’t have done my best because I pushed myself too hard too early. I truly don’t believe in ‘if’s’, but if I did and Boston were that day I would have killed it.

I really hope my running friend is headed back this year. I hope he made it.

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100-Year-Old Finishes Marathon

I followed the plan this weekend and worked hard at what I was supposed to do. I heeded directions and I take pride in that because I know that the plan is smarter than I am. However, while I was trotting along, on Sunday, October 16, Fauja Singh finished the Toronto Marathon in under 8 hours becoming the oldest person to finish a 26.2 mile run.

What an inspiration. You see? Anything is possible. You just have to want it enough to do what it takes to get there. This 100-year-old man had always dreamed of completing a marathon. So he did.

The CBC.ca article that covers Fauja’s story describes that crowd control barricades had been removed, sponsor banners torn down, and I’d assume that the throngs of people had ceased by the time he was getting his finisher’s medal. But of course his friends and family (and the media) were still there to watch him demolish his original goal of 9 hours. What a feat. What an amazing human being.

His story reminds me of the most memorable moment of my Boston Marathon experience, the nugget that sums up the spirit of this madness. I have forgotten the physical pain, both from injury and just running 26.2 miles, that passed through my body that day. I know it happened, but I can’t feel it anymore. I have also forgotten the intensity of the battle to keep on left, right, left, right-ing. I know it was hard, and I know it made me stronger. But it makes me teary eyed and introspective to remember seeing the very last man at Boston 2011 cross the finish line. I will never forget it and when I’m having a rough day that man is one of the things that keeps me going.

Rewind.

When I finished that race we went back to the hotel. I slithered into the bath, took a long while to get my legs to support my body again, limped to bed, took a nap, took a long while to get my body vertical again, and then decided that I had it in me to attempt a celebratory dinner and drinks nearby. We crossed over the course and what had been a mad scene just hours earlier was quiet and dim. Only a few volunteers remained with truck to pack up the last of the supplies.

As we walked down Boylston, and I relived my own magic, we heard a volunteer say, “Here comes the last guy. Yep, last one.” We stopped and turned to watch a middle-aged fit-looking man make the last turn onto the street that would become the finisher’s chute, just .25 mi to go. I felt pained watching him as he hobbled back and forth on nearly locked legs, hunched over. But he was running. And he was going to finish. We started cheering and other pedestrians began to holler, too. Our cheers didn’t pressure him; I didn’t even see acknowledgement cross his face, probably because he didn’t have energy to share a smile simultaneous to the task at hand. Security followed tightly behind, and he continued to run down Boylston at a pace slower than an average walk until he got where he wanted to go. He had finished off his 26.2 miles and we witnessed the quiet and humble end to his long day.

When he crossed the line he simply slowed to a stop, thanked the volunteers who had saved him a medal and guarded his checked bag, and walked away. No family, no friends, no fanfare. I felt sad for him to have not been part of the scene of earlier hours, but in my heart I know he didn’t care. He either started knowing that it would be a tough road or made a decision part way through to make it happen no matter the cost. As he went on in his day I’m sure he stopped to reassess the plan many times, and he knew what he was coming home to. But no matter he wanted it bad enough to finish what he had started. And clearly, he finished for his own pride.

And now I’m practically in tears. Really.

To me, that moment illustrates more beautifully than words can the spirit of what this is all about. You see, it is possible. You invest yourself enough to, without second thought, do what it takes to get yourself where you’d like to go. Maybe it’s a long road, but what you experience along the way is just as worth it as the finish line.

Hats off to you, Fauja and Mr. Boston Finisher. Thanks for the reminder.

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217 Days

There are 217 days left, not until my race but until the 2012 Boston Marathon. Tomorrow is day 1 of registration (in about 10 hours to be exact), and the first one since new qualification and registration standards have been put in place by the BAA. I actually agree with the new regulations – the fastest athletes deserve to be there the most, and the new standards aren’t by any means impossible – but today is a bittersweet day for me because I won’t be going to Boston this year. In fact, I didn’t even try.

A year ago today I BQ’d, for the first time and in the pouring sideways rain and wind. That day was a highlight of my athletic life, and one I think about not infrequently. I trained so hard and it all paid off, and my family was there to support me and cheer me to the finish despite the inclement weather. The pre-race details aren’t that memorable for me; I was nervous I’m sure but not in a memorable way, the race seemed organized, people were friendly, but nothing notable.

The run was much more memorable. The out and back course also included a 1/2 marathon race, and we all started together, so right out of the gate I felt behind. People sprinting past left and right built the pressure up inside me (go! go! go!), so I had to really rein it in; I was in it for the long haul and they, most likely, were not. The crowd thinned at the 1/2 turnaround I immediately felt like a new runner: totally in the game. Not even rain and wind could slow me down! Hello, cows! Hello, farmers! Hello, family! Hello, cyclists! Hello, more cows! This was a rural course…

I was having the best run of my life, until mile 20, at which point without warning I felt like I might not be able to take a single step further. The wind was suddenly fierce, and rather than keeping me cool the rain just started weighing me down. I ran this way for a mile or two, and watched my pace plummet. I tried to talk myself into being okay if I missed the BQ, then I’d just try again, right? I didn’t get very far into convincing when a girl who had been gaining on me slowly passed, and I knew she would be my motivation. She was the carrot that kicked me into gear; she kept checking her Garmin and if I stayed close by I’d have a chance. We rounded the track at the finish with a straight away left and 3:39 on the clock and I was too tired/excited/soaking wet/in disbelief to do anything but stand there when I crossed that line. I was going to Boston, and confirmed it a couple weeks later (registration was later last year) by waking up at 5:45am to make sure I got my spot.

The whole experience, training, racing, registering and getting there was such a thrill, and I feel disappointed that I won’t be part of it this year. Boston won’t be what keeps me training through the dark winter months, and I don’t get to participate in a race that’s more than about that day but rather what it took to get there. Granted, I have my sights set on a different prize this year, but the Boston Club is one I’m very proud of and it’s hard to have enough foresight to just settle on the fact that I’m sure I’ll be back, someday.

Morning’s registration means that this year is over for me, but I wish everyone registering the best of luck in registering, training and racing in the next 217 days. Hopefully I’ll see you there in 2013!

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