It started in 2011. I had signed up for San Jose Rock 'n' Roll half marathon on a whim with 2 weeks to go. After that race, I was hooked on endurance running. I had heard the buzz about Boston among runners I had met. They talked with a dreamlike gaze. It got me curious. Then it got me excited. Then it got me running.
I had come from a road cycling background. Intense training, speed training, endurance training, all those things weren't news to me. What was new, was the art and science of running. My natural endurance ability and grit was able to get me a 1hr 29min finish at the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll half, and a 4th place age group/3hr 23min finish at the Morgan Hill Marathon just 2 weeks later. That was as far as it would take me. The rest would require becoming a student of a new sport, a new found passion I should say, for running.
I had no idea how long this would take. I just knew it would be worth it. I had hoped that in the process of striving for Boston, I would become a better person as well. I believe that arduous challenges such as this one, not only reveal character, they also provide the opportunity to build character, as well as redeem oneself. It took over 4 years and 12,000 miles to qualify for Boston Marathon. There were countless times I felt the going was too tough to keep going. Times where I felt like I had bit off more than I could chew. I am thankful that I had the incredible love and support of my girlfriend Nicole. She inspired me and lifted me up when I needed it.
I got chills as I walked into the convention center in downtown Boston. I was like a kid at a candy store, and I was about to have my candy!
I don't know if I have ever been happier picking up a race packet. All the years, the hard work and perseverance had paid off. It was a touching moment. To know that I had proven myself true, that I had set a goal, and achieved it. All this made me realize that success is the realization you have become yourself, the person you were meant to be all this time. It is the utmost reward. Running redeems and keeps our souls alive. At some point the miles can no longer be ran with ego or mind. They must be ran with our heart, the part of us that is often tucked away or buried beneath supposed maturity. We realize the heart, is central, and should be guarded diligently.
The best part of the running expo was having the opportunity to meet one of my longtime running inspirations, 7-time Western States 100 miler champion, Scott Jurek.
I strongly recommend you read his book "Eat and Run." His story is truly inspirational. It gave me much needed motivation and insight into myself, helping me to conquer things that had been conquering me. Scott was very down to earth and encouraging. This is what I love about running. You become part of a community, a family that welcomes you and celebrates you and your achievements. The longer you run, you realize you're not running against others, but with others.
Breaking down the Marathon
I had done research on the course and spoken with runners who previously ran it. This course was tough without the problems the weather brought on. Last year, the marathon was rainy and cold. This year was said to be a sunny scorcher.
I was tempted to set a new personal record, but when I got to my coral and felt the heat, my gut told me to make a new goal. You run long enough, you learn to heed that voice, and I did. Rather than set a new personal record, I aimed at a sub 3 time. While the first handful of miles were downhill, I knew the Newton hills coupled with heart break hill would wear out the legs big time. The course varied too much to target a steady pace, so I set a target heart rate zone for this race instead. Many runners would pass me, but I had a good feeling I would see them before the finish line.
As the miles went on, I would pass runners and see the sodium deposits dried up on their faces like white cake icing. Everyone was sweating out their nutrition, and yet they were trying to push a hard pace still.
I began to see runners pull to the side, having just succumb to an injury. Some runners would come to a dead stop right in front of me. They had ran themselves to the bone, and couldn't go any further. I was thankful I listened to my gut and stayed within my targeted heart rate zone. By the time I reached the top of the infamous "Heart Break Hill", my body and legs were feeling the weight of it all. I could still run within my targeted zone. By the time I had reached mile 25, I was still in contention of a sub 3 time. The only thing I had to do was run the last mile in 6:25 on tired, jello-like legs.
I remember what Scott Jurek had said in his book Eat and Run, "we don't know how strong we are, until it's the only choice we've got." I found myself having no choice but to be strong and run as fast and hard as I can. I didn't look at my watch. I didn't check my heart rate. I just looked ahead and ran. I kept hearing a voice inside me say, "Run. Run for your life!" There is nothing like being in that "all or nothing moment." You are fully present, fully alive. There is pain. There is excitement. There is a story in the making, the ending left up to you.
I hooked a left turn onto Boylston street and heard the roar of the crowd. Up ahead was the Boston Marathon banner and the famed finish line. I kicked as hard as I could. I could feel my heart pounding like hammers within my chest. All the years, all the hard work, was not for nothing. I was going to write the ending of my story the way I intended. I sprinted passed the finish line, clicked the stop button on my watch and took a glance. "02:59:39" it read. I double checked with the official results and found that I had finished just one second earlier.
I had finally made the dream a reality. I had reached the peak of the mountain. It was time to celebrate and think about my next mountain.
"It's important to know
that at the end of the day,
It's not the medals you remember.
What you remember is the process,
what you learn about yourself by
challenging yourself, the experiences
you share with other people, the honesty
the training demands. Those are things
nobody can take away from you whether
you finish twelfth or your'e an Olympic Champion."
-Silken Laumann, Canadian Olympian