I’m really not setting any goals for 2017, except one: to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
This public declaration isn’t a boast; rather it’s laying out a very challenging goal publicly that I might not achieve. Too often I’ll set a personal goal for myself but I won’t tell others about it in case something goes wrong. This time, however, I’m naming it upfront so I’ll be able to return to it in May to see if I was successful. So bear with me as I breakdown what brought me to this point.
See, I never intended it, but I transformed myself into a marathoner.
I’ve documented my running progress over the last eight years here on the blog, so you can read all about it if you’re interested.
I went from never having run an actual 5K to running three marathons in 2016. I enjoy the 26.2 distance because it’s challenging and requires preparation. It’s become a January tradition for me to start logging miles in anticipation of a spring run. Early on, the consistent goal was the four hour marathon. Then I started running two marathons a year. In that time, I started shaving my time and run consistently in the 3:30 to 3:40 time slot.
In marathon running, the Boston Marathon is the most prestigious race and it requires a qualifying time from an officially sanctioned marathon. After you turn 35, you get a little more time with which to BQ (the acronym of "Boston Qualify” is a key abbreviation in a runner’s life), but the pace is still somewhat blistering. In my current window, I’d have to run a 3:15, but actually it’s more like a 3:10, because they always shave off a little time depending on how many people qualify. To qualify, I’ll likely need a 3:12 or 3:13, but 3:10 would be safe.
My fastest marathon time was 3:27. I ran that a couple of years ago, so in order to BQ, I need to run 15 minutes faster than my fastest marathon (taking about 35 seconds/mile on my fastest pace). That’s a pretty tall order. If I were just to wait another four years when my BQ time drops to 3:25, I know I could do it.
So that’s the conundrum: if I want the BQ effort to truly mean something to me, I believe now is the time for me to do it.
There’s one other wrinkle.
My spring marathon of choice has been the Flying Pig Marathon. It goes past our house and I train on the course consistently. The problem is that it’s a rather hilly track and, even though I’ve gotten good at running hills, a flatter course yields better times. Until last year, I only ever ran the Flying Pig in the spring. But when a friends wedding conflicted with the Flying Pig date, I entered the Derby Marathon in Louisville. Even though I didn’t train well, I ran a really good time (my third best ever). It convinced me that while the hills of Cincinnati are wonderful, they’re not my friend when in it comes to BQ. Louisville will be my location.
Last week I signed up for the 2017 Derby Marathon. Because of a calendar quirk, the Flying Pig is 8 days later. I’m thinking of signing up for it as well so 1) I can fall back just in case the weather is horrible in Louisville and 2) maybe just to try to run it as I’ll be in pretty good shape then. I ran two marathons last fall just six weeks apart, so I know it can be done.
To prepare for this feat, I need to be disciplined in both my diet and training. I’ve started to run better since altering my diet a few years ago (cutting out fast food and sweets), but I’ve allowed myself some room to improve heading into the new year. The bigger change, however, will be adding miles to my training. Even though I always start running in January, I’ve never put in as many miles as I should. I’ll be following a running plan by Pete Pfitzinger from his book Advanced Marathoning. Even though he considers it a base level plan, I’ve never pushed 50 miles a week and I’ve never varied the type of training runs I’ve performed. In fact, I’ve never really followed a training plan before; I’ve just gone out and run. I recognize that in order to reach this goal, I’m going to have to do more than I’ve done in the past. For some reason, I feel like I’m ready.
It’s tough because there are so many variables at work here that I CAN'T control. So all I can do is be diligent with what I CAN control. I’m not sure if I’ll update my progress throughout the winter/spring, but at least this post will be here as a reminder of when I tried something challenging.
Day one of training starts tomorrow.