A note from Salty: Sassafras is toeing the line in her spring goal marathon this morning! All us Salty Bloggers wish her luck in her quest for that BQ she deserves! Goooooooooo Sassy!
I haven’t talked about it in great detail here on Salty Running, but I’m running a marathon this weekend. It was – is – supposed to be part of my ultimate goal for slowly lowering my times and qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Yet, after Monday, that plan doesn’t feel nearly as important as it did just a week ago. Or does it matter even more? I am not really sure.
So much has been said about the traditions and the charms of the Boston Marathon. You’ve heard it all before, and rather than be cliche, I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say that I have dreamed of one day qualifying for Boston for a great deal of my running life, and all of my marathoning days. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would be toeing the line in Hopkinton.
My first “BQ attempt” was in Cleveland in 2011. I put that in quotes because I had no business shooting for a Boston Qualifying time. With a previous best of 4:09 when I needed to run a 3:40, a very, very erratic training cycle thanks to a winter of illness and icy precipitation, I knew in my heart before I crossed over that first timing mat that it wasn’t going to happen. I’d even told a few people my revised goal. But when I ran a 4:35:xx, over an hour slower than my qualifying time, I felt like Beantown had never been further away.
I had had moments of dreaming of Boston when I was running the Columbus Marathon in 2010. I was way ahead of pace (silly Sassy!), banking time, and thinking to myself, “Everyone is going to be so surprised when they see my BQ!”. As it turned out, I was not only ahead of pace, but ahead of myself as well. I did run a PR that day – the 4:09 mentioned above.
But now? Now Boston feels like it’s actually within the realm of possibility.
Back in November, I clocked a 13 minute PR at the Monumental Marathon, to run my first sub-4 marathon – 3:56, to be precise. I decided then that maybe Boylston Street was closer than I thought. My plan was to run a 3:45 marathon this spring, and then a 3:40 in the fall. (Thanks to countless hours obsessing over this very topic, I know that based on the qualifying window and my age in April 2015, I will be granted an extra 5 minutes this fall.)
So… now what? I’ve put in the training, certainly. I’m very happy with how my training cycle has gone, even if I haven’t been as diligent about the yoga as I should have been. I have made huge strides in cutting out processed foods, and have had no chocolate or alcohol whatsoever for the past month (even on my freaking birthday), and only enough caffeine so as not to put those around me in danger of bodily harm.
I’m ready. I can do this, says my brain. But what about my heart?
The events that unfolded at Monday’s Boston Marathon are so horrific by any measure, but they have resonated so deeply with runners like us. To attack people when they are at their most vulnerable – completing a marathon, celebrating their loved ones’ accomplishments or volunteering their time… it’s just unthinkable. I know that it can (and has) happened anywhere, but the fact of it being Boston, which is sacred in its own way, makes it that much worse.
All week, I have had such mixed emotions about running a marathon this weekend. Of course Boston is weighing heavily on our collective hearts and minds, both as a nation and as a running community. But getting emails from your race director detailing the number of law enforcement personnel and National Guard members who will be on hand takes it to another level and makes things pretty surreal.
I’ve had this feeling I can’t shake all week that it’s so silly, so trivial, so frivolous to be worrying about a race. Who cares what my time is or what shirt I wear or what color I paint my nails? I mean, who will remember these things besides me? I just kept thinking, “It’s only a race.” I even thought that maybe it didn’t matter if I qualified for Boston. Again, it’s just a race. What’s a race at the end of the day when people’s lives have been forever changed?
Finally, as I write this with less than 48 hours to go, I am starting to regain some of my mojo. It may be just a race, but it’s my race. And Boston is more than a race – it’s a dream. Not just for me, but for so many others, too. Why let go of my dreams because of this outrageous attack?
I found inspiration earlier today in reading the words of President Obama as he visited Boston: “We may be temporarily knocked off our feet, but we will pick ourselves up. We will keep going. We will finish the race.”
So I’ll be running with blue and yellow ribbons in my hair and on my bib, holding those in Boston close to my heart, and hoping to see a 3:45 on that finish line clock.