Last Saturday I had the privilege of not only witnessing one of my best friends achieve a HUGE goal, but being a part of it.
Char has qualified for The Boston Marathon TWICE. But she has never run The Boston Marathon.
The first time she qualified was in 2009 at Albany with a 3:40:xx. She was training for The Goofy Challenge and decided to wait to register for Boston until she was sure she would be healthy through her increased mileage. Of course this was back when Boston had never filled before January. Well, in 2009 (for the ’10 race), we saw the first signs of Boston’s increasing popularity…as it filled nearly 2 months earlier than it ever had – in early December. Char missed registration by a week. She was devastated.
But true to her character, she didn’t give up on her Boston dream. We trained together for Kiawah Marathon in December 2010 and once again, on a tough, rainy day she BQ’d with a 3:40:xx. Due to Boston filling in only 8 hours that year, a few months later the BAA announced that the registration process in 2011 (for 2012) would be cascaded down from fastest to slowest. 3:37:xx was the cut-off and once again, Char didn’t get to run Boston.
Fast forward 2 years, an Ironman and lots of convincing by yours truly and Char was convinced that she could run a 3:34:59. She trained for the Charleston Marathon on January 19th and ran a PR of 3:37:26. Of course she was happy with the PR, but she still had her sights on Boston.
We contemplated other races, discussed long-term fatigue, talked about utilizing base fitness and ultimately decided that she would try again at Albany….6 weeks later.
Because I know I would want to know, here is what her recovery/build-up plan looked like:
- Week 1: A few easy 3-4 milers, long run of 6 miles
- Week 2: Short, intense speed work (4×800’s), long run of 12 miles
- Week 3: 2 Easy runs + 15-miler that included a 10-mile race (avg. just under MGP)
- Week 4: 21-miler @ MGP + 15 seconds (per Run Less, Run Faster)
- Week 5: 8-mile long run @ MGP (total of only 18 miles this week)
- Marathon week: 2 runs: 5-miler w/ 4×400, 3-miles @ MGP
She also cross-trained with lots of easy spinning on the trainer, a few outdoor rides and swimming 1-2 times/week.
Up until 10 p.m. on the Thursday night before the marathon, Char still wasn’t sure if she would run it. She had been sick and missed miles during week 4, her IT-band was acting up in week 5 and she just wasn’t sure if it was worth the trip. I had told her from the beginning that if she made the trip, I would be there. I even flip-flopped my training schedule so that I would have MGP miles in my long run for that weekend. After lots of debating and weather stalking, she registered 2 hours before the on-line cut-off and we made the 5-hour drive to Albany on Friday afternoon.
We had lots of fun chatting on the drive, vegging out with pasta take-out in our hotel room and watching trash TV that our husbands hate. It was a perfect girls’ night.
Albany is a small race (about 2000 runners) so we were easily able to get a parking spot within eye shot of the start line. It was cold but we stayed warm in the car until about 10 minutes before the start then we walked up so Char could find the 3:35 pace group and get ready to go.
The race started right on time at 7 a.m. and I waited just over an hour until I started running. I ran a nice easy 6 miles over to mile 16, then waited a short 5ish minutes before the 3:35 pace group came through, right on time. I hopped in and fell into pace with Char, as planned. (For those of you who will look down on my rule-breaking, just note that I didn’t take any water or other supplies from the course! I carried my own!)
At mile-16 Char was feeling strong. The group had been steady and she had about a 30-second cushion. As we chatted with the runners around us, we slowly found ourselves pulling away from the pace group. The miles ticked off pretty quickly and before we knew it, we hit mile 20. At that point, we were in a small group with a first-time marathoner (!!), an older (super annoying) guy and another really nice girl who BQ’d at Rehoboth in December. I sort of became the pacer for this little group as we chugged away at mile 21, then 22. Shortly before 23, the nice girl pulled away, the guy dropped out and the super sweet first-timer was a few steps behind us.
Char made it to 23 still feeling pretty strong. She was talking, her form looked good and I just kept repeating to her that it was “Her Day”. We had built up about a 45-second cushion by then and I was confident that she would make it.
Around 24.5, the small rolling hills and wind started to take its toll on Char. I kept right on pace and staying a few steps in front of her, not only so she could tuck in behind me, but also so she could just focus on following me and not worry about anything else. I knew that she knew that she would make it. But I also knew that she was hurting pretty bad.
We just focused on the next turn and making it to the next mile marker. When we finally hit mile 25, the official clock showed that she had 11-minutes to run 1.2 miles and at last, she was able to relax. She smiled big and I told her that this was her victory lap. The look on her face, knowing that she had done it, was priceless. Finally when we hit mile-26, she picked up the pace and sprinted it in, and I yelled to the crowds as we ran in that “She is going to Boston!”. This got tons of loud cheers and support as she entered the finishers’ chute.
I peeled off at the chute and watched her cross the finish line at 3:34:06.
We were both in tears and gave each other the biggest, sweatiest hug ever. I am not sure if I have ever been more proud of another individual in my entire life. She ran a perfect, negative split race by a few seconds and qualified for Boston for the THIRD time!
I have never been more inspired to achieve that goal in my life. I am so excited for Eugene!