The LONG Road to Boston

The LONG Road to Boston

The Boston Marathon.  Whether or not you know anything about running or marathons chances are you’ve heard of this race and know it’s a pretty big deal.  April 15, 2013 marks the 117th running of Boston Marathon and hopefully my first!

Everyone who has ever run Boston or at least plans to has their own Boston story.  My experience is probably very similar to others.  A few short years ago the thought of me running in the Boston marathon sounded about as realistic as competing in the Olympics.  It wasn’t going to happen.  There may be others out there who are quick to jump to the assumption that they could never qualify so why even try.  Don’t sell yourself short! If I have learned anything about myself and running the past few years it’s that anything is possible. 

Growing up the only marathon I’d ever even heard of was the Boston Marathon.  I didn’t know anyone that ever ran in it.  My dad was a runner and I remember cheering for him at races.  (He never ran Boston- just local road races.)  I also rode my bike sometimes to accompany him while he ran.  Eventually, I started running on my own.  Running seemed natural and I enjoyed  it.  High school cross country and track led to college cross country and track.  Then I got married, started having kids and took some much needed time off from competitive running.  I didn’t look at it as a  break from serious running.  I honestly thought I was done and I was completely content with this new chapter of my life.  I could easily run in the occasional 5K and that was enough for me!

After a local 5K in 2005

After a local 5K in 2007

Could I actually qualify to run the Boston Marathon?

Around the time my husband and I started training for our first half marathon in the fall of 2008 I had a change of heart.  I was actually at a Christmas cookie exchange party when one of my friends mentioned that a mutual friend we had in college had recently run in a marathon- and qualified for the Boston Marathon.  She was a mother of three young children (same as me at the time) and I was speechless.  How did she do it?  How did she have time to run and train with three small kids?  How fast do you have to be to qualify?  Could I ever qualify???  I had thought my “real” running days were gone but some small part inside me started to believe that there could be more…

Quick background side note-  I ran one marathon on a whim when I was in college.   Right after cross country season my Junior year some of my teammates, as well as my sisters and I ran in the Dallas White Rock Marathon.  I did it as a bucket list type of activity, thinking I would never do one again.  I figured I was in as good of running shape as I’d ever be so why not?  It didn’t even worry me that I had never run more than 12 consecutive miles in my life.  I wore no watch, had no fueling plan or time goal.  I was in it to finish.  I finished in 3:45:03 and that was good enough for me!  I had no plans to ever run another marathon.

My sisters and I after the Dallas White Rock Marathon- 1999

So there I was, ten years later- married with three kids.  After the Little Rock Marathon in the spring of 2009 I wanted to see if I too could qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I met some local running moms at the gym I went to and we started running together.  They were interested in qualifying for Boston too but we all figured it was a long shot.  At this time the Boston qualifying standards for a woman under 35 was a 3:40.  This meant that I would need to run around an 8:20 pace.  Yikes! Could I actually hold that pace for 26.2 miles?  I found an easy to understand schedule by Hal Higdon on the internet and stuck to it all fall.  In December of 2009 I ran the Dallas White Rock Marathon again.  (Same marathon- just ten years later and ironically my time was ten minutes faster!) My finish time- 3:35:21.  I was Boston Bound!!

My first time to BQ!! (Dec. ’09)

At this time the April 2010 Boston was sold out so I planned on running in April 2011.  In May 2010 we found out we were expecting baby #4 so I planned on deferring Boston until 2012.  Up until this point in time everyone was able to defer one year for any reason, so long as they paid the registration fee again.

In September, 2010 I sat down to register.  I was still planning to defer but I wanted to go ahead and register because I anticipated it selling out fairly quickly.  I went through every part of registration and at the very end, after submitting my credit card number, t-shirt size, etc. it said, “I am aware of the new deferment policy.”  What?? I read the fine print and quickly learned that there was no longer deferment allowed for any reason.  I had to decide quickly whether or not to register and plan to run in April 2011 OR re-qualify all over again.  Could I run a marathon 15 weeks after giving birth (via c-section)?  I knew it was a long shot but when it comes to running I am not always the most rational person on the planet.  After making a few panicked phone calls to John I decided to go for it.

Nothing like registering for a marathon when you are 5 months pregnant. 

Well, obviously the crazy 15 11 week training schedule did not work out.  Even though I ran throughout my pregnancy the lower mileage was definitely not what one would consider a good marathon training base.  After taking a month off after Ashton was born I had to start all over again.  I increased my mileage way too quickly which resulted in a sacral stress fracture.  I discuss this disaster in more detail in the appropriately titled post, “How NOT to train for a marathon.”  As much as I wanted to run in Boston 2012 I knew I could not safely train and qualify before registration opened in September.  I knew that 2013 would be my next realistic option and I would have to be patient.  Patience is a little thing you are forced to learn when you have a stress fracture.

After a few months off I was able to start walking and eventually jogging.  I listened to my body and eased back into training- the right way.  In January, 2012 (8 months after I was diagnosed with a stress fracture) I qualified for Boston again in the Houston Marathon with a 3:19:18. .

I knew I’d still have to wait 15 months to run Boston but in the mean time I ran a few others to keep busy.

Little Rock Marathon- 3/12
D & L Heritage Marathon- 11/12

St. Jude Memphis Marathon- 12/12
Little Rock Marathon- 3/13

It’s been a long road but I’ve learned a lot about myself and what it takes to work hard to accomplish a goal.  I used to think that just qualifying for Boston would be enough.  Obviously that was before I had the mindset of a long distance runner! Now, I am trying to break 3 hours in the marathon.  After that, who knows what is next? That is the thing I love about this sport- the constant drive to give it your all and do your best.  Running teaches so many life lessons.  It requires commitment, drive, hard work, patience and faith.  You learn from the good races as well as the bad ones.  I think it’s important to pause along the way to appreciate the journey and the process. 

So here we are just a few weeks out from Boston.  It’s been a long road but I truly believe this is the time I was meant to go.  I’m excited about my first Boston and hopefully there will be more to follow in the future. 

My official Boston jacket just arrived so I guess this means I am ready to go!

Have you ever run Boston?  
Is running the Boston marathon (or any marathon) on your bucket list?  
Do you have a Boston story?

20 thoughts on “The LONG Road to Boston

  1. Hi, Tia!

    My name is Krystle and I worked for John when I was a student at Harding from 2003-2007 (side note: I feel like I should be calling him Mr. Stone since he’s a Professor now). He posted a link to your blog on Facebook, and I’ve been reading it ever since.

    I’m also a runner, and I’m just bananas about the sport. I’m running my 7th half marathon this coming Sunday in Dallas. I ran the full Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2011 – and let me tell you, it was miserable. 33 degrees and pouring-down rain. My socks become soaked and shrunk into my sneakers, leaving my bare Achilles to chafe against my shoes for the better part of the race. By the end, I was in so much pain and had lost some blood but I just couldn’t bare the thought of giving up. When I finished the race, I had never been so certain that I truly can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.

    I’ve often thought about Boston, and reading your qualifying story gives me hope. I’m excited to hear about your journey to Boston and about your race!

    In the meantime, this is a link to my favorite Boston Marathon video called “Fantastic Marathon Finishes and the Agony of the Feet.” I would imagine you to finish the way the girl at the end does! Boston is obviously a challenge, but the joy at the end is insurmountable. Hope it inspires you the way it inspires me!

    1. Hi Krystle! Good to know you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve never heard of that video but you better believe I will be checking that out. Thanks for the link!

      Sounds like your first marathon experience was a memorable one! They do get better but there is nothing like the first time when you are simply amazed you kept moving your feet for 26.2 miles!

      Good luck with your upcoming half. I love that racing distance!

  2. You are so inspiring, Tia- I love your story!! I don’t see a sub-3 in my future, but I’m definitely exciting to work on speed, and thrilled to be (hopefully) running Boston next April. I’ll be cheering you on!!

    1. Thanks Laura! Yes, Boston 2014 already sounds good too! My sister just BQ’d for the first time in Nov so I am very tempted to do it again just so I can do another marathon with her!

  3. I don’t have a Boston story…yet! I’m hoping to get my story when you do. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I guess Boston might be a bucket list marathon (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be as I’m local). I have a feeling that I won’t like it from a logistics point of view. When I run BayState and Providence, I’m back with the family by 1:00, Boston is going to be an all day affair mostly on my own…

    1. Oh man- after reading 26 miles to Boston I am amazed at how they could put something like this together. After the NYC situation in November I am a little gun shy of large marathons. I really want to experience one but I just hope it actually works! I have NEVER run in a race like this so I’m sure it will be CRAZY!

      Running Little Rock and Memphis to sound similar to Baystate and Providence for you. You are right- there is nothing like the convenience of racing and being home just an hour or two later. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Your story is one of such determination! I’m so excited for you to run Boston this year. It’s a goal that seems long time coming for you… dwell on it & enjoy! I have no dreams of Boston… I’ll never be fast enough but I greatly admire the work that it takes to get there. Good Luck!

  5. Hey Tia, I’ve enjoyed your blog! I’m a 41 year old homeschooling mama of 4 in Lexington, KY and I’ve been running forever. I qualified for Boston the day before registration opened in 2010. By the time I had gotten home from our co-op that afternoon, registration had completely sold out! I had to wait until the next fall to register to run in 2012. I ran the 90 degree race last April. It was crazy. It was crazy for everyone, though. It was definitely a “misery loves company” kind of experience. The whole week-end was so, so, so, awesome, though! I loved the experience of the entire thing! Someone that had run before gave me the advice to get to the expo before the last day if you want to buy any cool tshirts, jackets, pullovers or anything because they will be gone by the last day. I loved it so much, I’m running a marathon in 2 weeks hoping to qualify for 2014. We’d love to bring all the kids next time for an awesome “field trip”! ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck! I know you’ll do great and I hope you have an awesome time.

    1. Thanks for your message Claire! Yes, registration that day was CRAZY. I can’t believe you had just qualified the day before but had to wait until the following year to register. And then had the heat wave Boston of 2012! Good advice about the expo. I went ahead with the jacket because I had a friend who waited to get a size small and all the smalls were gone. I’m sure there are tons of other items I’d like to look for so it sounds like we’ll need to hit the expo early!

      Good luck with your upcoming marathon. Please let me know how it goes! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Great story, Tia. I am also running Boston this year, so perhaps I will see you there!
    My story is boring but is a bit drama-filled. I qualified on my first marathon attempt, which was a shock because I had no idea I was capable. Fast-forward to last April when I flew to Boston with my whole family in tow, only to wake up on race day with the flu (fever and everything). DNS. So this year I am hoping to fly to Boston and actually run the thing!

    1. Hi Rebecca! Oh man- that is awful!! That is one of my biggest marathon nightmares. Training for 18 weeks and then getting sick at the last minute seems so unfair! Ughhhh. And to have your whole family out there…. I hope your last few weeks of training go smoothly and you are healthy and fresh at the starting line! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Yes, it’s finally the right time for you. It’s going to be so exciting after all you’ve been through to stand on that start line and know you have earnt it.

  8. Hey Tia. I follow you on daily mile (Tiffany). Can I just say this is so encouraging. On so many levels. As a mom of 4, you inspire me. I guess I’ve always thought since you were a college runner that you’ve always had awesome times. It was so good to hear that Boston was a dream for you, because it’s my dream one day too (not anytime soon considering I’ve got a bun in the oven). Thanks for the story and the encouragement. Kick some booty at Boston!!

    1. hey Tiffany!

      Thanks for your note! I was what I would call a mediocre college runner. Not the fastest on the team but not the slowest. My heart wasn’t in it the way it is now. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I would have given it my all and kept running but I know my life would be a lot different. I know the time off was good for me and I wouldn’t trade ANY race victory for my babies. ๐Ÿ™‚

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