This time LAST year - Boston

Monday, April 20, 2009

Non-runners may not realize this, but today is a very special day. Today is the day of the 113th running of the Boston Marathon.

On this day LAST year, April 21st*, 2008, I ran the 112th Boston Marathon. I didn't know it at the time, but I think qualifying for and running Boston was one of the things that lead me to embark on this big adventure.

I started running in the spring of 2003, and in the winter of 2004 I decided to try and run a Half Marathon. I took a clinic at the Running Room, and dutifully showed up every week to run with the 2:00 hour pace group and the listen to the evening's clinic topic. Usually the talk was about some really specific running thing - shoes or hydration or stretching or something like that - but I remember one night we talked about goals. The leader of the clinic asked people to share their running goals with the rest of the group. I don't really remember what the other people said, but I remember what I heard in my head when he asked the question. At that time I hadn't even completed the half marathon, but the world that popped into my head when I thought about running goals was this:


The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon, and is probably the best known running event in the world. For many runners, it has a special significance. Most marathons are open to anyone who pays the entry fee, but Boston is different. You have to qualify to run Boston, meaning you have to run another marathon in a specific time, which varies according to your age and gender. Because entry is restricted, qualifying for Boston becomes a life goal for many runners. And for me, even though I'd never done a marathon, the idea of running Boston was a powerful one, and it really got its hooks into me.

The lure of Boston was enough to keep me training hard and running marathons for all the years following that fateful clinic night at the Running Room. My first full marathon was in Regina, in the fall of 2004. I finished that one in 4:34:53. The next summer I ran a 4:12:45. Then 4:06:30, then 3:54:59. I had a rough time running in the spring and summer of 2007, but on December 2, 2007, I ran the Las Vegas Marathon and beat my previous personal best, finishing in a time of 3:41:09. That was enough to qualify for Boston with 4 minutes and 50 seconds to spare.

So one year ago, on April 21st, 2008, I toed the line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts and ran with about 25,000 other people for 26.2 miles to the most famous finish line in marathoning, on Boylston street in downtown Boston. And it was GREAT. Actually, the race itself was really really hard, but the whole Boston Marathon experience was totally freaking awesome! It was something I'd worked towards for so long that I'd really built it up in my head, and I'm happy to report that it exceeded even my expectations. (So much so, that I wrote a book about it, but that's another story.)

And then I came home, having achieved a really big goal, and with a sort of an emptiness starting where that goal had been. It wasn't long after that when I first had the idea for this big trip, and all the life-changing stuff that goes along with it. So in a way, those steps I took after crossing the finish line on Boylston Street were the first steps in my next big journey. In fact, while I was poking around through my photos to find ones to add to this post, one leapt out at me as being particularly prescient. At the trade show in Boston last year, they had a large wall covered in little blue disks on which runners were meant to write inspiring or funny or meaningful messages about why they run. Here's what I put on mine:

It seems unbelievable that it was only a year ago that I was in Boston running the marathon, and the idea of a trip like this hadn't even occurred to me. I can't imagine what my life will be like a year from now, on the day of the 114th running of the Boston Marathon. Maybe I'll be watching the race from a hostel in Hanoi.

And to any of my running buddies who are toiling through that tough, hilly course today - run hard, have fun, and savour the day. You earned it.

*The actual date of last year's race was April 21st. This year it's on April 20th, since the race is traditionally held on Patriot's Day, the 3rd Monday in April.

** And thanks very much to Phonella for taking that amazing picture of my Boston Marathon medal.


Gillian said...

Wow! What an accomplishment! And no wonder you needed such a big new goal to replace that one. This next year is going to be just as exciting and successful - you've already proven you can achieve such a goal. 42 more days...

FLF said...

Pam, a late comment from a runner who wants to say Thanks!! Boston was the experience of a lifetime... and two pieces of info/advice from you made a huge difference for me... 1. It's hilly from the start: therefore I didn't get psyched out by the course. 2. Core workouts are a must: I stuck with them (largely) all winter. I have you to thank in large part for running a qualifying time for next year... in Boston! Now if I can stick with the core workouts.... good luck and have fun in Fargo.

Post a Comment