This past April was my birthday and one of the few advantages of aging is that every 5 years you enter a new age qualification bracket for entry into the Boston Marathon. Suffice it to say, I have been wanting to qualify for Boston since forever. I missed qualifying by a mere 15 seconds 10 years ago in 2008 at the Eugene marathon with a time of 3:36:14. And, in fat, I actually qualified (again at Eugene) in 2013 with a time of 3:39:23. However, there was a huge upsurge of qualifiers that year (2013 was the year the bombing occurred, so many people were inspired to qualify for the 2014 event) and when I was ready to register in September, the Boston Marathon Association reduced the qualifying times for each age bracket by over a minute so I no longer qualified.
After a few more attempts to qualify and repeated bouts of IT band syndrome, I discovered trail running and the fact that my IT band was much happier when I was running my long runs on trails. Fast forward to the time of my birthday this year, and I decided to give the marathon another go and searched for a marathon to squeeze in between the Mendocino Coast 50K in April and the White River 50 Mile Endurance Run in July. The North Olympic Discovery Marathon (NODM) scheduled for June 3rd fit the bill.
So…I started training for the marathon a few days after Mendocino, following my coach David’s training plan to the “t”. And David’s suggested race plan was pretty simple: Go out in 8:45-50 first half. Quicken to <=8:40 pace for 2nd half (or perhaps post-mile 16).
The race started at 7:30 AM and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace, letting my friend Laura go ahead. My first mile was 8:49.9; right on pace. The 4 hour pacer passed me before the first mile marker, which was a bit disconcerting (since my goal was to run a 3:50 race), but I told myself “run my race; not anyone else’s” and eventually, I caught and passed his pace group at mile 3. They must have been “banking” miles.
I also caught up to Laura briefly at the top of a hill, but then let her go again after a brief chat. The miles ticked off and I continued to feel good except for some right foot pain (oddly, not the foot that usually caused me trouble) that bothered me between miles 8 and 18 or so. Around mile 12, I came up to Suzanna, who had started at 6:00 AM and was walking the marathon. It was so nice to run into her (literally); we kissed, checked in with each other, and I was off, wishing each other a great race.
The course was about 80% asphalt and about 20% concrete, but with my foot bothering me, I took every chance to run on the grass or dirt to the right of the path. This seemed to help a bit. I wore a Nathan hydration vest, which obviated the need to stop at aid stations but I did make one quick stop to pee sometime after the half way point.
After the first half, there were around 7 or 8 stream crossings which meant a steep descent to the stream followed by a steep climb back up. These stream crossings were tough, especially one of the later ones where I had to walk up the hill because of its steepness.
Around mile 21, the course headed down a hill to the water front and remained flat the rest of the race. This was great, except for the fact that the wind had picked up, meaning that for the last 5 miles we were headed straight into a head wind. Around mile 22, I caught up to Laura, tapping her on the shoulder to say hi. I thought we would run the rest of the race together, but as soon as I caught up to her, she dropped right behind me. Funny thing, I never looked back, and assumed that she drifted back as I pressed hard during those last few windy miles.
It took everything in me to push harder and harder to the finish and I finally crossed in a respectable 3:50:42, more than 4 minutes under my Boston qualifying time!
I soon discovered that Laura had not faded after all. In fact, Laura finished just 5 seconds behind me.
After some food and drink and a quick shower (our hotel was right across from the finish), I came out to cheer for Suzanna’s triumphant arrival at the finish. I was so proud of her.
Suzanna, Laura, and I all achieved our goals! Plus, Laura finished 1st in her age/gender group and I finished 3rd in my age/gender group. What a day.