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The Boston Marathon

Sometimes you have to rely on true grit.

Is the Boston Marathon all that it’s cracked up to be?

The medal is mediocre at best.  There isn’t even a granola bar in the goodie bag.  It’s expensive to participate.  The course is really difficult.  The downhills trash your quads just in time to need them to climb the Newton Hills.  The race begins late so you have to run in the middle of the day.  This year that meant running in 89 degrees!

Even so, you have one day of the year that every serious runner from every country wants to be in Boston, Massachusetts. Why?

You feel like you are part of a historical event with so much tradition.  This was the Boston Marathon’s 116th year.  Wow!  Back in the 1950’s, women weren’t even allowed to run and now they occupy almost half the field.

You experience an atmosphere that’s hard to describe.  Rarely are you surrounded by this many very fit people in one place.  Everyone acts like your neighbor.  It is impossible to enter an elevator and not strike up a conversation.  It feels like everyone around you wants a great big hug.  The hug means “Hey, I understand what it took to get here and how much this means to you. You did it.  I’m glad you’re here.  You belong.”

This marathon doesn’t feel like a competition but a club.  The competition is over– that was the race that gave you the golden ticket to enter the club.  Now it’s more about comaradarie and brotherhood.  As most people know, you need a qualifying time in your age group from another marathon.  They changed the rules last year and even all those who qualified didn’t get in.  They allowed the fastest in each age group register first.

The law of supply and demand has a stronghold on this event.  With more and more runners adding this to their bucket list, the demand for a slot is sky high.  So once again the BAA has changed the rules and qualifying times for next year are 5 minutes faster than this year.

It’s as close as most of us can get to being in the Olympics or Super Bowl.  Young or old, speed demon or charity runner, you are a superstar for 26.2 miles.  The crowds are lined on both sides of the road screaming and cheering and offering everything from ice to gummy bears.  This year supporters stood there with water sprays to cool us down.  Love you guys!

This was my 3rd Boston Marathon and may be my last.  My husband is shooting for 10 in a row.  I trained hard on hills and did several runs ranging from 18 to 22 miles.  One thing you can’t really train for is weather. Fortunately, we had a mild winter in Kansas.  However, that didn’t prepare me for running 26.2 miles in 89 degrees with no shade.

Sometimes you have to adjust your goals on the fly.  My goal was to attempt to re-qualify for next year.  But with the heat, I decided to run more conservatively.  Endurance events are always strategic.

Normally the real work starts at mile 20 of a marathon.  This race it started at mile 13, the halfway point.  The brutal heat set in and began to take its toll on everyone.  I have never seen so many people walking, especially in a field of talented, experienced runners.  Even the winner was several minutes off record time.

You have to know your body and listen to signals.  I have trouble with nausea in my races and the culprit has been hard to determine.  Am I dehydrated or over hydrated? Am I fueling enough or not eating the right fuel?  I knew after mile 8 I could not eat another gel or my stomach would reject it.  I knew if I didn’t fuel with some carbs, I was going to lose energy.  I picked the lesser of the two evils and didn’t ingest anything but water and salt after mile 8.  I did not have enough strength to run strong in the second half as I had burned through all my fuel early on. I was one stride away from the nausea getting the best of me AGAIN.

When you’re body is out of fuel, you’re nauseous, and you have many more miles to run in blistering heat, what do you do?  The answer is simple.  Stop or continue.  The question I kept asking myself was, “Are you moving forward?”  If the answer was “yes,” then that was all I needed to know.  For at least 10 miles, I asked myself that question over and over and over again.  Once again the importance of asking the right questions!

Adapt to your circumstances and just keep going.  My goal was to finish without getting sick on the course.  If I needed to stop to let my stomach settle a bit, that’s what I did.  I made a decision to be proud of myself if I could just gut it out.

I turned on Boylston Street after over 4 1/2 hours of agony.  Almost an hour slower than my usual time.  It didn’t matter.  I dug deep into somewhere, beneath the nausea, under my shredded muscles, and found my true grit to reach that finish line.

Why push our bodies to such extremes?

Because it reminds us that beneath our fear of never quite being good enough, it reminds us we really are.

Tomorrow my EXTREME recovery meal in the WE EAT category.

"Believe you can. Prove you did." Nike on Twitter

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Linda Glass #

    Wow, well written Susan!

    April 19, 2012
  2. Chloe Ortbals #

    I loved your last line! It is very true. This was a great post.

    April 19, 2012
  3. Donna #

    Congratulations on your run! I have forwarded your site to my niece (who may well be the same age as you) because she ran her first 5K Saturday and looking toward another run end of this month. I am certain she can find inspiration from you who has been there done that! What was it you wrote–asking yourself if you were moving forward, then keep going.

    April 23, 2012
  4. Nancy #

    Great job….I am always impressed with your will to keep going:)

    April 27, 2012

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