Thought for the Day

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Deciding to run Boston and Qualifying

Grover Cleveland was president when the first Boston Marathon was run. Utah had just become the 45th state. Women couldn't vote, let alone run in the race.

The Boston Marathon is one of the oldest, most famous, continuously run annual athletic events in the world.

But before 1999, I didn't care about running the Boston marathon.

In 1997, I'd been a distance runner for many years, and probably like most people who have run over a mile, the marathon was something I wondered about. I may have been a little more reluctant than most distance runners to try a marathon because of my diabetes.

The little running I was doing, while generally good for my health, was sometimes difficult to manage. I had low blood sugars, I had high blood sugars, I sometimes had to start running with a high blood sugar to prevent a low blood sugar. I often had no idea what was going on with my body.

However, medical technology was advancing, providing important tools like home blood glucose meters. I was hearing more and more about diabetic athletes, some of them marathoners.

I have to admit that the fact that Oprah ran a marathon made it seem a lot easier in my mind.

So when a marathon was starting up in my home town, and I was rapidly approaching the age of 40, it seemed like a good time to try it, before I was over the hill. I ran my first marathon, Silicon Valley, on October 25th, 1998, in 4:27:23, and like a lot of first time marathoners, I felt like I could do better.

A lot of marathoners get hooked that way. Marathons hurt. After the first one we know it isn't easy, but we know we can do it better, so we keep trying.

After I had done five or six marathons, (I had run six by the end of October 1999.) Mom said, "Maybe some day you'll run Boston." I said something like, "Sure," but I thought to myself, "Why should Boston matter? Don't these other marathons count?"
I didn't decide I wanted to run Boston then. But the comment stuck with me, and maybe the seed was planted.

I decided that I needed to run Boston only after about 12 more marathons. I was 44 years old, and the Boston Athletic Association had just loosened the qualification standards for a few age groups. The qualifying time for a 45 year old man went up five minutes to 3:30.

I had run some fair times, and I was improving. I had run Big Sur, a very tough course, in 3:55, then three months later, San Francisco, another tough course, in 3:42, then three months later Silicon Valley in 3:44.

You can run the Boston qualifying time almost two years before the marathon you're going to use it to register for, so if I could run the qualifying time any time in the next year while I was 44, shaving 12 minutes off my best time, I would be able to run the next Boston.

So I ran five marathons trying to qualify that year, and none of my times was even close.

But I kept trying.

You could say I qualified in October of 2005, you could say I qualified in October of 2006, or you could say that I have not yet qualified for Boston.

October 1st, 2005, I ran the St. George Marathon in St. George, Utah, and was coming around the last bend when both of my calves cramped up, I hobbled in as fast as I could and finished in 3:31:21.

The required time was anything under 3:31:00, so I had missed it by 22 seconds, and that's the way I left it for a year.

In December I ran the Tucson Marathon in 3:39. In February of 2006, I ran the Desert Classic Marathon in 3:34. On October 1st, 2006, I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 3:38. I was close, but not fast enough.

But I had been told that if you write to the Boston Athletic Association and explain how something caused you to miss your qualifying time, they will often let you in. A friend of mine had done this when he lost his timing chip on the course at the Tucson Marathon. He missed his qualifying time by a lot more than 22 seconds, but they let him in.

So I sent in my Boston registration with my time from St. George and a letter explaining that as a diabetic, I have to test my blood sugar during the race, and it takes longer than 22 seconds. My registration was accepted.

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