What it meant to me
I have friends that are BQ’s. To those not familiar with the acronym, BQ stands for Boston Qualifier. It is the holy grail of marathon accomplishments. I also have friends trying to BQ. It’s the center of their training, diet, running discussions. They train for a BQ. Register for a BQ-friendly race. Hire a coach to get them that BQ edge.
Through these wonderful friends – and reading a few snippets in Running Times & Runner’s World –
I had knowledge on what it would take for me to BQ: a 3:45:59 (or less) marathon.
3:45 is a fast time for running 26.2 miles. So much so, that I never set my sights on Boston at my age. (BQ times vary depending on your age. The older you are, the more time you have on the BQ clock.) It was never something I wanted so bad, that I did what my friends were doing (the training, the diet, the coach). My goals were less ambitious. It doesn’t take a lot for me to be happy at the end of a marathon. Simply finishing was great. All I ever asked of myself was to feel better throughout the race and get a personal best (PR) in time.
Sure, I dreamed of getting a BQ. I figured it would happen one day. Maybe I would have to be 50 before I got the BQ. And so that 3:45 lingered in the back of my brain, stored as knowledge and fact.
Then it happened. 3:41:23
I didn’t wake up thinking, “I want a BQ today.”
Friends were telling me “You are going to PR again!” Yet I wasn’t looking to PR either.
My goal at the 2011 Leavenworth Marathon was to simply feel great – like I did at the previous Winthrop Marathon just 3 weeks prior – and to come in under 4 hours.
It only took me 8 marathons to figure out how to run a marathon! What I am saying is, the first 7 marathons I hit the “wall” and when I finally figured out my pre-race diet and on-course nutrition (and some other minor tweaks such as training and shoes), I have not seen a “wall” since.
As I heard the crowd at the finish, I looked down at my watch to see 3:40… When I saw the crowd, the finish line, and the time on my watch and finish-line clock – 3:41 – I felt victorious! A feeling I haven’t experienced too many times in my life. A feeling like takes you to Heaven; 100x more than a “runner’s high”; a euphoria like no other!
I PR’d like my friends and husband told me I would (and like my dream spoke to me the evening prior). I won my age division like my friend Brad suspected. And I BQ’d. All unplanned. All unsuspecting.
Victory is so sweet…
There is this hill along the Boston Marathon course, which is almost a half mile climb. I haven’t been there, but I have been told by my friends who have: It’s a small hill in elevation gain, but painful because it’s between miles 20-21 when the marathon gets tough on the legs. It’s called “Heartbreak Hill” because it caused one competitor who had the lead, to end up losing the race.
I can empathize with that competitor, on what heartbreak feels like.
The day after the race, I ordered my BQ gear. By the following day, I was on the Boston Athletic Association’s website (BAA), looking where I could submit my application to run Boston. I had heard all of these things from other runners how BAA was going to change the admission process and all these new rules. It all sounded very complicated: something like, the faster time runners get in first, followed by the second fastest time runners, and so on. I thought my 3:41 – much faster than 3:45 – would secure me in 2012 admission.
Alas, a BQ doesn't necessarily mean you will be standing at the start line in Hopkinton, MA. As another blogger so lovingly tells her similar story: The results are in...It's all in a number.
As I clicked on the link to "Boston Marathon", starring back at me, "Registration for the 2012 Boston Marathon is now closed." What?! The year isn’t even over! And worse, the 2012 admission has all of these new rules, called “Rolling Admission” where there are 3 levels for being admitted (first dibs, second dibs, and the “if it’s not sold out, we’ll let you in” dibs).
Basically, as of now, to get a guaranteed spot in the Boston Marathon (next entry for 2013), I will have to run a 3:20-3:29 marathon.
For something I really didn’t strive to do – running the Boston Marathon – I now want.
Yet I don’t want to go down that path of putting all my eggs into one basket. Of setting myself up for another heartbreak (so many times crying at the end of a marathon because I didn’t get xx:xx time).
Loved ones are telling me they see a 3:30 marathon in my future. I have seen some amazing runners go from 3:32 to 3:05. Women… Women in their 40s no less… If they can do it, I can too.
BQ'g once isn't the end of the road. I can do it again. I will just let it happen organically, like it did at the 2011 Leavenworth Marathon.