I missed the mark by 38 seconds. That mark being the cutoff for the 2016 Boston Marathon registration. Over the last 10 months I’ve run three BQ times – squeaker time, but BQ’s nonetheless. My fastest time put me 1:50 below the BQ time for my age and gender requirement of 3:55:00. I felt pretty good about that time – not great, but good. And like the thousands of others who sat back and watched the first week of Boston Marathon registration see a significant increase of faster registrants, as that first week ended my heart quickly sank with the realization that my time, most likely, would not be fast enough. When week two registration began I went through the motions and even gave myself permission to feel good about that for a few minutes. But then I almost immediately began consoling myself on what I felt was inevitable; that my time would not be fast enough.
My biggest fear was that I would be off by just a few seconds; it would have driven me crazy thinking about the tiny things that I could have done to come in a second or two faster. It’s easy to find 1-2 seconds when you look back at a marathon.
But in the end I was a good 38 seconds below the mark. At Santa Rosa, where I clocked in my fastest time (3:53:10), I definitely did not have an extra 38 seconds in the tank. On paper I ran the race I trained for. I’d aimed all summer for 3:52; if you look at my Garmin you’ll see that I actually ran 26.35 miles in 3:53:10, which I take to mean that at the actual 26.2 mile mark according to my Garmin I was just under 3:52. In many ways it was a perfectly executed race. My goal was simply not fast enough.
On the other hand, I could look back at Mountains2Beach in May (3:53:36) where I fell apart over the last 2 miles; I overheated and had no water, and my pace crumbled. My overall pace for that race was 8:52; however the last two miles were run at 9:39 and 9:40. I can definitely find the BQ cushion that would have gotten me into next year’s race if I could have maintained just a 9:00 pace over those last two miles.
In the time that has lapsed since “The Rejection” (that’s what I’m calling it) I was, fortunately, distracted by another event, Ragnar Trail Vail Lake, which consumed my time, energy, thoughts and emotions for the week up to and during the event. And was I ever grateful for that distraction. After training for and running 3 fast marathons between June 2014 and August 2015, I was burnt out on marathon ANYTHING. Racing. Training. Conversations. Whatever.
But now that the dust from Ragnar has settled (literally), and as my sore legs slowly recover, my thoughts about running another marathon have returned. I realize, when I think about it, that I’m not done trying to make it to Boston. A couple of friends suggested that I wait until I age up (that window would begin after next year’s registration). My reaction? Fuck that! No way!
No, I don’t want to do that to myself because it feels like, I don’t know, like a cop out. Qualifying at age 48-49 to run at age 50? I know, on paper it looks like the logical thing to do if my goal, above all, is to run Boston. But first, lets just assume that the BAA does not increase their qualifying standards for 2018, an assumption which, I feel, is questionable.
The fact is, I came so damn close this past year. If I am going to qualify, I want to qualify in my current age band, as difficult or impossible as it may be to do.
So that is the epiphany I woke up to over the last 48 hours. I’m going to rest for a few months, and then I’m getting back to work. And I’m not going to aim for 3:55, or 3:52. I’m aiming squarely for…wait for it…3:45.
I know, I know, that would be an 8 minute drop over my current fastest. That’s right.
However, knowing how I think about things, I cannot help but wonder if by focusing so hard on 3:52, I never gave myself a chance to run faster. On my training runs if I was supposed to run at an 8:50 pace, even if I felt good enough to run 8:45, I kept at 8:50. My brain sees a number on a training plan and it locks in. So now I’m going to lock in at something much more uncomfortable.
More details to follow…