‘The Boston Marathon.’ Magical words to many runners. Famed for attracting the world’s top performers to its historic route and spectator-jammed finish alley, it might seem strange for an avowed mid-pack-runner to talk about going to Boston, but then, the very competitiveness (and size) of the event ensures that even people who might stand out on other days will experience the BAA’s yearly celebration from somewhere in the middle of the pack.
It also helps that the qualifying times for Boston are graduated; though dauntingly-short for younger runners of each gender, they get considerably longer for us older folks, which is pretty much the only reason this MPR got to run there a couple of years ago. That was one of the greatest thrills of my running life, and now that I’ve learned I will be going back in 2015, I’d like to share some observations about it all, from the mid-pack perspective. Hopefully I can do justice to the experience, and maybe motivate some other MPRs to see themselves reaching for this particular brass ring.
Truth is, running Boston hardly entered my mind during the first seven years, and ten finishes, of marathoning. I’d entered the St. George Marathon hoping for a new PR and thanks to a great fast course managed that plus a little more. I don’t recall whether they listed ‘BQ’ on the results posted during the race, or if I found out later, but it was really only after learning I had qualified that I imagined going, and once I did, it was only more good luck that made it possible.
Boston registration happens in early September, opening first to the fastest over-qualifiers, then working down in several tiers to those who (like me) just barely made their required time. These days, the field fills up as soon as that last tier opens, but in 2012, for whatever reason, there was still space even in the first week of October. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to submit my registration as soon as I returned from Utah, and received a tentative notice the next day, with the formal printed Certificate of Acceptance (yes, the BAS does things up right: from the moment they verify your qualifying time, every runner – regardless of standing – is treated like a valued competitor) arriving by mail a week or two later.
Thus my number one observation: even before stepping on the plane, ‘Boston’ reminded this generally-pretty-pragmatic MPR of the value in looking beyond the expected, in having eyes and ears open for opportunity, and in being ready (and quick) to seize it when it appears. To – in the archetypally-simple lyric of Mr. Lennon – “Imagine.”
Coming up, more about being allowed into this big-ring of the running circus.