Where it all started
Just over three years ago, Katie and I ran our first half marathon. We signed up with some friends for fun, but little did I know that I was about to be captured by a sport that would take me on such an incredible journey over the next three years. Mere hours after completing that first half marathon, I made a leap that I never thought I would - I signed up for the 2013 Ottawa Marathon. 42 kilometres. That’s crazy, right? Maybe I was dehydrated and delusional. Maybe I was still on my runner’s high from the race. But maybe I just wanted to challenge myself. That first half marathon seemed near impossible at first. But as we trained together, we got stronger. We got faster. We could run further. It’s truly an incredible feeling. You put in the work and you get results. It’s very motivating. That’s part of why I love running so much. It challenges you like nothing else. It’s you against yourself. Against the weather. Against time. Against those early mornings when you just don’t want to crawl out of bed. But you do it anyway, because you’ve committed to it.
My First Marathon
In May of 2013 I completed my first marathon. 3 hours, 33 minutes. Oh man, it hurt. It hurt so much. Physically, emotionally - did I mention physically? Despite completing this incredible life achievement with my family and friends cheering me on, I couldn’t help but feeling slightly dissatisfied with my result. Sure, I was proud of myself. 42 kilometres is no joke. But by about kilometre 30 it became very apparent to me that hadn’t trained properly for my first marathon. It was a harsh, painful reality. I spent those final 12 kilometres in agony, pissed off for putting myself through this misery. But I toughed it out, and finished the race.
Qualifying for Boston
I quickly decided that I was going to do it again. I was going to do it right this time. I needed some additional motivation. Of course I was dead set on training properly and beating my time of 3:33. But I needed something more. That’s when I first decided that I wanted to run the Boston Marathon someday. It was kind of an arbitrary, lofty goal at the time. But the more I thought about it, the more perfect the goal became for what I was trying to achieve. In order to run Boston, you need to run a qualifying time at an approved race, Ottawa being one of them. You can’t just sign up and run Boston. Based on my age category, I would need to run the marathon in under 3 hours and 5 minutes. That was about 30 minutes faster than I had run in 2013. A big task, but one that I was up to.
Despite stepping up my training game and my new found confidence, I fell only 8 seconds short of my goal running the 2014 Ottawa Marathon in 3 hours 5 minutes and 7 seconds. Ouch. That one hurt. It was really a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand I was let down. Disappointed. Bewildered that I could come so close to reaching that goal, but couldn’t find those extra 8 seconds. My tank was literally empty. As I crossed the finish line, my heart sunk and my body felt like it was about to crumble. On the other hand, I had just run a marathon in 3 hours and 5 minutes. 28 minutes faster than I had a year earlier. That in itself was a great accomplishment.
Instead of wallowing in my own disappointment, I decided to celebrate the achievement and to use this near miss as more motivation. To me, this was just another step towards Boston. Not long after the race I decided to continue my training through the summer and to take another crack at Boston in October at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Third Time’s the Charm
Well, with marathon training, there isn’t much luck. You gotta make your own luck. It’s all about dedication, commitment, and grit. I had learned several lessons in my first two marathons. I knew where I had gone wrong, and where I needed to focus my efforts. I had developed new strategies. I had a chip on my shoulder. I also knew that if I wanted to qualify for Boston, I couldn’t cut it so close. I set my sights on running a sub 3 hour marathon, which would increase my chances of getting accepted into Boston.
I trained harder, faster, longer. I attacked tougher hills. I upped my speed. I worked on strength training. I was confident and a the right amount of angry. And it paid off. Finally, I achieved what I had set out to do a few years earlier. I ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2:59:17. A sub 3 hour and Boston qualifying marathon. Man, that felt good.
Now that I had run a Boston qualifying time, I still had to apply to Boston. Just because you have a qualifying time, it doesn’t mean you are in. You need to use that time to apply and get accepted. I can remember the moment I applied like it was yesterday. Katie and I were in our flat in Paris in the midst of our 2 week trip around France. We had just spent the morning touring the Louvre, and here I was on my iPad nervously entering my 2:59 time, hoping - praying - that I would be accepted. And then it happened. Two days later I received the email.
Pretty sweet, isn’t it? It’s official. I am one of 25,000 some odd runners from around the world that will be running the Boston Marathon in April 2016. That’s pretty cool.
So now what? Well, now I gotta start training. All winter. Yup, my 20 week training schedule begins now. I can’t wait to kick things off. I am so excited, anxious, nervous, and confident. It really is a blend of emotions.
My road to Boston starts here. I hope you’ll join me for the journey.