For those of you who don’t know, the privilege of running the Boston marathon most commonly comes in two forms. Either you qualify, or you run for charity. I’ve joked with friends that you have to “run fast, or raise money.” To qualify, you have to run in other marathons and finish in a certain time. The times vary by age and gender. For my age, I would have to complete 26.2 miles in less than 3 hours and 45 minutes. This means that I would have to run at a rate of 7 mph (or 8.58 minute/mile) for almost 4 hours. Some people do it every year and while it’s a great goal and aspiration, I haven’t hit it either. (Mark would have to complete the same distance in less than 3 hours and 5 minutes, running at 8.5 mph (7.06 minutes/mile) for a little over 3 hours.)
While we have completed 3 marathons and while “BQ” (Boston Qualifying) times are a great goal and aspiration, we do not “run fast.” So for the past few years, we’ve run marathons where you simply pay an entry fee and run. For us, they’ve been great experiences, fabulous vacations and a good way to keep us exercising. However, when we discussed our marathons with other people, the question always came up, “Have you run Boston?” “Are you going to run Boston?” which usually launches a conversation regarding the information in the first paragraph of this post. It’s a lot harder to run Boston than just going the 26.2 miles.
This year, we decided that we’d had enough practice- and it’s time to take it to our backyard and to the “big time.” This brings me to the second thing that many people don’t know about deciding to run the world’s oldest annual marathon. If you would like to run for a charity, you have to apply. You can’t just say, “don’t worry, I’ll raise the money and train, can I have a bib, please?” There’s competition for charity marathon bibs.
Mark and I gave some deep thought to which charity would be a good fit for us—and we decided on the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge. I plan to discuss specific reasons in a later post, but we liked that 100% of donations go to Dana Farber’s Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research. This means two things—1) you can know that ALL of your donation goes to a good cause 2) your donation benefits MORE than a single charity, hospital or program. This program funds research in cancer treatment…knowledge that becomes widespread and benefits us all—because we all know someone who has been affected by cancer.
So, Mark and I applied. We actually took over a week to work on our applications. We wrote, edited, reviewed and rewrote the answers to their questions. We created fundraising plans and decided that we would try to raise $20,000 for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge. The website says, “plan on 15-20 minutes to complete the application,” so we may have been overthinking a little bit. Given all of this, I thought that I’d share some of my application (with some tiny edits), which might help you understand why Mark and I took on this challenge.
Q: A note about myself — best run ever/biggest fan/toughest race/whatever:
I have not always been a runner. For most of my life I carried around the thought that I had some undiagnosed case of asthma–I tried to run and my lungs burned. I watched people running from car windows as I drove by and thought, “How are they doing that? WHY are they doing that….I could NEVER do that.” I was a chubby kid, liked drama, and never really understood that being active or an athlete paid off in more ways than your dress size and the vague general concept of “good health.”
In 2006, I started graduate school at Boston College to become a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. I had always been a little overweight, but in December of that year, after four years of college, one year in China, and 6 months of graduate school, I woke up to find myself at my highest weight ever…. I thought, “this needs to stop.” So, I joined the gym and started running on the treadmill, alternating running for one minute and walking for five. Gradually I increased the running time until I was running for 30 minutes steady. And then I took it to the road—getting up in the early mornings, adding miles, decreasing my time. Eventually, running stopped being a misery (mostly) and became part of who I am. Somewhere in between the intense early morning clinical, the seeming endless research papers and working my first few nursing jobs, I found time and a love of running. It became fun. I have an intense memory of running 8 miles for the first time and thinking—“I can do another loop, I can make it 12.” From there, I started running races—first completing my first 5K, and my first half marathon.
I met my husband when I was training for my first half marathon. It’s a running joke that I will never let him forget that he missed my finish because he was getting a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts on that cold March morning, thinking that my time would be slower. In January 2012, with my 30th birthday looming 9 months away, we started to discuss what we could do to celebrate. Naturally after a glass of wine (or two) running a marathon came up and seemed like a really good idea. More than that, we thought “what if we could run a marathon AND go on vacation.” Less than an hour later we had found the Dingle Marathon and had paid the registration fees.
The training was grueling, but we did it together, meticulously checking off runs, trying different types of hydration drinks, different flavors of gu’s. We bought spybelts and hydration packs. We read about shoe rotation and bought lots of clothes with wicking fabric. I learned about body glide. We ran on treadmills, we ran in the heat, and in the rain, ran the road and trails, long runs increasing until we hit 20 miles and then taped down. And the day finally came.
This is something that I wrote after that first marathon in Ireland. For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you might remember it:
Things I will not forget: slapping hands with excited little kids at mile 6; when Mark saw that we had caught up with the 4:15 pacer and then hearing him say he was doing more of a 4:03 and how confused I was about how we were next to him because we couldn’t be running that pace (no we didn’t stay with him the whole time); the pacer’s awesome advice to take the hills with small steps and to move our elbows—“the elbows get you up the hill!”; the jazz singer after mile 10, with the beach and green green mountains at her back (do wop do wop do wop); how “really? We’re at 7 already” turned into “where the hell is 18?! Are we there yet?” the locals who stood in the road and gave out oranges, and in particular the little girl with the plate of gummy worms and chocolate; how gross two peeled bananas felt in my hands at mile 21, but how good they tasted; the nice girl from Cork we met on the hill at 23 (she found us later and gave us her email), and of course, finishing my first marathon with my best friend.
Since then, we’ve run two other marathons. We’ve taken the time to train, plan and strategize our marathons, but we haven’t run for what has become our hometown, nor have we raised money for a charity event. We’re ready to bring it home and run for Dana Farber. I have confidence that we will be able to meet our fundraising goals using the same planning, hard work and effort that we have proven in training for our previous marathons.