My Experience Running the Marathon and The Journey Getting There
Last week I finally completed one of my biggest life goals; running the Boston Marathon. It wasn’t an easy road to get there and when I was there, had a bit of bad luck with my health. It took 4 years and 3 marathons with many setbacks along the way. But this made running it all the more worthwhile. The feeling of crossing that finish line never felt so emotional and powerful as it did last Monday. It took time and dedication to get where I finally did along with some of major disappointments and discouragements along the way.
Here’s a recap of my long road to Boston –
The Failed Attempts
The first marathon I ever ran was the Toronto Marathon in May of 2013 when I was 24 years old. I had caught a really bad cold that weekend and was still recovering when I ran. I had been following the Boston Marathon years prior and knew that I wanted to run it one day — I was going for a Boston qualifier for my first race. I did my first marathon in 3:36:06, a disappointing 1:06 over the qualifying time for Boston in my age and gender category (3:35).
The next year I decided that I would give it another try and trained a bit harder — I clocked in at 58 seconds (3:34) under the qualifying time and was super excited that I now qualified and would be running Boston next year!!! Then September came around, one of the lower points of my life when I was struggling moving my passion project (now Oneiric Hockey) forward and trying to figure my next career move. I was in between jobs and the only thing that was keeping me motivated and feeling good was the anticipation of running in the 2015 Boston Marathon.
I registered online and was ecstatic to receive my entry notification. I saw the firstname.lastname@example.org email come in with subject line: Your 2015 Boston Marathon Application Submission and couldn’t wait to open it! This is what it read….
Yes, you read correctly. I was not accepted because of the volume of applications. But the worst part is that it was only by 2 SECONDS!! Being devastated was an understatement. I’m not going to lie…I cried a lot that night. Running marathons have been the hardest thing I’ve ever done — both physically and mentally and the thought of doing another one made me quiver. Each time I ran, I told myself, “There’s no way in hell I’m ever doing this again”. Yet something inside of me tells me to keep going. I decided to take the next year off running marathons and just do shorter distances instead. I would then run a different race to try and qualify for the third time.
My Qualifying Run
In May 2016, I chose to run the Ottawa Marathon — it was listed as one of the top Boston qualifying races on the BAA website and it was a fairly flat course (unlike Toronto). My friend Stef also was planning on running it as well so it kept me accountable to register! A few days before the race, there were heat wave warnings and the possibility of the marathon being cancelled. The organization deemed it safe and spectators and volunteers setup hoses, sprinklers and handed out cold sponges throughout the course to help cool the runners. It definitely helped. My splits for the first half we’re between 4’26–4’33 and pretty even and for there remaining half (4’36–4’52), but still under that 5:00’ mark which I needed to qualify. I felt strong most of the run and came in with over 20 minutes under my qualifying time at 3:14:29. I knew this time for sure I would be accepted into Boston….finally! 🙂
Running the Boston Marathon
This was a very surreal experience. Unfortunately I caught a cold the day I arrived on Friday and felt pretty horrible up until Sunday. I was really stressed that my body would be weak for Monday’s race. After gallons of lemon water and a lot of rest, I was feeling nearly 100% for race day! The experience was like nothing I’ve ever done before. Over 26,000 runners from all over the world who all dreamed of running the marathon — the energy was infectious. I was in Wave 2, Corral 2 that started at 10:25am. The latest starting marathon I’ve ever run. The weather was pretty hot hovering around 18–20 degrees and I was running during the hottest part of the day. The course was tough. A lot tougher then I thought. I’m used to Toronto’s flat terrain while training for long runs. The course started downhill and I was warned not to go too hard at the beginning or my legs would suffer later at the famous Four Newton Hills (at around 26km) when the 8km stretch of rolling hills would begin. I tried to pace myself, but no matter what, my legs just weren’t used to the hills. For the first run ever, I could feel my legs getting sore around 15k so I knew I was in trouble. Mentally, I just kept going not stopping to walk once. I celebrated each mile and knew as soon as I reached the half way point, it was downhill from there (unfortunately, not literally!). Prior to running, I read a great article in the Canadian Running Magazine that gave me detailed race tips and information about specific areas of the course. I had the major landmarks in the back of my head. After I hit the famous Citigo sign (indicating 1 mile to go), I could see that the crowds were bigger and louder. I knew as soon as I turned the corner I would be running the final and last stretch of the race. When I saw the finish line in the near distance, I felt a few tears roll down my face as I knew in just moments I would be completing the Boston Marathon and crossing off a very important goal that I’ve kept in sight for 4 years! I ended the race at 3:33:31, which was way over the goal I set at 3:10, but wasn’t disappointed because the course itself and the weather conditions made it really difficult. I pushed myself as best I could and in the end, was ecstatic to have completed it.
Most people just see the end result, but don’t see behind the scenes. The work, persistence, disappointments, struggles that it takes to achieve something worthwhile. Overall it took me 4 years from when I first set a life goal of running Boston. I finally made it and it was indeed, a very emotional experience. I think everyone should run a marathon in their lifetime — no matter how fast or slow it’s completed. The atmosphere, energy, and personal battles pushed me in ways I couldn’t even imagine. It made me an overall better person in all areas of my life.
Now onto the next challenge 🙂