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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

3rd Times A Charm!

One of my favorite races of all time is the Nike Women's Marathon/half-marathon in San Francisco.  The beautifully scenic course, the energy of so many female runners (no offense guys), and of course the gorgeous Tiffany finishers necklace makes it the one race I hope to repeat year after year.  (Granted, I only do the half.  Those hills are crazy!)

So what does this have to do with my 3rd marathon?  Well, the entry for the NWM is a lottery, and I knew that I was lucky to get in on my 1st attempt in 2011.  I also knew that I wanted to run one last marathon in my very own Sweet home Chicago so my mom could be at the finish line.  Consequently I made myself a deal that if I didn't get into the 2012 NWM 1/2, that I would run the Chicago full in the fall of 2012.  In the Spring of 2012, I found out that I did not get chosen for the lottery, so I joined Team DetermiNation and started training for my 3rd, and final, full marathon in Chicago.

My training went really, really well although I still don't know exactly why it felt so different.  I probably shouldn't say this, and I'm certainly not recommending it, but while I always follow the daily miles in my training plan religiously, I have never paid attention to pace runs, stretching, fartleks, splits, cross training, etc... I simply lace up my shoes and run.  I don't mean to make it sound like it's a piece of cake, because it's not.  Besides lacing up your shoes you're going to need to believe in yourself, never give up, and be willing to work hard even on the days when you'd rather stay in bed curled up with a good book!  For whatever reason though, my pace improved substantially, and one Saturday after a long run I realized that I was completing my training miles at a Boston Qualifying pace.  I tried not to think about it, because the idea of running Boston has honestly never crossed my mind.  It was never a goal or even a dream of mine.  However once the thought entered my mind, there was no blocking it out.

The timing of the marathon became my biggest challenge.  My mom, who I was running this "last" marathon for, ironically wasn't going to be able to attend, as the non-profit she works for was hosting their 5k the very same day.  We were each sad not to be able to support each other in person, but we were together in spirit!  Next I discovered that my oldest son's first college family weekend at SMU in Minnesota fell on the same weekend of the marathon.  Of course I wasn't going to miss that, so we headed to MN on Friday and left late in the afternoon on Saturday. Luckily my husband offered to drive the 6 hours back to Chicago.  I went to bed around midnight and woke up a few hours later to join 45,000 other runners on the start line.

The conditions for the race were perfect, and I was amazed to see my family cheering me on at several points along the route.  The energy, enthusiasm, and motivation from the fans was indescribable.  Boston flashed in my mind a few times, but mainly I focused on the crowd, my music, and running one mile at a time.  I felt strong until around mile 22.  At that point I knew that Boston was in reach, but I kept telling myself that this was my "last" marathon anyway, so why should I worry about Boston?  My stubborn, never say quit, attitude took over and I ignored the temptation to walk and just kept going.  When I crossed the finish line I knew it would depend on my chip time, but I felt pretty confident.  While I was certainly exhausted, I have never felt so strong after running 26.2 miles!  It truly was an incredible feeling!

The time I needed to qualify was 3:55:00.  My chip time ended up being 3:54:12.  I BQ'd by 48 seconds and took 40 minutes off my PR!!! I am now just under 11 weeks away from running the 117th Boston Marathon, and am still pinching myself to believe it's really happening.  Once again, I believe I will be hanging up my marathon shoes and sticking to 13.1's after April.  (Of course, you all know how well that's worked for me up till now! I am adding a clause though, that if any of my sons want to eventually run 26.2 with me, my new marathon shoes would be ordered tomorrow!)  I have learned that while there is countless sources available for fabulous running advice, there really is no magic recipe for running.  Running simply IS magic, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it!

Oh, and remember that 2012 NWM in SF that I didn't get into that led me to signing up for the Chicago marathon in the first place?  I ended up getting accepted in the early fall in a surprise 2nd chance entry opportunity!  I ran that half and picked up my 2nd Tiffany's necklace two weeks after the Chicago marathon.  Celebrating my BQ by running my favorite race, was the perfect finish to an unforgettable race season!  So perfect in fact, that two weeks after Boston I'll be running the inaugural NWM half in DC and collecting a little more Tiffany bling from yet another firefighter in a tux!  All I can say is hurry up Spring!

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