I think it’s the .2 that’s going to do me in.
While training for my first marathon I’ve learned that no matter how far you’re running, the last mile is indeed the longest mile.
Premature celebration is to blame. When you’re about 100 yards into the 1760 in that last mile your mind starts saying, “We did it!” while in truth you have those 1660 yards to go. When the time comes for the full marathon, I’m afraid I’m going to be done right before I’m finished.
I became a runner on April 15 of last year, when a couple of disgruntled brothers decided it would be a good idea to bomb the finish line of the Boston marathon. My friends who were running that day experienced the terror of being the target of a completely random, and deadly, act. First they were scared, then they were pissed. I got pissed right along with them, and decided the best act of defiance would be to run the marathon myself.
But getting to the start line of the Boston Marathon as a competitor is so much more difficult than getting to the finish line. I didn’t tell anyone when I started running, because first I wanted to see if I could actually do it. I found my body’s weak spots and despite punishing them a dozen or so miles a week, it seemed like I’d be able to hold together.
I ran a half-marathon last summer and survived, so I figured I’d go for Boston. The problem was thousands of other people had the same idea. To participate in the Boston Marathon you first have to run another marathon or two or three until you meet the time requirements for your age. As a 45-year-old woman that time is 3 hours and 50 minutes, which means I have to run each mile in roughly 8 and a half minutes. Runners have to qualify for Boston before registration opens in September.
Without enough time to qualify, I looked into being a charity runner. You raise about $4,000 for a Boston-based charity and run on their team. I figured there would be plenty of spots open for someone willing to run 26.2 miles and come up with $4,000 for the pleasure. I thought wrong. All the charities I applied to were full. Boston Childrens Hospital had more than 800 applicants for its 130 member team.
I wouldn’t be running Boston this year, but I found another marathon to run. The Colorado Marathon, held May 4, winds down the Poudre Canyon and finishes in downtown Fort Collins. It also happens to be a Boston qualifier.
A training program for a marathon starts about 18 weeks before the race.
You run two short runs a week (2-4 miles), a medium run (6 to 8) and a long run (10 to 20 miles) on the weekend. I’m on week 12 of my training and have run about 230 miles. I have about 170 miles to go. I’ve run through snow, frozen slush, rain puddles and mud. I’ve run in blustery storms, under twinkly stars and in brilliant sunshine. I’ve run up and down mountains, on country roads, on bike paths and through neighborhoods. On a couple of below zero days I ran on the “mill” at the gym.
Some of those miles have gone quickly and I’ve felt like a rock star runner that could go forever. Some of those miles have been brutal, 13 through the slush on a day when the temperature never got above 13 comes to mind. Some of those miles have been filled with the beauty that nature saves for those who go slowy. Many of those miles have been tedious.
I’ve thought of Boston on all of my runs. Experiencing at least a portion of what those runners did to get that start line makes me angry for those who didn’t get to finish and sad for those who had the experience tarnished by evil.
But from that evil came the inspiration for thousands of us to become runners–runners dreaming of finish lines instead of fearing them.