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!