I tried updating my Facebook status about 15 times today but was at a loss for words.
Or there were too many words.
For those who have been following my journey, trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon has been the ever elusive target. When I first started running marathons back in 2011, I thought there was no way I’d ever be able to run a qualifying time (and that’s when the standard was 5:59 slower than it currently stands). In 2012 I missed qualifying by 23 seconds. I tried in early 2013 and ended up suffering from heat exhaustion. By fall of 2013 I was ready — and ran an 11 minute qualifier.
Then life happened. I had surgery (ironically, registration day was the same day as my surgery). I spent a year recovering from surgery. I had a baby. I had more hip pain. I had pelvic floor issues after the baby.
Then, I gutted it out and decided to go for it again. I wasn’t in my best shape, but I was in qualifying shape. So I went for it.
The race was much harder than it should have been, even given my current fitness. I ran a little slower than I knew I was capable of, but it was all I had in my on that day. I ran a 3:31:48 – 3 minutes and 12 seconds under the qualifying standard. Every other year it would have been enough. By a long shot.
I was going to make a second attempt this fall to give myself a bigger cushion, but quite frankly, I didn’t have it in me. My June race was 7 1/2 months postpartum. I trained completely sleep deprived (waking up every 45 minutes during the night only to wake up for the day at 4:30 a.m. – netting about 2-3 hours of sleep each day) while also working full time as an attorney. I gave it what I had. I went right back into training, but a few weeks in my body started rejecting running. Physically and mentally – I was tapped out. I decided it was wiser to take a break than to keep pushing through and setting myself back even further. I was almost certain that my cushion would be enough.
As registration day creeped up, I found myself distancing myself from all of the Boston chatter. I’d been down that road. I’d been disappointed. I’d made it and that still hadn’t been enough. I’d revolved my life around Boston for so long it started to take on a life of its own. All I wanted to do was run the damn race. I’d been in “Boston shape” for 5 years and just wanted the opportunity to check the box and move on. I truly thought that this was my year. That the lessons had been learned from the adversity. That hard word and perseverance would finally pay off.
It didn’t. Not in the way that I had hoped. Yet again, I found myself on the outside. This time by 11 seconds.
I have been advocating a drop in the qualifying times for years. I believe that a qualifying time should mean something and that those who meet it should have the opportunity to run. A flat time buffer isn’t fair percentage-wise either, as it’s far more difficult for a 3:05 marathoner to run over 3 minutes faster than a 3:30 or 4:00 marathoner. I would be far less heartbroken if I had simply missed my goal rather than been good enough, but still not good enough for the ever moving target. But that’s a whole separate post.
I found out when I was at lunch with clients. Since I couldn’t let my emotion get the best of me, I became numb. Surprisingly, it was a few hours before I finally cried. Then the sadness turned to anger. But I realized something — I don’t think this is a “get back on the horse” and try again situation. Quite frankly, I’m so sick of the obsession that that fire just isn’t there right now.
The reason I am taking this so hard is two-fold. And neither reason is about the race itself.
First, it’s the sheer principle of the situation. I feel like I have been through my share of adversity in going after this goal. I know that I deserve to be there. I am hard enough on myself. I don’t need someone (or something) else adding to that feeling of inadequacy. But life’s not fair. I get it.
Second, and more pressing, is the fact that I feel lost. My first few marathons were transformative experiences and have left me with a sense of purpose. Even after qualifying (whatever that now means) my most recent races haven’t left me with the same sense of accomplishment. I know that I need to take a break from the BQ-marathon goal. I just don’t know what that looks like. Or where that leaves me. I don’t do well aimless and goalless, so this needs to be figured out sooner than later. Right now I just feel like I’m floating along, having some sort of athletic identity crisis.
These are my feelings. So I’m putting them out there, despite the fact I feel like a petulant child. Because really, it’s just a race. I have wonderful friends and family. I have my health. I have the things that really matter. I know in the big picture I am very fortunate. Regardless, I am laying low for a bit, because even though I know these things, I need to grieve. I need to cry. Even if it’s just a stupid race. Because for better or worse, that’s how I feel.
The highlight of my day today was picking up my daughter after work. She reached out her arms for me and gave me the biggest gummy smile. I realized that while it’s okay to let myself to have a pity-party today, I need to move on and reenergize. Because there is so much more to life than just one race.