For many long distance runners, including myself, the ultimate accomplishment is to qualify for and race the Boston Marathon. Boston is the oldest, continuously running marathon in the U.S. and requires participants to post a qualifying time at a previous marathon (the only exception is raising a lot of money and running for charity). The qualifying times vary by gender and age category. My qualifying time is 3 hours and 40 minutes. I’ve been quietly chipping away at this goal for a long time.
On April 15, 2013, the Boston Marathon was tragically interrupted when two bombs exploded killing three people and injuring more than 260. This horrific event hit really close to home and made me so angry. Most of the people hurt that day were not runners, but the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, spouses and friends that assembled along the finishers’ chute to bear witness and cheer like crazy as their loved ones raced the final quarter mile of the 26.2 mile race. These people gave up their day to support somebody else’s dream and applaud their huge accomplishment. Knowing that my family has stood in that very spot at many other races made me sad, scared and angry. How could anybody target and harm those people and taint such a special moment?
From that point on getting to Boston took on even greater significance. I still want to prove my mettle as a long distance runner, but I also want to show my solidarity with the running community. Terrorists will not taint this amazing race or destroy the sport that I love. So this year I set out with new vigor to meet my qualifying time. But it would require a lot of work and would not be easy. My PR was 3:52:55 set at the NYC marathon in 2010. But I was not alone! My sister and coach, Marcy, also wanted to qualify and show support for the Boston Marathon. We would travel this long, grueling road together.
The Plan of Attack
The first step was to identify the racing venue that would optimize our chances of meeting the qualifying time. We settled on our “home” course of Philadelphia. We’ve both run this race before and it also meant we didn’t have to travel. For both reasons we thought Philly would be the best course to try for a big PR. Several weeks before the race I met with Coach Marcy and we settled on a pacing strategy that we were both “comfortable” with and would get us to our goal time. We would break the race into two parts. The first 13.1 we would try to average a pace of 8:30. The second half we would have to pick it up to an average of 8:20.