Before April of 2016, I didn’t know what a Boston marathon qualifying (BQ) time meant. I had no reason to care. You see, I’ve always had a tough time identifying as an athlete. Athletes ran fast and I ran for fun. (Who knew you could do both?) But after the New York City Marathon in 2015 where I broke 4 hours for the first time (a feat that felt absolutely impossible), I started seeing myself differently.
Fast forward to April of 2016 when I got to spectate my very first Boston Marathon. I stood on the sidelines, screaming for my friends, and feeling a little too proud of my funny race day signs.
Later that night, I went to grab dinner and drinks to celebrate my friends who ran. My friend Kim asked me why I didn’t want to try to BQ. I’d had a few beers and without editing myself, I told her that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to take myself seriously enough to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time. I wasn’t an athlete, I was a fun runner.
I couldn’t shake what I’d just said, that I would never be able to run a BQ. After I ran my first traumatizing marathon, I promised myself that I would attempt anything I told myself I wasn’t capable of doing. Normally when I catch myself, a rush of adrenaline surges through my body and I passionately set out to make impossible possible. But this time, I just felt defeated. I didn’t walk away afraid of trying and failing. I knew I would fail and I didn’t even want to try.
I’m going to jump ahead here and spoil the ending. I did end up convincing myself to try for a BQ and I gave myself 6 months to do it. (I filmed the entire experience in a daily vlog called BQ or Bust if you’d like to watch me sweat and cry.) That fall, during the Chicago Marathon I didn’t BQ. I finished in 3 hours and 41 minutes, 6 minutes shy of my goal but disappointed isn’t a word I’d use to describe my finish, my race, or my training.
I really underestimated just how much training for a marathon could change my life.
Yes, the six months of training was really, really f*cking hard but it was hard in ways I didn’t expect. The physical stuff adapts. I had the help of an amazing human being and Sports Psychologist named Dr. Bob and the second he told me to stop choosing to suffer, and to take the pressure off of myself when I saw times I didn’t think I was capable of running, everything changed. He gave me the gift of no regrets, no excuses and I applied it to just about every aspect of my life.
Because doubt and the fear of failure are two things that I am constantly struggling with. No regrets, no excuses helped me redefine what it means to actually fail because failing is inevitable. But that’s the beauty of the journey. Sometimes you hit it, and sometimes you don’t. As long as you continue to fight with everything you have at that particular moment in time, failure isn’t an option because that’s all you can do.
Despite the fact that I missed my goal by 6 minutes, I ran the strongest I’d ever run in my entire life. I proved to myself that I wouldn’t quit when the going got tough. And I finally saw what I’m capable of when I show up every single day and give my personal best effort. I felt like I won and I knew I had to try again.
Today, I’m four weeks away from the London Marathon and my second attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The good news? I feel strong as hell. The bad news? The flight to London was expensive. (OK, there’s no bad news!)
Where I used to panic about a particularly scary workout, now I slap a smile on my face, remind myself no regrets, no excuses, and I set out to see what happens. I’m still having a hard time trusting that I can run certain times but I finally threw “fast” out the window and replaced it with strong.
Fast doesn’t make sense to me. When I set out to run fast, I feel panicked and out of control. But when I run strong, I get to do what I do best, I get to have fun. I get to remember why I’m pushing myself and why I started running in the first place. I remember running my first half marathon and almost quitting at mile 11. I remember crossing the finish line of my first marathon and the day I broke 4 hours. Big, giant milestones that showed me what I was capable of when I was brave enough to set an impossible goal and then put in the work to make it happen.
It’s difficult to put into words just how grateful I am that I decided to run towards this “impossible” BQ. 11 months ago, I would never have imagined that I’d be running in a sports bra, feeling strong, and believing in myself the way I am today. It’s been the most physically and mentally exhausting 11 months of my life but this time, it’s different. I’m not afraid.
I know my strength and I know what I’m capable of.
People always say to set realistic goals. I say, keep them impossible. Realistic is a safe bet, shoot for the moon and give it everything you have. You may never achieve whatever it is you set out to do, but at least you had the courage to try.
No regrets, no excuses.
Boston 2018, see you there?