Boston Dilemma

Posted: March 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

This is the period in training where I begin to feel guilty about running the Boston Marathon.  During my 12 year tenure as head coach for the Leukemia Society of America’s Team In Training program I was prohibited from running Boston.  I spent countless hours along the course providing encouragement and inspiration to my runners.  I knew each of them well enough that I could say something that I knew would resonate with them.  We shared amazing hugs, tears and laughter.  The laughter tended to arrive once the event was over and the stress and pressure of finishing were long gone.

Once I decided to leave Team in Training I knew I had to run the Boston Marathon again…it had been such an integral part of the fabric of my running history and it was as though I reconnected with a long-lost friend.  So in  2009 I ran my first Boston Marathon in over in 2009.  I didn’t realize how important running Boston in 2009 was until I entered my finishing time and realized that I had qualified for Boston in Boston in four consecutive decades.  I ran Boston for the first time in 1979 in 2:48:35.  So if I qualify for Boston on April 18th it will represent 5 consecutive decades of qualifying for Boston in Boston.  Qualifying for Boston in Boston is the ultimate validation of a qualifying time.  I’m not sure how many runners have accomplished this but it’s certainly something that makes me proud along with the sub 3:00 hour times in my first 24  marathons.

My times have slowed somewhat during the past 15 years.  Ironically, I attribute that mostly to my coaching because I’ve devoted so much time to helping others achieve their goals.  But I wouldn’t trade a world record in the marathon for the opportunity to help others realize and appreciate all that running offers.  The cards and letters that I’ve received from so many runners are now part of my legacy.  Most importantly, my coaching has taught me the importance of giving to others and sharing in their accomplishments.  Nothing I could ever achieve on my own could replace that.

To some degree I feel like I’m abandoning the Marathon Coalition runners by running the Boston Marathon and that’s extremely difficult for me to reconcile.  But I also want to continue to test myself at the marathon distance, particularly in Boston.  It’s important that I be a positive role-model for the runners I coach.  I want them to know that I still realize how challenging the marathon can be and I want them to see me put myself on the line, too.

So my goal is to qualify for Boston on April 18th but my thoughts will be with the Marathon Coalition runners the entire distance.  I look forward to sharing monster hugs, laughter and tears with them at the finish line!

  1. Joe says:

    Rick I don’t feel like you are abandoning us at all. You inspire me by walking the walk; I totally respect that. I can’t wait to see you at the finish line.

    • Hello Joe,

      Thank you so much for your support and understanding. My primary focus is to ensure you get all the support that you need so deciding to run Boston isn’t a clear and easy decision.

      Your comments and understanding make it easier, though.

      Your Coach,


  2. Cheryl Reed says:

    Seeing as you will most surely be at the finish line before me:), I look forward to all of us meeting at the finish! Your support has been, and will still be, with us. I also hope that when I finish I can also congratulate you on another qualifying time!

    • Hello Cheryl,

      Thank you so much for your perspective. I feel privilged to also be able to run the marathon along with you. I look forward to sharing our accomplishment on April 18th!

      Your Coach,


  3. Fran says:

    Hey Coach – I think that you deserve to get a qualifying time in your 5th decade of running the Boston Marathon. I’ve been telling your inspiring story for months now and it can’t end any other way:) I can’t wait to see you at the finish with my qualifying time too.
    Thank you for everything you do for me, and of course, the TEAM!!

    • Hello Fran,

      I am so grateful for how supportive you’ve been of my coaching, it means more to me than you likely realize. As important as reaching the milestone of qualifying for Boston at Boston in 5 consecutive decades, I would gladly forego that accomplishment to see you qualify.

      No one has worked harder in training and you absolutely deserve to qualify. I have every confidence in you…I’m looking forward to sharing Boston with you.

      Your Coach,


  4. Paula says:

    Hi Coach! Just checking in… Feel a little out of the coalition training group due to my work schedule but confident that I have followed your schedule and blog enough to run a good marathon and finish in relative comfort. I ran the Eastern states 20 miler on Sunday and have recovered quite quickly. Using the walk, run walk method has proven to be a shorter recovery for my long runs. That is a huge bonus! Thanks for all your wisdom, I can assure you that I will run a smarter marathon because of your guidance and advice. Thank you!

    • Hello Paula,

      There’s no greater indicator of your fitness level than a quick recovery from a long run. You should find considerable comfort in that reality. I know you’ve not been able to train with the Marathon Coalition as often as you would have liked, however, I ‘ve felt your presence throughout training.

      Thank you for always keeping me updated on your progress and offering your support of my coaching effort.


  5. Casey says:

    Coach Rick-

    You have given us so much support during the most grueling part of this all- the training! The marathon will give us all a great opportunity to exercise what you’ve taught us and there will be a lot of people to give us that extra support to keeep going! Can’t wait to see you on Boylston!


    • Hello Casey,

      It was so wonderful to have you back with us this past weekend! I was so pleased that you did so well. Thank you so much for offering your insight!

      I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with you!

      Your Coach,


  6. terri says:

    This simply illustrates why and how you are such a great coach and inspiration to us all. Just remember to wait for me at the finish line:)…

    • Hello Terri,

      Thank you so much for supporting my coaching efforts through the years and, more importantly, for YOUR efforts to make such a difference in the world and lives of others.

      Your Coach,


  7. love the snow says:

    As a person following this blog from cyber space I cheer you all on from afar. i can’t wait to read and hear how well you all did . I think your comments Rick help dispel the old adage “those who can’t do teach (or coach)”.

  8. Thank you for following from cyber space. I hope that you garner a small degree of insight and inspiration to pursue your running dreams. Thank you also for your kind comments and continued support!


  9. love the snow says:

    My best instructors over the years were people who loved what they were teaching and what they were doing. The excitement travels from them to those whom they touch. I guess that is what I wanted to add but found (despite your statements that you hit the hay early) that you responded prior to my adding this.

    Again thanks to all for all you do.

    • I love your comment and description about your best instructors! It didn’t take long for me to learn that my coaching had far more impact than simply getting someone to the finish line in relative comfort.

      I realized that I had been afforded the unique opportunity of touching lives in a far more significant way, not to discount the magnitude of completing a marathon in any way. Inspiring someone to believe they can do far more than they ever imagined has always been my primary focus.

      I am so committed to capitalizing on the short time that I have with each runner. As our next training draws closer, my excitement level increases accordingly…that is what I love about coaching and teaching!

      Thanks again for your kind comments!

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