On Trying for Boston

After running my first full marathon last year I knew that I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  But even telling people that makes me nervous.  I fear failing, especially publicly.  I often only do things if I’m fairly confident that I can succeed.  I went back and forth in my head about whether to try for Boston this time around or to do another marathon first before actually trying for a BQ time. In order to qualify I have to cut 33 minutes from my time.  I have some reasons to believe that I’ll be able to do this, but it’s still a really lofty goal.  I still could very easily not qualify.  When I thought about it though (and gave myself permission to try to do something that I didn’t know if I would succeed in) I remembered that many people try for years to qualify for Boston and that I would in no way be failing if I didn’t make it.  I would still have run another marathon, and likely beat my time from Athens.  I decided to just go for it and see what happens.

When my training plan was starting the doubts creeped in.  I put my long runs and my speed workouts on my calendar in pen (no going back now) and thought to myself: “There’s no way you can do this.”  “You definitely aren’t in good enough shape right now.” “Three twenty milers!  You’ve got to be kidding.  I probably can’t run more than ten miles right now.”  But then, once again, I pushed the doubts away.  I reminded myself that of course I couldn’t run a marathon well right then- for the simple reason that I hadn’t been marathon training.  Of course I wasn’t in marathon shape.  It’s okay to not be able to run twenty miles at the beginning of training.  You have to build up to running that far.  That’s why the twenty milers come at the end of the training plan.

Training for this marathon is honestly going really well so far.  I’m proud of where I am and think I have a good shot at a BQ time.   If I had written this post a few months ago I would not have been nearly as confident about my ability to qualify.  You never know what could happen between now and race day and during the race itself.   I could get injured.  I could go out too fast and die.  I could go out too conservatively and not be able to make up the time.  I could hit the wall.  Although I feel good about my chances, there’s still a lot that could go wrong.

Things I’m felling good about:

I ran my first of the three twenty milers last weekend at two minutes per mile faster than my only twenty miler last marathon.  On race day in Athens I ran a 9:27 average — about two and a half minutes faster than my twenty mile training run here in Nairobi (the hills and altitude here are no joke).  If I drop my race day time by the same amount in Chicago, I will qualify with about 20 minutes to spare.

The Athens course was half uphill (one quarter flat and one quarter downhill).  We’re talking a nine mile uphill stretch during the middle third of the marathon.  I was exhausted from staying up too late talking to my friends I hadn’t seen in six months.  I started the race sore from walking too much while sightseeing.  There are few feelings worse than the dread of being on the starting line of a marathon and realizing that your quads and knees are ALREADY sore and you haven’t even begun to run.  I still managed to run a 4:08 marathon – a great first time and good for a difficult course.  I didn’t hit a wall and felt much better than expected throughout the whole race.

It’s hard to train in Nairobi.  I’m at 5,800 feet above sea level.  The hills are long and steep.  I knew that  it would be great to try to qualify for Boston while living here.  It’s an automatic advantage.

Things I’m nervous about:

Thirty-three minutes is a LONG TIME.  I have to race over a minute per mile faster.  Yikes.  Just yikes.

Jet lag – there’s  an eight hour time difference between Nairobi and Chicago.  I’m giving myself a few days to adjust, but honestly who knows what could happen.  Sometimes I barely have any jet lag and others I feel like I got hit by a truck for a week straight.

Hitting a wall – I’ve never hit a wall before, and if I do this time around it would seriously throw off my race day plan.  I don’t have a contingency plan for this.  My race day plan is usually to go out fairly conservatively and then speed up.  I don’t bank time at the beginning.  This worked really well in Athens.  I ran a negative split between the first two halves and my last 10k was my fastest.  But if I hit a wall this throws everything off.


I know ultimately whether I qualify or not that this experience will be good for me.  I am trying to accomplish something that I don’t know if I can do.  I am stepping out of my comfort zone.  And I’m even telling people about it.




One thought on “On Trying for Boston

  1. Keep at it! I’m also training for a marathon and would like to qualify for Boston. It’s tough pushing myself to train some days, but I find it helpful to use the time to pray and listen to audiobooks about missionaries. I met your parents the other day at a Perspectives class – really neat people who are proud of the work you are doing.

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