Just when you think you know the major events you have control over in your life, things change! In 2006 I ran the Boston Marathon for my first time. It was the most difficult experience I had ever experienced in my life, ever, even until this day. I remember attempting to run (or rather a fast walk) up Heartbreak Hill thinking “I am NEVER going to run another marathon”. Well, in the intervening years I have run 6 more marathons in venues such as Detroit Traverse City, New York City, Honolulu, and winning my age division in Raleigh. All along the way I have never had any desire whatsoever to return to run the Boston Marathon again! That is until a few weak moments last September.
So what changed? Well, to start, it helps to understand what my running life and career were like 10 years ago. 2006 was my 20th year of business as owning my own architectural practice. I had survived a challenging market conditions for the past few years. I had earlier decided to diversify my practice and take on a new project and client type. What I initially thought to be an awesome project for nice people turned out to be the project from Architect’s Hell. No need to go into details but I have never experienced such a stressful condition in my entire lifetime. The stress was heightened in April of 2006 as the project was eventually nearing completion. Needless to say, my training to run Boston was greatly impacted. With minimal and inconsistent training it was no wonder I had a terrible race experience. I was also training on my own. I had no peer support. Most of my running buddies no longer ran. Training is much easier if you are able to train with some level of regular support, especially someone to run with you on long runs.
Well, it was 20 months later and if you must go to Hawaii you might as well run another marathon right? We actually returned to Hawaii for our wedding anniversary and we had not been to Hawaii since our honeymoon 30 years ago. However as a condition to return to paradise I insisted on running the Honolulu Marathon. What another dumb idea. My two worse marathons ever, back to back! I had joined a marathon training group in my area but about half way through the program the group more or less disintegrated. I was fortunate enough to drop-in to a neighboring training group in nearby Ann Arbor. Little did I know at the time that my running life had just taken perhaps the most significant change in my entire career, at least as an adult runner.
The summer of 2008 I joined the Running Fit 501 training group in Ann Arbor. The group was led by a very experienced and extremely dedicated Coach, Coach Gina. It was a large group and a very easy group to find someone of like capabilities as well as challenge you as a runner. I met a number of awesome people many of who I still remain in contact and often still run and train with, especially during the winter months. What resulted from this experience was what remains today as my all-time best marathon experience, New York City Marathon. I need to post a separate story about my NY experience, but the short version is that I told Coach Gina of my goal to run a 3:30 marathon. She cautioned me that I should be happy to run a 3:40 marathon as NYC course is a very tough course. Then 4 weeks prior to running the New York City Marathon I find myself racing along side of 4 time Boston and NYC Marathon winner Bill Rogers! Bill Rogers personally offered me advice on how to race NY! Bottom line, I ran 3 hours, 29 min, 30 secs!
The point is that I was now hooked to run and race competitively once again thanks hugely to the Running Fit 501 training program. The next year I returned to the more local program in Novi/Northville due in large part to the new coaches. Coach Doug and Coach Suzi. They have since reached out allowed me to assist the program, as an assistant coach with this very popular and successful training program. I thought that nothing could beat my marathon experience in New York so I had no further plans to run another marathon ever again. That is until three years later!
For several years I had enjoyed racing in Raleigh NC while visiting my daughter Bridgett. The City of Oaks Half Marathon in early November (actually the same day as the NYC Marathon) became a regular venue on my racing schedule. I also did very well in this race too! I have always managed to finish in the top 3 in my age division including one win! Then came 2011. I can’t really remember why, but I decided to run the full marathon this year. I was lured by the fact that most of the last half of the marathon route was through a very hilly and challenging Umstead State Park. i think between miles 13 and 23 runners needed to climb at least 500 total feet! Another long story short, I won my age division will only 33 days before I advanced to an older age group! So THIS was to be my LAST marathon! Why not retire from marathoning after winning a major marathon?
So I was a retired marathoner, finally! Well that lasted all of another 3 years. In 2014 my youngest daughter Alexis had become a runner. (another long story and separate post) We decided it would be fun to run the Chicago Marathon. That year most runners needed to gain entry to the Chicago Marathon by a lottery selection. We had each been selected by lottery (luck us) and the training began. Alexis became injured late in her training and was not able to run the marathon. I had managed to stay healthy and had a good training season. I ran Chicago very well, well at least for the first 18 miles or so, the my “wheels fell off”. I hit the proverbial wall that is often reported. I did not run a smart race. It was my own fault.
I was determined to get my revenge only 7 months later by running the Bayshore Marathon (Traverse City MI) in late May. My training was good, but again, I lost my wheels after mile 18 or so again. Both Chicago and Bayshore are known as fast courses primarily as they are defined as mostly flat courses. I train on hilly routes. I was not accustomed to flat courses or for the mental aspect too. Regardless, in Chicago and Bayshore, I had run sufficiently fast enough to qualify to run the Boston Marathon in 2016 with nearly 9 minutes to spare each time. Nice, but I was not planning to run Boston again.
So why Boston now? A combination of reasons I suppose. First there is the idea that I would like to pass-on my major marathon medals to each of my three grandchildren. Not so much to encourage them to run, although that would be great, but more to help them each to understand the importance of establishing personal goals, self discipline, a?nd achievement in whatever they elect to do in their lives. Wouldn’t if be great to be able to pass a separate Boston medal to each child? I could have my second Boston medal this April and hopefully find a way to run again in 2017?
Another compelling reason is our training group. Each season since 2008 our training group has been sending several runners to Boston. The Boston Marathon registration period is open for only a handful of days each September. Not all who qualify are actually able to gain entry to compete in Boston. The registration process favors runners who exceed the basic qualifying time based on one’s gender and age. Our group was set to send nearly 20 eligible runners who had trained with us for one season or another. More than many other recent years I also have the resources and job situation that will enable me to travel to Boston. So only the day before it was my turn to register to enter, I decided to do so. A day or two later my entry was confirmed and my next challenge was to determine the travel arrangements. Thanks to the help of my training buds, that was not difficult at all.
Boston 2017? Not sure if I will enter 2017 or not at this time but thanks to my Detroit Marathon experience this past October, I have qualified with nearly 19 minutes to spare, to compete in Boston again in 2017. Check back next September to see what my decision will be.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and Run Happy 🙂
PS: We were also informed recently that we will become grandparents for the fourth time in August! So…. Boston 2018??? . . . . Stay tuned 🙂