Monday, November 28, 2016

BQ or Bust...Spoiler Alert, I Chose BUST!

Sometimes it's more about the finish line than the finish time.  Unfortunately it has taken me several years and a lot of heartbreak to truly understand that.  It's so easy to get caught up in the competition of races and PR chasing that you lose sight of why you even bother lacing up.  My unsuccessful three year (and 5 race) journey to qualify for the Boston Marathon has been a true testament of that.  Most of the races during that time period, I crossed the finish line with my head down, grabbed my medal and sulked all the way back to my car and the drive home.

Simply put, I was a big brat whenever I didn't BQ.  And thanks to my "brattiness," I missed out on so much.  I missed out on the beauty and awesomeness these courses had to offer.  I missed out on the spirit of the runners around me and how exciting they all were for each other, including me.  I missed out on the fun after parties and the bonds that could've been formed with my fellow runners.  And most importantly, I missed out on the appreciation and respect for the full marathon distance I had just accomplished.  After all, despite no BQ, I was still a freaking marathoner.  But that just wasn't enough.

7 weeks ago I ran the Chicago Marathon.  I put my heart and soul into training during the hot summer months here in Florida.  Early mornings, weekend long runs, the speed work, the strength training, all of it was in hopes to finally secure my BQ.  It was a tough summer and I went into the race uncertain I would reach my goal, but I was going to give it my absolute all.  Which is what I did, but I still came up a few minutes short.  Close but still not enough, so it was on to the next one...or so I thought.

I had planned to run the Space Coast Marathon less than two months after Chicago as a Race Pacer, so I kept my mileage up after I got back.  When I learned I was on the reserve list for the half instead of the full, I decided to go ahead and sign up for it and race it.  I had all the training miles in the bank, so many of my friends would be there (including a bunch of Moms Run This Town mamas) and plus I would receive and extra medal for running it three years in a row.  So why not right!?!
Moms Run This Town pre-race
I took a very non strenuous and stress free approach to "training" for Space Coast, in hopes it would have me prepared but relaxed for race day.  Though I had the miles, I had not specifically trained for a particular time, so I wasn't sure what race day would have in store for me.  Since I feel goals are uber important for anything, I knew I needed to make some for this race.  Normally I would have up to 4 goals and I would try to stick to that game plan, in fact, I originally did that for Space Coast.  But during the week leading up to the race, my body and mind were just burnt out from all the miles and pressure over the past several months.  So I decided to take a different approach for this one...BQ or BUST.

I figured if I was feeling it, I would go balls to the wall and try to get that BQ.  But if at any point I realized it just wasn't in my cards, I would let go of any time goal and have myself a good ole time out on that course.  I was ready to give it my all but also to prepared to accept the fact that it just may not happen.  So it was all or nothing, and by "nothing" I simply meant time didn't matter as long as I was enjoying myself.

The first 9 miles of the race, I was able to follow my original plan.  I was hanging out somewhere between the 3:25 and 3:30 pace and feeling pretty good.  The sun was just starting to come up, the weather was nice and cool and my legs, though sluggish, where holding pretty strong.  Around mile 10, however, my legs started to feel incredibly heavy and they started to cramp up a bit.  I had a nice "cushion" with my time, so I was able to pull back a bit and still hang onto a pace that would guarantee me a BQ.
Starting to "not feel it" any more
The slower pace did absolutely nothing for my legs.  They began to feel worse and worse and I still had a whole lot of miles ahead of me.  The sun was up by this point and it was starting to get pretty warm and I knew it was only to get hotter and hotter.  I am very familiar with this course, I know how daunting that second half is and I could feel myself starting to check out.  So I went ahead and made the decision around mile 14 to just go with my BUST goal and it was the best decision I think I have ever made during a race.

At this point my head phones came out and I started making friends along the way.  I was high-fiving anyone and everyone coming through on the other side of the course (it's an out and back with the half marathoners too).  So many of my runner friends were out there and for once I got to see their smiling faces because I wasn't staring down at the ground in agony.  I got to run a bit with several friends who were pushing to PR that day (which they did whoop whoop), friends who were coming back from injuries, and even strangers who became friends.

Best of all, I got to run the last several miles and cross the finish line with a fellow Moms Run This Town mama, Cristina, who was having a rough day and could use the company to get through.  Though she thanked me so much for my support, it was her that totally made my marathon experience yesterday worthwhile.  I had wanted so bad to have a fun race, one that I not only could enjoy that day, but look back on and be proud of.  Her allowing me to be a part of her journey during that last 10k, supporting her and pushing her to finish is exactly what I needed.  It forced me to let go of any pressure I had on myself at that point and be able to help a fellow runner.  We laughed, we cried, we got to know each other along the way and we even stopped to take some liquor shots and some selfies out there.  Crossing the finish line with Cristina was one of the coolest things I have ever gotten to do at a race and I am so grateful for that whole experience.
Cristina and I at mile 23ish (after our vodka and whiskey shots)
So unlike many of my other "failed" BQ attempts, yesterday I proudly crossed that finish line with my head held high next to my new friend.  I didn't just snatch my medal and walk to my car, rather I let them hang it on my neck, then I grabbed me a beer and skipped on over to the after party.  I reunited with many of my friends I saw along the course and I proudly told them my time and experience out there. I got to know some of my "friends" I only see briefly at races and made a bunch of new ones.  It was probably close to two hours before I made my way back to my car and I was filled with nothing but pride and excitement from the days events.
This story would have had a significantly different ending if the second half of the race went as well as the first, as far as running goes.  I would have FINALLY, after 5 attempts, been able to claim my spot in the Boston Marathon, and I could only imagine how I would be feeling today if I had made that happen.  But it didn't and I have absolutely NO regrets.  There will be other races and other chances to qualify.  Through all of my previous attempts, I learned so much about myself as an athlete.  But at yesterday's race, I learned so much about myself as a person...and for that, Space Coast was all I could have hoped for and more!


  1. Yay!! Bravo to you! I try to have fun along the race routes, and just don't get the "uptight-ness" of some runners. I just ran Route 66 a week ago...and had hip/groin pain almost the entire (hilly) route. My finish time was nowhere close to what I'd hoped, and I felt so much frustration in my effort to simply just keep going because I was so uncomfortable. But, thankfully, there was plenty of crowd support...and that was crucial to helping me stay in the game. Despite my discomfort, I'm glad I was able to enjoy the experience of that race. 26.2 miles is a crazy distance to run/walk/hobble... no matter how long it may take you to cross the finish line.

  2. Thank you, and yes you said it best, the "uptight-ness" can get old! Sorry to hear about your issues while running your marathon, but it sounds like you didn't let it stop you from finishing and having a great attitude about it! Congrats!