Sep 10th 2016 was a great day. After months and months of preparation, a laser focused training plan, several course preview runs and race-day simulations, precision nutrition / weight management and tremendous race-day support from friends and family, I achieved a long awaited dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon at the Chicagoland Last Chance BQ.2 Marathon in Batavia,IL. I improved my personal best marathon time by nearly 20 minutes. I was on top of the world!
However, that world came crashing down on Sep 28th when I found out that my time was not fast enough for Boston 2017. Due to field size limitations and too many applications, only the fastest qualifiers are accepted into the Boston Marathon. My time was 34 seconds slower than the last person accepted in my age group (Male 45-49 - The qualifying time is 3:25:00, my time was 3:23:25 and the last accepted entry was 3:22:51).
It was a devastating blow. As I mulled through the disappointing days that followed, one thing I always reminded myself was to not take any “rash decisions”. Ever conservative in my approach, I always put being healthy ahead of any other running goal. Yes, I would try to BQ again, but I needed to be methodical about it again. It took months and months of preparation last time. So what would my chances be of doing better on an ad-hoc spur of the moment fall race with limited training. And on top of that, my fall schedule was filled with other races, pacing commitments and vacations. Where was I going to fit another fall marathon anyway?
But….you know,….the heart wants what the heart wants.
After spectating at the Chicago Marathon on Oct 9th and seeing awesome inspiring performances, I couldn’t take it anymore. I just needed to run another marathon for myself (Naperville Marathon was in 2 weeks, but it was a pacing commitment). And so on Oct 13th I changed my registration at the Monumental Indianapolis Marathon on Nov 5th from the Half Marathon to the Full Marathon. It was my last race of the year. I had 3 weeks to prepare. In that time, I devolved though race different strategies always doubting what I could really do in a marathon on such short notice,.
Pacing the Naperville Marathon on Oct 23rd beat me up more than I thought. Unused to running slow and long, my legs took forever to recover. It was only 2 weeks to Indy and I tried as much to rest and recover, greatly reducing my miles in those 2 weeks. Going into the night before race day at Indy, my hamstrings were still hurting. It dulled my confidence of having a good race. On the morning of the race, the pain was almost gone and I felt relieved, somewhat.
The start of the race was 8:00 AM. It was still pretty dark. My race plan called for 7:55 through 2/3 miles and then 7:40s through a hill at mile 16 where I had allowed myself to slow to 7:45s for a couple of miles, then back to 7:40 through mile 20 and then speed up to mid 7:30s for the last 10K. I positioned myself between the 3:20 and 3:25 pacer with the thought of keeping 3:20 pacer in sight and not allowing the 3:25 pacer to get past me.
As the race started and I crossed the start, the first mile was a total mess. A lot of slow runners (even though it was supposed to be a fast corral) and I didn’t want to weave past people in the beginning…so I ended up with an 8:12 mile. I was way behind already. However, the running lanes appeared and I was able to speed up to planned pace. But by mile 3, the slow hurting of my hamstrings returned again. My heart just sank…It was not going to happen today. The doubts just filled my head and I was wondering at what point the pain would become unbearable and I would need to slow down.
Luckily, a fellow runner came up alongside me and started chitchatting and it distracted me from my worries for the time being. The miles kept going by with friendly banter. The half / full split arrived and I could still see in the distance about 30 to 40 seconds ahead, the 3:20 pacer with his sign held up high. I dared not look back for the 3:25 pacer. Better that I not know where exactly he is. The 13.1 timing mat came up. Planned - 1:41:01, Actual - 1:40:40. I made it half way and was on plan…but could I do the second half on plan as well? The doubts stayed in my head.
As we made the turn from the north end of the course and headed back south, the sun was out and blazing down. I then braced myself for the upcoming hill at mile 16... Again it was a good distraction. Mile 16 came and went and the hill turned out to be no big deal. With just 10 miles to go, I finally began to feel confident. Maybe, just maybe I could pull this off.
At mile 18, a welcome orange station arrived and I stuffed a couple of refreshing orange slices down my throat. The sun was blazing down and I started to douse and drink at the water stations. The 30K timing mat came up. Planned - 2:23:23, Actual - 2:23:24. Still on target. A nice downhill at the end of mile 19 had me clock my fastest mile of the day. The announcer at mile 20 was screaming away “You are not running a 5K or a Half-Marathon today, You are running a MARATHON! And the racing starts here”.
My race-plan had a faster last 10k but it was not going to happen with the hurting and the sun. I was just happy to maintain my pace and finish about 1 minute behind plan which was good enough considering everything. The miles kept reeling by and as I made the right turn into the mile 24 marker, the half marathoners were merging back onto the course, most of them walkers by this time. This stretch was slowly getting more crowded and noisy. The cowbells and screams of support were awesome to hear. There was some welcome shade in the second half of mile 26 as we were back in downtown Indy. The noise was deafening. As I made the final 3 turns into the finish, I sprinted to the best of my ability. The finish line loomed close and the giant clock was ticking but the digits were just a haze.
And then it was over! My watch showed 3:22:10…Official time 3:22:00 flat. I couldn’t believe I did that! Racing a marathon on short notice, I managed to clock a decent qualifying time for Boston 2018. Now a full 3 minutes under the qualifying standard, it may be good enough, but I have more shots at improving it in the qualifying period, which goes until Sep 2017. I can relax and train over the winter for a faster time.
The heart wants what the heart wants!
A Mid 40s runner from the mid-west.