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The Unspoken Rules of Being a Badass: A Runner's Guide

Road To Boston

The following is a guest post by RIF #124 Michelle Walker:

Road to Boston

by Michelle Walker

Do you have a bucket list? Do you have goals to check off? My big dream for the past 5.5 years has been to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I thought this would be an easy goal to check off.  With the proper training, I knew I could accomplish this goal 5.5 years ago when I ran my very first marathon in Phoenix, AZ.

When I stepped up to the starting line of the 2007 PF Chang’s RnR Marathon in Phoenix, I was very hopeful that I could qualify. I had never run a marathon before, but I have always been a hard worker. I knew that I put in the proper training to earn a spot at the starting line.  Thanks to the encouragement from one of my fellow travelers, I was even confident that I could achieve my Boston Marathon time goal. When the starting gun was fired, I took off. I ran fast. I ran hard. I was feeling good. The sun was shining; temps were unusually cool; and the course was flat. My “I’m going to Boston” euphoria kicked in right away and lasted until well, just mile 16 where I had my first encounter with the infamous “Wall”. I had 10.2 (and the .2 is significant) miles to go; yet, my legs would not move. They were done. Finished. Kaput.  I was quickly humbled as the pace teams who I had hoped to beat progressively passed me. How was I going to make it to the finish line, let alone finish under a BQ standard?

My first effort to remedy the situation was to grab an energy gel. At this point (mile 17), I was on the brink of nausea. A voice inside my head told me not to take the gel packet the smiling race volunteer handed to me. I had never taken this brand or flavor of gel before: a big “no no” in marathon running. (We are taught to mimic our race day during our training runs. There should be no new elements during the race.) In desperate need for energy, I threw the cardinal rule of marathoning out the window.  I inhaled the Cliff brand gel pack as if it were my ticket to the finish line. My upset stomach immediately revolted. I had to move to the sidelines where I literally started to gag. Hundreds of runners passed me while I tried to regain my running composure. Some how, I kept the contents of my stomach inside, as I alternated between walking and running for the next nine miles. I made it to the finish line, but I did not experience the euphoria that so many runners have when they complete their first marathon. Instead, I felt deflated.

The Boston Marathon is the mecca for many long distance runners. The race has a rich history. Having to qualify with a time from a previous marathon creates an exclusive environment. This race is the big badge of honor in the marathon world. The exclusive entry is coveted by most long distance runners.

Due to the increasing popularity of marathon running, the Boston Marathon has become more stringent on their time qualifications. The marathon has set the bar even higher on its standards, making it more difficult to get in. For example, I am in the 40-44 year old age group for females. When I started marathon running, my qualifying time was 3:50. I spent several years training hard, trying to break the 3:50 barrier. About two years ago, the Boston Marathon tightened everyone’s time qualifications because the race was filling up at record pace. To my dismay, my qualifying time of 3:50 was changed to 3:45. When this change occurred, I must admit. I started to lose hope. A time of 3:45 or less seemed like an impossibility.

After the near disaster first marathon experience, I was on a mission. I would train even harder and eventually qualify for Boston! Ironically, my second marathon proved to be even more of a tragedy than my first. I was unable to complete the race, despite my efforts. I learned quickly that the marathon distance was to be respected. I have never been a natural athlete, but I had no idea how much work was ahead of me in order to check the Boston Marathon from my bucket list.

I spent the next five years of my fitness life working on my running endurance. Granted, I did have a baby during that time but even during my pregnancy I trained (under my doctor’s guidelines). I immediately went back to marathoning after the birth of my sixth child, running the WDW Marathon six months postpartum.

Over time I found the more marathons I ran, the better my endurance. The better my endurance, the faster my marathon times. The infamous “Wall” disappeared as I adjusted to the distance. Since January of 2012, I have run 24 marathons. This high frequency of marathon running is not recommended by the experts. For me, however, it works.

I am fortunate that over my 5.5 years of marathoning, I have never had an injury. Nothing. Nada. For me, the best form of training has been the marathon itself. I found myself using each marathon as a training run for the next race. I kept plugging away; logging marathon after marathon. Progressively, I was getting faster and faster.

Five years and 29 marathons after my first race disaster in Phoenix, something clicked. I started consistently running each of my marathons below the 4 hour time mark. This is generally considered to be a quick pace in the marathon world, but my times were still not meeting the new stringent BQ standards.

It wasn’t until I ventured to the mile high city of Denver (where altitude was a factor) in May of this year that I finally crossed the finish line about 15 seconds under the time I needed to qualify for  Boston. I was elated! It took me 38 marathons; five years and 4 months for my dream to become reality.

Since May, I have run ten other BQ times. Little by little, I am shaving even more time off my marathons. I am occasionally placing in my age group; sometimes even placing as one of the top three overall females in the marathon.

On April 15, 2013 when I step up to the starting line of the Boston Marathon, I am sure I will be flooded with a myriad of emotions. What I originally thought to be a short term goal turned into a very long and arduous journey. My road to Boston is one that I will never trade. I have learned so much about myself during the process of seeing this dream come true. I am not the same person who stepped up to the starting line of a marathon in Phoenix more than 5.5 years ago. The confidence that I have gained by realizing how strong, tenacious and persistent I am has been life changing.

If you don’t already have one, I encourage you to make a bucket list. It is rewarding to have goals. It is even more fulfilling to accomplish the goals through your own efforts, no matter how long the journey. Dream big and work hard!

BQing at Colfax Marathon

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If you’d like to know more about Michelle, you can follow her on Twitter @MarathonMomof6 and/or check out the profile we did on her here: Run It Fast – Club Member Profile – Michelle Walker #124

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This post was written by:

- who has written 717 posts on Run It Fast®.

Lisa (RIF Club Member #5) has completed 27 half marathons, 13 marathons, 5 50Ks, 2 12 Hour races, and 1 100K. Her favorite races to date are the Disneyland Half Marathon, the Leading Ladies Marathon, the Bataan Memorial Death March, and the Jackson Jackass 50K. You can follow her on Twitter @runlikeacoyote

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