We have a complicated relationship, me and Boston.
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail for marathon runners, something to aspire to. I’ve always thought it would be great to qualify, and maybe I’d be able to when I got old enough and my qualifying time got slow enough. (Times are adjusted by age group, so older runners have slower qualifying times.) But for most of the years I’ve been running marathons, it was out of reach.
My goal for the past several years has been to run a sub-four hour marathon.
My marathon time had been gradually getting faster for the past several years. I was getting close to four hours, but not close enough. I had a few good races where I just couldn’t keep up the pace in the last few miles and couldn’t get under the four-hour mark.
Last fall, I tried again at the Indianapolis Marathon. I’d trained well, the weather was ideal. Maybe this was the race I’d break four hours. (It’s a long story, so bear with me.)
Things didn’t go quite as planned on race morning. I rode with some friends from our hotels to the start — only about five miles away — but we got into a terrible traffic jam of other runners also trying to get to the race. We were late, and I started running 16 minutes after the gun had gone off.
Not to worry. I had a timing chip. It would record my actual running time, even though I started late.
I was calm, I ran an even pace, I didn’t fade at the end, and I broke four hours with nearly two minutes to spare. I was ecstatic to meet my goal. And I knew it also meant I qualified for Boston.
Before I left for home, I checked the results posted in the post-race area. They recorded my time at 4:14. I talked with the race officials and told them my time was actually 3:58. They told me they took up the chip mat for the marathon start about 10 minutes after the race began, and replaced it with a different chip mat for the 5K race, which started a half-hour later. They didn’t have my (late) start time recorded.
Crushed, I spent the drive home composing an e-mail in my head, explaining what happened. But I knew it wouldn’t make any difference. They had only my word that I had run faster.
Later that evening, I turned on my cell phone before heading out to dinner. On it was a voice mail from a friend, congratulating me on my finish and on qualifying for Boston. I quickly checked the race website and there is was — my finish time of 3:58! The 5K chip mat must have picked up my start, and so I had my official time, recorded accurately.
Breaking four hours was my goal, and I was thrilled. But once I qualified, I got really excited about the prospect of running Boston.
I planned to run it this past spring. I thought last fall that I had some time to get registered. I wasn’t going to wait too long, but I thought I had until the end of November. The previous year it filled in January.
The race filled in mid-November last year, and I wasn’t able to run this spring.
I was pretty disappointed, but I knew my qualifying time was good for 2011 as well. At least, I thought it was.
Then a friend told me it was good for 18 months. And my qualifying race was 18 months and 1 day before the 2011 Boston. I missed qualifying for 2011 by one day!
I tried to requalify at the Illinois Marathon this past spring. It was humid, and I didn’t come close. I thought I’d try again this fall.
Then, in June, I took a look at the Boston website. (I know. You’d think I would have done this long ago.) It said any race after Sept. 20, 2009, was a qualifier for Boston 2011. I was back in!
And I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again with waiting to register. On Monday morning, Oct. 18, I was at my computer shortly after registration opened. The online form wasn’t working. I asked my husband to try. It didn’t work for him either, at first. After about 20 tries, he got me registered.
And it’s a good thing. The race filled in only eight hours.
My road to Boston so far has involved a lot of luck — getting an accurate time recorded in my qualifying race, getting registered quickly. I got a card in the mail this week saying my qualifying time was confirmed, and my registration was accepted.
Boston, I’ll see you in April.