It has always been a dream of mine to qualify for the Boston Marathon. On October 11, 2015, that dream came true.
It was such a special day – for many reasons. Not only did I finish the Chicago Marathon – my new hometown marathon – in under my goal time of 3:05, but it was also my one year wedding anniversary to my wife, Megan. Even more special, my qualifying time came less than a week after visiting and running in Boston while on vacation with her.
Overall, my training for the Chicago Marathon went great. I went into the taper period of my training feeling really confident in the progress I had made since my last race.
On race day, I went out with the 3 hour group, thinking I could keep pace with them the entire time. The pacers were clearly moving faster than 3 hour pace at the halfway point, when I crossed the 13.1 mile mark in 1:28:44 (6:46/mile pace) – which was a half marathon personal best for me. I continued with the 3 hour group for another 2-3 miles before I realized, if I was going to finish the race, I had to slow down and maintain a more manageable pace.
Of course at this point my body was very much spent. My stomach was acting up – probably a symptom of GI distress due to moderate dehydration – and my lower back was sore. At mile 20, my legs and feet began to ache. By mile 24, it took all my effort just to continue putting one foot in front of the other. I walked through several water stations to try to regain my composure. I even stopped at one water station to bend over at the waist and touch my toes, thinking this stretch would help ease my back pain.
With 5K to go, I knew I still had a mathematical chance at meeting the Boston qualifying standard, despite my fast start and near bonk. How I kept going, I’m not sure. I was in so much pain.
It wasn’t until I passed the 800 meters to go mark, with five minutes remaining to beat the Boston qualifying standard, that I knew I was going to do it. I tackled Roosevelt Road hill before making the final left turn onto Columbus Drive, where the finish line was in sight. I crossed the finish line knowing I had made it. I was a Boston Marathon qualifier!
Walking down the finisher’s chute, I picked up my medal, water, food and the tastiest Goose Island beer I’ve ever had in my life. As I was herded through the chute, I couldn’t help but tear up – mostly because I was so surprised that I met my goal time.
I didn’t have a picture perfect race. It wasn’t all smiles and thumbs up. I fought so hard to meet my goal time. I was surprised and proud of myself, and all the effort I have put in over the years to get to that point.
I remember reading or hearing somewhere that there is a distinct separation between marathoners and Boston qualifiers. The Boston Marathon is the mortal man’s olympics. It’s the closest many average people will get to achieving something significant in the sport of long distance running. This is what I have always found so attractive about the Boston Marathon. Qualifying for this prestigious race at the 2015 Chicago Marathon denotes my coming of age as a distance runner.
Now that I have qualified, my fingers are crossed that I will actually get a bib come September 2016. I plan on racing another marathon in that time, and hopefully I can PR again and give myself additional cushion to earn a bib.
Boston, I’m coming for you.
Photos from the 2015 Chicago Marathon
Click any photo to enlarge.