The Road to Boston Series Introduction – Part 1

Happy New Year Everyone!!

2013 is finally here, and it promises to be an absolutely huge, massive, challenging year. I am so excited to get started on some of the huge goals that I have set for this year.

I’m not a big believer in New Years resolutions. Year after year of teaching in the Group Exercise studio gives me a front row seat to the ebbs and flows of traffic to the gym, and although it makes me very sad, usually the gym is back to normal traffic by February. That being said, I am a HUGE believer in goal setting, and I think that January is an absolutely terrific time to think about setting larger mind-set “goals” for the upcoming year!

Some of my goals for this year include:

  1. Complete the Around the Bay 30K Road Race with a smile on my face
  2. Complete the Muskoka Half Ironman with a smile on my face
  3. Take control of my finances and create a personal budget
  4. Re-evaluate my eating and make smarter choices to fuel my body during training

On the topic of huge goals, life changing goals, today I want to kick off a brand new mini-series that I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time. This is a story about an elusive BHAG, one that took eight years to achieve. One that was set by a gutsy, plucky 18 year old with a ponytail that wasn’t scared of anything, even when maybe they should have been.

But this isn’t my story at all. It’s Matt’s.

The Road to Boston Mini-Series – Part 1

The Boston Marathon is the Everest of all marathons. It is the world’s oldest and most respected marathon, with the first running taking place in 1897. Entry to the race is protected by the iron barriers of time. Before you can even think about registering for Boston, you need to first run another marathon under the qualifying time for your gender and age category.

Here is the Qualifying Standards chart for the 2013 race (and in case you’re not familiar with marathon times and paces, I’ll make it simple: these are damn fast times!!!):

Boston Marathon Qualifying Standards (effective for 2013 race)
Age Men Women
18–34 3hrs 5min 3 hrs 35min
35–39 3hrs 10min 3 hrs 40min
40–44 3hrs 15min 3 hrs 45min
45–49 3hrs 25min 3 hrs 55min
50–54 3hrs 30min 4 hrs 0min
55–59 3hrs 40min 4 hrs 10min
60–64 3hrs 55min 4 hrs 25min
65–69 4hrs 10min 4 hrs 40min
70–74 4hrs 25min 4 hrs 55min
75–79 4hrs 40min 5 hrs 10min
80+ 4hrs 55min 5 hrs 25min

In my very first blog post, I first mentioned that my boyfriend Matt qualified for the 2013 Boston Marathon in June of 2012. Far from being a short-sighted goal, it took Matt 8 years of hard work and dedication to accomplish his goal. I wanted to take you back to the beginning of his road to the Boston Marathon as we all set out on missions to accomplish BHAGs of our own, with the hopes that maybe like me, you too will find some inspiration and drive to go after your own “Boston” over the coming year, or longer if that’s what it takes.

In 2004 Matt was in Grade 12, and one of his (very brave) high school teachers was taking a bus-load of high school kids to Winnipeg, Manitoba to run as relay teams in the Manitoba Marathon. The thought was that kids would run the marathon or the half marathon in teams of 4 or 5 and each do no more then 10K or so to complete the race as a team. Matt had other ideas, and my plucky boyfriend took the paper pamphlet and promptly checked the box saying he intended to do the full marathon all by himself at the age of 18 after never really running more than 10 consecutive kilometres.

This poor, unsuspecting high school teacher needed some chaperones, and so Matt’s dad volunteered to come along, and to do the half marathon race as well!

Poor Matt had absolutely no idea what he had signed up for. Over the next couple of months he did a couple of short training runs, and one 30km run on a Saturday morning “long run party” with all of the runners going to Manitoba. He started out his 30km training run fast and leading the way, but struggled at the end. It took him 3 hours but he completed the run and was en route to Manitoba with his dad on the bus, and the rest of his family in the family van behind them. He set the goal to complete his first marathon in under 4 hours, with only one “serious” training run under his belt.

For my first half marathon in 2010, I had Matt and his family to tell me what to do and what not to do. Silly little things like, pin on your race bib the night before, make sure you’re in the right starting corral so you don’t get bowled over by people when the race starts, make sure your drinking more then usual in the days leading up to the race, and so many more. This being the first distance event for Matt’s entire family, they didn’t have anyone to really give them any words of advice! Matt’s dad gave him a brand new pair of anti-blister socks as a present the night before the race, and the next morning, didn’t eager Matt decide that he was going to wear them for the race.

*Shudder* oh the horror.

The next morning when the gun went off, Matt was out of the gate like a shot, passing people left, right and centre. He was feeling terrific until about the 30km mark, the magic “wall” that marathon runners hit where (so I’ve heard) everything just starts to hurt. I’ve read stories where marathon runners insist that the webbing between their fingers was on fire. Don’t ask me what it is about the “wall” or what the mechanics are behind it, but ask any marathon runner and they’ll tell you all about it!

In any case, Matt struggled from the 30km mark onwards, and had to walk a little bit. He had never walked in a race before in his life, and found that it hurt his body even more to run after he had walked. (Side note: I totally find this too!!). He looked at his watch and figured at a certain point that he couldn’t walk anymore if he had any hope of making his four hour goal. As he got closer, he could hear the noises from the stadium drawing closer and closer.

There are fewer things more motivating for a runner then the sound of that stadium as you draw closer and closer to the finish line. No matter how tired or beat down you are, once you hear the first sounds of that crowd in the stadium, you just forget about everything except getting to that line, and NOW!!

With one lap of the stadium between him and the four hour mark, his watch read 3:57. He had three minutes to run 400 metres. He sprinted the whole way and made it to the line just after 3:58!

They realized that the brand new anti-blister socks were soaked red with blood! What had seemed like such a great idea before the race had turned out to be a hard lesson: never, ever, ever wear new socks for a distance race!!!!!

2 weeks later, when the blisters had healed, the blood had dried and the pain had faded, Matt was talking about his next marathon already. He received a silver medal in the mail for being second in his under 19 age category. The very day he received his medal, he went online to look up the Boston Qualifying times. At this time, the qualifying times were 5 minutes slower then they are now (in the chart above). He needed to shave 50 minutes off of his time to achieve the 3:10 necessary to qualify for Boston, and the goal was born.

It wasn’t for another month before the first Boston Qualifying attempt training began.  It was to be yet another adventure filled with excitement, rookie lessons and heart break, which you will get to hear all about in the Road to Boston Part 2.

Have a great evening and HAPPY NEW YEAR to all!!

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