My friend Stacy once told me “running marathons isn’t for the faint of heart.” First of all, you need to achieve a level of fitness far above that of the average American in order to even begin training. Then, for the next four months, you train almost every day, getting in your workouts whenever the rest of your life allows them to occur. If you make it this far without injury, you have probably logged near 1,000 miles, and are now ready to try a marathon. In order to complete a race of 26.2 miles, a runner has to then successfully battle course conditions, weather, dehydration, fatigue, chaffing, and calorie deprivation to even have a chance of finishing. Yes Stacy, running marathons isn’t for the faint of heart.
The Boston Marathon is arguably the most prestigious marathon in the world. Besides being one of the first, it is also one of the very few which has implemented qualifying criteria. In order to even be allowed to enter the Boston Marathon, a runner has to complete another sanctioned marathon in a certain amount of time which varies based on a runner’s sex and age. These qualifying times are difficult and designed to insure that only the absolute best marathon finishers in the world are eligible to enter the Boston Marathon.
Finishing a marathon is hard enough; try to imagine the extra pressure placed on a runner to also finish in a certain amount of time. While this is not overly difficult for truly elite runners, it does provide an enormous challenge for most of the rest of us. That is why when someone I know enters the Boston Marathon, I feel it appropriate to acknowledge the great effort they have already put forward just to be taking part in the prestigious race. Four of my strong hearted friends, Rachel, Holly, Anne-Marie, and Martin, are all currently in Boston, ready to run in tomorrow’s marathon, so let me tell you just a little about each of them.
I’ve known Rachel for only a relatively short amount of time, but she appears extremely dedicated to her sport. This will be her second appearance at the Boston Marathon and she hopes to improve on last year’s Boston performance which she described as a “Death march in the heat!”
I’ve known Holly just a little longer than Rachel, but have had the opportunity to share some long runs with her and Jessica last summer as we all got ready for the Twin Cities Marathon. This is Holly’s first Boston Marathon, and there are two things I want you to know about this dedicated runner: 1) Once she starts running, she doesn’t like to stop. When Jessica and I would stop at a convenience store to purchase beverages and eat our energy packs, Holly would continue running circle around the parking lot until we finished. 2) I completed the 2012 Twin Cities Marathon in less time than Holly and remind her of it every chance I get!
I’ve known Anne-Marie the longest, and she has become perhaps the most frequent participant in our Red River Runner’s group runs. This Irish born teacher truly enjoys chatting with whoever she’s running with: It doesn’t matter if you are the slowest or the fastest; Anne-Marie makes everyone feel welcome. I was in Fargo in 2011 running my third marathon the same day Anne-Marie was running her first, and she gave me a huge fist pump of encouragement as we passed each other in a two way area. I saw her extreme disappointment later that day however, as she related how she had injured a tendon in her knee towards the end of the race and had to hobble across the finish line. Anne-Marie did return to Fargo the next year to seek vengeance, and she ultimately qualified for her first Boston Marathon on the same streets which had earlier crushed her!
Martin has his PhD in exercise science and acts as the “Trainer” for Red River Runners in addition to teaching at the University of North Dakota. This Canadian born athlete is the epitome of overall fitness as he excels in a variety of different sports. While I often accuse Martin of causing Red River Runners much undue pain and hardship, he has actually helped many of us reach higher levels of performance when we’ve followed his detailed training plans. Martin has taken me aside on several occasions when I’ve felt defeated, and delivered just the right mixture of encouragement and advice to get me past the disappointment, and thinking instead about my next race. I’ll forever owe Martin a debt of gratitude for his special trip to Minneapolis last October when he came to run the Twin Cities Marathon at my side to ensure I finally broke the 4 hour time barrier. Martin has practiced what he preaches, and by following his own training plan, says he’s in the best shape of his life. Even though the Boston course is extremely difficult, I expect this will be Martin’s best marathon yet; that’s just the way he approaches these things.
I wish all four of you a great race tomorrow! You’ve earned the right to be there, so enjoy the environment and make yourself some great memories! Be sure to bring back your tales of success to share with those of us yet to qualify!