Boston Or Bust
The cup of life is half-full, and yesterday I took almost 10 minutes off my Marathon PR, running the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon (from Schenectady to Albany) in 3hrs, 28 mins. I ran well for 22 miles, I had no fueling or hydration problems, I felt good afterwards, I feel right as rain today. By all rights, I should be pretty pleased with myself.
But if the cup of life is half-empty, then truth be told I was going flat out to qualify for the (elite) Boston Marathon for which, in my gender and age group, I needed a time of 3hrs, 20mins. The Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon is a spectacularly fast course almost expressly designed as a Boston Qualifier, and it was a definite disappointment to see on the results sheet that most of the 98 people who finished ahead of me succeeded in that goal. I’ve got absolutely no excuses: I trained hard, I felt good on the day, the weather was ideal (the torrential rain of the previous 48 hours finally let up, and the humidity was better than expected), and I gave it my all. For much of the race, I really felt I had it in me.
But, quite simply, I could never get ahead of my set pace, and about five miles from the finish, it became obvious that I didn’t have the reserves to deliver a lengthy final pace-breaking kick. Knowing as much, I slowed down accordingly and those last few miles were seriously hard work. To keep speeds up the Albany course is limited to a few hundred runners, and by the last few miles they are so spread out that there are few people to either pace or chase. And because of the small field and a course that hugs the river’s bike trails, the crowd is even smaller: this is true Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner stuff. The reward is merely a medal to stick in a drawer, a long drive home … and for many, the satisfaction of knowing they can take part in Boston next spring.
For me, my relative failure on that score is offset by knowing I did my best. The cup of life is definitely half full.
And besides, there’s always next year.
(Riding the bus back to the start, I got talking with two other men in my age group both running only their second Marathons – one of whom had qualified for Boston, the other of whom was still way outside a four hour pace. I had something in common with each of them: the faster runner taught in a Park Slope high school for 14 years, the slower one is a massive Mott The Hoople/Gang of Four fan. What I do not have in common is the brow-beating they’ve been getting from their wives over the intense training. Anyone who knows about this stuff is aware that for more than two months prior to a Marathon, you have to devote almost a full weekend day to the grueling process of a long run, while much of the usual family down time during the week is obliterated by shorter training runs. I’m really fortunate not only that my wife ran all the way through high school and her twenties, but that she passed her enthusiasm on to myself – and has indulged and supported my masochistic madness. Posie has already been entered into next year’s New York City Marathon and it will be my turn to indulge her vanishing weekends. I look forward to returning that favor.)