At the Indianapolis Monumental on Nov. 4, I finished my 18th marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon (for the second time) with enough of a cushion that should enable me to do the famous race in 2019.
The Indy race was my sixth consecutive Indianapolis Monumental. It’s been a great journey since I lined up for my first 26.2 in Indy on the first Saturday of November in 2012. Along the way, I have learned quite a few things about running, nutrition, fitness and life.
Here are six things I thought about along the race course:
“You can and you will.” During that first marathon, I hit the struggle bus around mile 18 or so. That’s when I came across a random spectator, cheering on every runner during a cold day that was punctuated by a bout of freezing rain. As she clapped, she repeatedly told each runner, “You can and you will.” That became my mantra for the rest of the race and others since. It was a mantra I shared with friend and fellow runner Stephanie Wattenbarger, who qualified for Boston and expects to be there in 2019. Days before the race, she reminded me of the mantra and how it helped her. Thanks to her, I focused on and even said the mantra several times during the race when I needed a boost.
Goal oriented. I accomplished a major goal at the 2016 Indianapolis Monumental — qualifying for Boston. However, I was among roughly 5,200 runners who qualified but did not make the cut. That rejection fueled my desire to not only qualify but to get a time that would ensure me of getting in. My qualifying time for the 2019 Boston is 3:30, so I set my A goal at 3:20 and my B goal at 3:25. Around Mile 16, I started doing math in my head every mile. I knew it would be close — I was closing in around a 3:25 finish. The last thing I wanted was to miss 3:25 by seconds because I feared Boston would create a 5-minute cutoff, meaning I would be excluded again. I really pushed the final 1.2 miles, with Mile 26 my second-fastest one on the day. That was enough for me to finish with a 3:24:16, which should be enough of a gap to get me into Boston.
Trust the process. I used pretty much the same training plan that coach Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy laid out for me in 2016. My 20-miler three weeks before the 2017 race worried me as I did not hit the paces I needed. I shoved those negative thoughts aside the following week when I did Yasso 800s, which were significantly faster than the two previous sessions I did during the training cycle. That helped me refocus and remind myself to trust the process.
Mind over matter. It’s a mind game, as Elizabeth Clor outlined in her book, “Boston Bound.” Clor, who also ran the Monumental in 2017, describes how to push negative thoughts out of your head during a race. That definitely helped as a strong wind presented a challenge toward the end of the race. Instead of thinking of the wind — or preparing to use it as an excuse — I refocused my thoughts on how it would feel when I crossed the line in 3:20something. It worked.
Whither weather. About two weeks before race day, I checked the forecast. It was basically perfect — 40s, no rain and minimal wind. But I was concerned because long-range forecasts rarely turn out to be accurate. As race day drew closer, the forecast changed several times — a strong chance of rain showers on race morning to temperatures in the 60s throughout the day. Instead of worrying about the weather, I decided to let it go — whatever the weather was going to be, there was nothing I could do but deal with it. Race day morning was mid-40s, little chance of rain (and it stayed dry) and moderate winds.
Thinking of you, Wash. A few weeks before race day, I learned that a friend and former co-worker was battling cancer. Jeff Washburn — Wash, as he is known by everybody — was in my thoughts and along for the ride. A local high school football team — Wash’s alma mater — brought him in for an inspirational speech before a big game a few weeks ago. But it was a ruse to honor Wash and show him that they were dedicating the game to him, with all players wearing “Wash” decals on their helmets. I was able to acquire “Wash” stickers to display on my sneakers during the race. Thinking about my friend during the race inspired me to continue to work hard and race hard. I know not everyone can run and some day I will not be able to run. But Nov. 5 was not that day.
And thanks to Wash, Coach Spencer, Wattenbarger, Clor and my other inspiring family and friends, it was a day and race I will remember proudly for a long time.