Saturday, November 29, 2014

I'm Shipping Up to Boston!!

It was so funny to me how the day before the Philly Marathon while I was searching for the exact words to capture how I felt I scrolled through my Instagram account and there it was in a photo from Dolvett of Biggest Loser fame. But funnier still when I was looking for a way to put into words everything I was feeling yesterday on Thanksgiving and wouldn't you know it, there it was once again in Dolvett's Instagram account.

Each of those four things speak into my life in a special way this week, but especially the dreams that have turned into reality. How could I not be thankful in the wake of such a big week and with so many wonderful people surrounding me. And so, even though this week brings powerfully strong and sometimes sad memories of Joe, it is also full now of my grateful heart and the story of how I achieved my goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
It was around 3am the "night" before the Philadelphia Marathon when I awoke from the incredibly vivid dream that I missed running a Boston qualifying time by 16 seconds. Sleep immediately went from difficult to impossible. Thankfully, I had followed the racer's rule of getting more than enough sleep "the night before the night before a big race" so only getting a couple of hours leading in to the big one was not going to interfere with the task at hand.

By the time I crossed the finish line at 10:44am, I had firmly put the nightmare to bed and mailed in a more amazing time than even I thought possible. I will never forget that day and the way I felt from the start line to the finish line. 

Running the Boston Marathon is not just an athletic goal for me. Since the moment I completed my first half marathon a year and a half ago, I have had my eye on the Boston start line and not only because it is the ultimate runner bucket list item. I haven't talked about this more personal part of my Journey to BQ yet because the emotion wrapped up in it is strong. Stronger than crossing the finish line of my first big race. Stronger than running the Colon Cancer Alliance races. Stronger even than running NYC for the American Cancer Society in memory of Joe. I think part of me was afraid that if I talked about the strong personal connection before I qualified, I would somehow jinx myself.

Boston was where Joe and I spent our honeymoon. We made lots of great memories then and during other travels to the city. From Fenway to whale watching, Paul Revere's house to Boston Commons - we did it all and loved every minute. We went on a duck tour, walked around Harvard, and checked out almost every exhibit at the Museum of Science. We spent as much time as we could walking everywhere and took the T where we couldn't walk. Our spot to stay was the Omni Parker House. We spent so much time playing the Megatouch game at the bar around the block from our hotel that for our first Christmas as a married couple Joe enlisted his friend Sam to lug a full size Megatouch game into the house as my gift. We ate well, drank plenty, and always got our fill of history, baseball, and Boston Cream Pie. One of the last things that Joe and I did together before he died was look back through our honeymoon photo album. Those moments from Boston are special in a way that I will never be able to describe.

View from the Observation Deck of the Prudential Center

On a tour of Fenway Park

On the whale watching tour

We ate Boston Cream Pie from the hotel bar at least once a day.

Boston Public Garden

So, as I have trained and prepared and worked my ass off to qualify for Boston all of these places and moments have been with me. They will be a special part of running the marathon when April 18, 2016 finally gets here and I will be incredibly thankful for all the happiness I carry with me in my travels to Massachusetts. The 3 years since Joe died have allowed me to more fully embrace the times we shared together as happy memories instead of things that make me constantly sad. Each of those memories is an important part of my life and I can recognize now how they have shaped me and even at this point pushed me to achieve great things.

The weight of all of this came crashing in on me as I waited in the green start corral on Sunday morning. The sun was starting to rise and I had just taken off my outer layer of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. I was ready to start the big race - my quest to qualify for Boston. The tears started welling up in my eyes and I couldn't stop them. Excited. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Mortified. Confident. I knew that I was about to run the race of my life. I could feel that this was my moment. I couldn't wait to get moving. A guy standing near my noticed my tears and asked if I was alright. I was more than alright. I knew that I was on the verge of a great life moment and I couldn't have loved it any more.

It was time to take 18 weeks of training and dreaming and make it all happen.

My race strategy was designed around not repeating the same mistakes I had made in the NJ Marathon in April. I knew that I needed to start out at a conservative pace through at least the first 10k and not make an attempt to pick up my pace faster than 8 minutes per mile until I reached at least 20-22 miles. I also knew that I needed to be generous with my hydration (I carried my water bottle) and with eating my Gu (nutrition). In the NJ Marathon I hit the wall hard and I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again.

So, when I caught sight of the 3:35 pace group a little ways ahead of me at around the 4 mile point I resolved to hold my pace until the 10k and then pull up and stick with them for the long haul. It was the best decision I could have made. In the NJ Marathon, I lost the 3:35 pace group when I had to stop off to use the bathroom at the half marathon mark and continued with the 3:40 pace group only until somewhere between mile 15 and 16 when I slowed at a water stop and never caught back up. The wall I hit was 60% mental and 40% physical. This time around I felt like my training had fixed all of that and prepared me to power past "the wall" and hang tough through the whole 26.2.

My training prepared me for a BQ. The pace group did the rest to power me past a squeaker to an almost 7-minute qualifying time. Jim, the leader of the 3:35 pace group was great. He talked our group of runners through the hills and broke the marathon down into chunks allowing the difficult latter portions to fly by with relative ease. And just when I was starting to feel the burn, we reached mile 19 where my parents were standing with a big "GO ANNE - BQ 2DAY!" sign.

It takes a special person to be there for you on a marathon course (or to hang out with your son while you run one) and I am especially grateful to all of those who have braved the logistics to cheer for me on the sidelines of a big race over the last year and a half. Each race has gotten me closer and closer to this moment. There was nothing sweeter along this course than seeing my mom and dad, knowing I was on pace to achieve my goal, and giving my mom a huge high five. I felt on top of the world.
A high five for my Mom!

My parents positioned themselves near the beer.
I took a pass, maybe next marathon.
I saw my parents again right around mile 21 and then it was a matter of toughing it out to the finish line. I wondered if I would be able to pull away from the pace group or if I should just stick with them through the end. I felt good, but had no idea how I would handle the last 5.2 miles. I tried to pick up my pace a bit around mile 23 but ended up falling back with the pace group. I think that was mostly mental. I did finally pull away at mile 24 (it helped seeing my fellow RVRR club members cheering right around then) and kept pushing through to the finish line. Those last two miles felt amazing as I thought through everything that had gotten me to that point and the reality that I was about to achieve what I had not thought possible just a year and a half ago.

I crossed that finish line sweaty, exhausted, and achy but thrilled beyond belief. Victorious. And with visions of Boston.


And I made sure to find Jim after he crossed the line with the rest of the pace group to let him know that he had helped me to achieve my Boston qualifying time. I love marathon finish lines - so much emotion and relief - and for me this time around everything about it was fabulous. I just could not stop smiling.

My official time for the Philadelphia Marathon is 3:33:22 (8:08/mile), just under a 22-minute PR from the NJ Marathon seven months ago and almost 7 minutes faster than the under 3:40:00 I needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It was also an almost identical pace to the HALF marathon I raced in Miami in March. I am amazed by how far I have come in such a short time.

Here are the rest of my numbers:
Women 35-39: 50/740
All Women: 322/4,630
Overall: 1,781/10,361

So, on the third Monday in April 2016, I will be running 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. What I do in the meantime is still being figured out, but I promise it will keep being epic. I can't wait.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Malinda! I have a feeling that you will be there with me in 2016...all the best to you in your training. You are so close to your BQ!

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