Experiencing life fully requires risk-taking, strength, and courage. Beth Gillespie always had the Boston Marathon in the back of her mind. But there were a series of what ifs holding her back from applying. It was scary. It was THE BOSTON MARATHON! What if she didn’t qualify? What if her pace was too slow? What if she was last to cross the finish line? After she weeded through her fears, she took a brave breath and changed her mind from what if? to why not? She threw her application into the mix and she was chosen to race. She had the strength to take a risk and the courage to share her story.
BY: BETH GILLESPIE
I ran my 18th marathon last September with my running bestie at my side the entire race. I literally turned to her before the gun went off and said, we don’t have to do this you know, we could just cheer people on at the finish line. She laughed and started her Garmin. At the finish, after crying with joy to be done, I hugged her and said “how about we go whale watching the next time I come to visit?” I told her was ready to take a significant break from marathon training and running. And for the first time, in the 10 years I’d been running full marathons, I actually meant it.
Flashing back to the summer of 2010, my running bestie had moved to Seattle and after training for a marathon for the first time solo, I set out to recruit some new running friends. And much to my surprise, my circle of friends from my YMCA said YES! Beginning in June of that year, there were 6 of us who were training together to complete the Detroit Marathon. That summer I logged over 500 miles, in sync with new friends all around town. We were consistent. We had a plan. We balanced the distance with hill repeats and strength training. We laughed, we sweated, we spray painted mile markers on the road, and we ran and ran and ran. When I think about that training, I remember miles rolling by as we laughed. I remember the friendships that were formed on sunrise mile after sunset mile. I remember running happy, and running strong. I remember the fear and then power of starting to believe that my race goals were possible. I set my PR that October, 4:24:02. It was the race of a lifetime, and the only time I dropped under 4 and half hours for 26.2 miles.
I was at work when the email came in this past December.
A friend forwarded me an email sharing that Girls on the Run International and Hyland’s were joining forces to have a contest looking for women who were supporters of their amazing program, who could possibly inspire others, and be ready to run the BOSTON MARATHON in April. I remember re-reading the email, sitting back, and thinking “I could be ready to run a full in April.” Then my legs screamed “YOU SAID NO MORE FULLS FOR AT LEAST 12 MONTHS,” but my heart responded with a quiet but firm “but, it’s the Boston Marathon.”
While the Boston Marathon is a goal for lots and lots and lots of runners, it was never on my list of possibilities. I would have to run my PR (which is nearly 6 years old) at the age of 64 to qualify to earn a spot on that course. I casually brought it up with my husband over dinner that night. He asked why I wouldn’t apply and see if I would be picked. “I’m scared.” He asked of what. I started listing off excuses; I didn’t qualify and in all likelihood never would. I was afraid of feeling that my pace would be too slow and would disappoint the sponsors. I was afraid I would be the last one to cross the finish line on Boylston Street. And when those excuses were out, the truth followed- I’m afraid I will be picked and fail. When those words slipped past my lips, I knew for that reason alone, I needed to throw my name in the hat.
And I was chosen. I cried when I read the email. And knew in my heart, that for the first time in a really, really, really long time I was ready to do the work. Run all the miles. Even when I was tired. Even when life got hectic. Even when the miles would feel lonely. So I went home, and pulled out that training plan from 2010. And got serious. And ordered a new pair of runners and some #flystyle to celebrate.
Am I scared? Of course. I know the pain of 26.2. I know the joy of the finish line and just how badly the miles can hurt. I know the exquisite delight of knowing you gave everything you had on the course, and how loud the voices of doubt can be. I also know, that I have been more committed to this training process than I have been to any training since moving and leaving my friends and Browns Lake Road.
Am I excited? HELL YES, Im excited This is the chance of a lifetime to run the BOSTON MARATHON! This will also be my first race, where I get to feel the power of a Oiselle cowbell corner from being on the course. The thought of the power of that moment is strong enough to bring me to the brink of tears now. This team, the women on it, have the power to lift up, to encourage, to support, and to cheer like hell for each other. And that doesn’t change because one of us can run a 2:42 marathon and another can run a 5:15 marathon. And that matters more than I can say to me.
And even if I am the very last runner to cross over that blue and yellow finish line, at least I had the courage to try. And you’d better believe that I will be carrying that medal, those miles, your cheers, and this experience, around with me for a long, long time.