OK, it didn’t exactly happen quite that fast, but I do owe much of my inspiration for running to the many Boston Marathon runners I waited on while working in a Copley Square restaurant on Marathon Monday.
That day in 2009 was chaos. We ran out of just about everything in the kitchen, took forever to get people’s orders out, and were in general disarray. Customers are usually (and rightfully) miserable when this sort of stuff is going down, but not the runners. They had 26.2 miles of endorphins still coursing through their veins and smiles for days. Meanwhile their friends and families were so proud of them that nothing could crash that high either. As long as you kept their chowder and bread coming, they were all happy.
I remember thinking, “I really want to stick with this running thing, because runners are happy, nice people. Runner’s high is no joke.“
See, a couple weeks before that, I woke up one day realizing I was out of shape (thanks restaurant industry lifestyle) and in a general life rut. I went out in the cold and pounded out 2 (very slow) miles, and was sore for at least a week. The pain of that first run was enough to make me want to quit, but the living, breathing proof of runner’s high on Marathon Monday was enough to get me back into it.
I kept going that summer, getting home after long days at my internship and running 5-plus miles through the Back Bay at dusk. I had just graduated college and had no idea what life had in store for me after that 10-week internship, so running was my way of gaining control. I could very well be jobless and in credit card debt in a few weeks (yup, that happened), but in that moment I could control where my feet landed, how my breathing felt, and exactly how far I went. No job or economy could get in the way of that. It was so simple and so awesome.
Ready for a Marathon
Flash forward many summer days, the exhilaration of accomplishing my first half marathon and the awful reality of hitting the wall at my second one, several years, two more jobs, and many more miles. I was now working at RunKeeper and was really starting to want to do this crazy full marathon thing. Then the 2013 Boston Marathon happened and signing up for my first full marathon was one of my many ways of healing for the trauma of what happened to our city on that day.
I ran the Newport Marathon and came about 14 minutes shy of qualifying for Boston. Not bad for a first race on a very hilly course (especially from the girl who was put into the average group on her high school track team), so I spent days researching fast marathons and signed up for the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine, in May 2014. Maybe, just maybe I could have a shot at actually qualifying for the 2015 Boston Marathon. I survived a very cold winter with the treadmill, extra Pilates classes and strength training, and lots of layers. As it got closer, more and more friends and co-workers would ask me if I thought I was going to qualify with this one. My answer: “If all the stars aligned, maybe I’d have a shot.”
Qualifying Race Day
Marathon morning came. I had my tried-and-true pre-race breakfast of a banana, oatmeal, apple juice and just a bit of coffee. I loaded up my Spibelt with like 7 packs of Sportbeans, my trusted fuel source. Before I knew it the gun blasted and we were off. Sugarloaf is a small but serious race, so the people there were going pretty fast and I found myself following their lead. The RunKeeper audio cues confirmed I was pushing the pace. I thought, “I’m either going to hit the wall very soon or this could actually be a BQ.” Ten miles in I still felt great, so it increasingly felt like it could be the latter. I kept pumping myself with Sportbeans and Gatorade and hoped for the best
Of course I knew my mind was going to go to very dark places during those last 6 miles of the marathon, when you question everything you believe in, so I had made plans ahead of time to ensure I had company for that last stretch. My husband hopped in towards the end to keep me company,and was awesome at keeping the morale high, even when every bit of my legs wanted to quit.
When I got to the 26 mile, point I felt like my heart was going to explode. I passed my friends who ran the 15k race and came back to cheer me, and saw that final turn to the finish line and put that last bit of gas into my legs. The clock said 3:33:38, which I knew put me in the official qualifying window.
The agony of qualifying for the Boston Marathon is that you don’t really know if you’re in until September, when all of the people who technically qualify sign up and then the BAA does its magic running the numbers thing to actually get to capacity. Those two weeks between “entering” and hearing the official word felt like torture, but all washed away when that email from the BAA came saying I was accepted.
I’m officially running the 2015 Boston Marathon. I still have to pinch myself when I say that.
Of course I’m going to be training in a cold winter, again. Of course work is busy and life is busy and I still have to get through Heartbreak Hill. But I don’t care. I’m going to have fun and take it easy and it’s going to be great, because I’m freaking running the 2015 Boston Marathon.
The lesson of the story here is simple: you runner’s high has a much bigger impact on those around you than you think it does. Keep spreading the running cheer, people! [tweet this]
And thanks 2009 Boston Marathon runners, wherever you are.