Not today. Today, I celebrate achieving a goal that I honestly thought was a dream, not a goal with a tangible finish line.
Yesterday, I qualified for the Boston Marathon.
If you're a runner, that's kind of a holy grail. The original - the oldest marathon in America, run since 1897. The race is so popular, you can't just register and send in your money. You can't even put your name in for a lottery. You have to qualify. As in, run a certain time (or faster) for your age group, and then you get the privilege of submitting your name for registration. And, hopefully, your qualifying time is fast enough to snag one of the available spots for the race.
But let's not focus on the details - let's talk about how I JUST QUALIFIED FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON!!!
This past weekend was one of the most personally fulfilling of my life. It all started months ago with my dad sending me an email... his company had a corporate team running the Houston Marathon to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House, and I was invited to join them. BOOM. Just like that - I'm signed up for the race! (Thanks, Daddy!!)
I start to think about training, and initially set a goal of a sub-4:00 marathon, which was crazy talk. I mean, my PR (personal record) at that point was 4:46 and some change. Who takes 46 minutes off their time in less than a year??? (Leading question... almost nobody...)
So I start to talk about my plan at work. Constantly. Incessantly. And most likely, annoyingly. Lucky for me, there are like-minded running enthusiasts in my office, and one of them scoffed at my sub-4:00 goal. Sub-4:00? he says. What's that? Why don't you shoot to qualify for Boston?
** insert Amanda's gape-mouthed, astonished stare HERE **
Now THAT is crazy talk. My age group (women 35-39) has to run a 3:40:00 or faster time. That comes out to an 8:23 average per mile pace, which yours truly had never demonstrated in any race of any distance (not counting a couple of Army PT tests, but come on, that was YEARS ago).
But the seed was planted. And I had the bug. Bad. BQ? Really? Me? Now the question was, how...
Enter awesome West Point classmate whose sister is a professional runner. They put their heads together, come up with a training plan. I enroll multiple running friends to help me along the way. I tell pretty much anyone and everyone who would listen that I was trying to BQ. Nothing like the specter of public humiliation to motivate you when you don't feel like dragging yourself out of bed for a 5AM run in 17 degree weather.
Fast forward four months, and it's marathon weekend. Best Husband Ever packs up Enthusiastically Supportive Kids and we all head down to Houston. I'll save most of the details of race weekend and race day (well, technically, both race days... did I mention I may be a little over-the-top with the running?) for tomorrow's blog post. But the most important detail wasn't a detail at all; it was the key piece.
I may have lined up alone at the start line, but I wasn't alone for a single minute on that course.
All of my running friends here at home were with me, as I thought of our speed work, our hill repeats, our long runs, and our conversations over text, email and lunch as I worked to get better. The miles and miles and miles we've run together held me up, every single step I took.
All of my running friends that live all over the country were with me, when I thought of their own training stories, when I heard their songs on my playlist, as I thought of one of them running a different marathon at the exact same time I was running Houston.
I had my West Point classmates with me, the ones who cheered me on with "BQ! BQ! BQ!" whenever I posted a great training day on Facebook. My classmates who were training for their own marathons but took time to support me with my training. My classmates who encouraged me when their response to my goal was an attitude of "Of course you can do it, Amanda. We know you can."
But most of all, I had my amazing, wonderful, world's-best family down there on the course, in the miserably cold, wet, windy weather. Cheering for me, encouraging me, keeping me going, motivating me to put one foot in front of the other. My husband, my kids, my sister, my dad, my mom, my brother, my niece, my sister, and my brother-in-law. At mile 8, at mile 12, at mile 16, at mile 22, and at the finish. Braving the weather and navigating closed roads and Houston traffic because they're proud of me; because they believe in me; because they love me.
I love to run. But that pales in comparison to the people I love who enable my love of running.