Runners are an extremely goal orientated group of people, and I’m perhaps more so than many of my friends. I become obsessed when there’s something in front of me and quite frequently I need to be careful that my goals don’t take me over. I began running in June of 2009 with one goal: Complete a 5K without walking. Six weeks later I achieved it with a time of 25:07. I knew the moment I crossed the finish line that I wanted to try a 10K next. 2 months later, I achieved that goal too with a time of 53:01. Soon after that race, I decided to skip the half marathon and try a full marathon next. 5 months after that, BOOM, I was a marathoner with a time of 4:39:20. While I was still in the Fargodome shower, on May 22, 2010, I knew I had found the distance that would challenge me, and a new goal popped into my head for the first time; the Boston Marathon.
The Boston Marathon is the world’s most famous marathon and it’s open to anyone who can meet its qualification standards. It’s the Holy Grail of running, always in the sight of those searching, sometimes at their fingertips, but at other times, well beyond their reach. The tantalizing quality about Boston is that the qualification standards ease a little as runners age. A 25-year-old man, in the prime of his life needs to complete a certified marathon in 3 hours and 5 minutes to qualify. A fifty-year-old man gets 3 hours and 30 minutes. Women’s qualifying times are 30 minutes slower than men of the same age, giving them an equal opportunity to get in as well.
The Boston goal is still out there for me, but at present it feels more like a dream than something I have a real chance of ever doing. But you know what, the next best thing to going myself is having friends that make it to the big race. I belong to a great group called Red River Runners and the support these fine people give each other is phenomenal! Every year a few of our members earn the right to compete in the best race on earth, and every year the rest of us spend the 3rd Monday in April with our phones out, tracking the progress of our friends as they make their way from Hopkinton to Boston. I’m especially proud of two of this year’s participants as they both have had a major role in making me the runner I am today.
Brian Gregoire is a friend that works in the same laboratory as me and happens to be just a few days older. Brian invited me to my first 5K, and got me started in Red River Runners, something I will forever be grateful to him for. Brian also invited me to be on his relay team “Twisted Blister” for the 81 on 81 race, and to this day that is perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had running. Speaking of fun, he also got me started trail running at Turtle River State Park and invited me to be on his Endtrails relay team “Three Men and a Barbie.” That day also ranks right up there as one of the best ever! Brian is an awesome runner who has been running way longer than me and is way faster than I ever hope to be. He has qualified for Boston every year I’ve known him, and I’m so happy that this year he’s finally making the trip east to actually run in the Boston Marathon!
I met Jessica Snyder when I first joined Red River Runners back in 2010. I was a beginner and she was one of the really good runners so we didn’t speak very much that first training cycle, although she always made a point of saying “Hi,” especially when her and her friend Marie passed me every Saturday during the first half mile of our group run. We still didn’t know each other very well that fall, but it so happened we both ran the Bismarck Marathon in September, and her time impressed me greatly. I believe Jessica was close to qualifying for Boston that day, and I remember wishing I was as good of a runner as her!
I was still in awe of Jessica a few weeks later when I lined up for my first half marathon, the FM Mini in Fargo. About 10 minutes before the race was supposed to begin, she walked right up to me in the starting corral and said she was going to run with me. Jessica talked for most of that morning while I listened and concentrated on running. It started a friendship that has spanned many years and hundreds of miles running together. Perhaps none were more special that the 22 miles we did together on my 50th birthday with dozens of our friends joining us for some of the miles.
Brian and Jessica have both been great running partners through the last several years, but more importantly, they’ve also been great friends. They’ve made me smile and they’ve encouraged me to be the best I can be. Most importantly though, they’ve always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, and that has meant more to me than either of them will ever know.
Next Monday, April 16th, Brian and Jessica will be taking part in the greatest race on earth when they run the 2018 Boston Marathon. Enjoy the holy grail, my friends, nobody deserves this more than you!