As someone who ran competitively throughout junior high, high school and in college, I’m definitely a bit of a running nerd. As a running nerd, Boston had always been a big goal of mine and qualifying felt like a dream come true. Running The Boston Marathon is the coolest thing I’ve done in my 24 years. It is the accomplishment I am most proud of, because I achieved it on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I worked HARD for the success I had in my high school and college days, but this was different. For the first time I had no coach, no teammates, no running club or even friends who were marathon training with me.
I picked up marathon racing after my last year of running for my college team. I wanted something to work towards in my training to keep me fit and motivated. When I signed up for my first marathon, I had no idea what to expect or what time I could run. I also signed up with a little under three months to train – how hard could it be?! (hello ignorant bliss!) I didn’t tell that many people I was training, because I didn’t want any extra pressure. When those that did know asked about my goals, I simply told them it was to break four hours. I kept to myself that I wanted to qualify for Boston.
I downloaded a marathon training plan from a google search and got to work. I put in hours upon hours of running – all by myself with that Boston-qualifying pace in mind. When race day came, I surprised myself. I ran 5 minutes under the qualifying standard for my age group and rode that runner’s high for a solid week.
I was still in college in Grand Rapids, Michigan when I ran that first marathon. I enjoyed training on the sidewalks surrounded by people. Sometimes, I would pick up a friend to run with on my lower mileage days. But by the time my Boston training began, I had graduated and moved home to my small Iowa town. This time around I did every training run solo – the short ones, long runs, and everything in between. Most of my miles were on rural Iowa highways with no one else around. There was nothing entertaining to help me pass the time. It was also January, and the first time I had marathon trained during a bitter Iowa winter.
Staying motivated was hard. I was the only person keeping myself accountable. I was my own coach and the person who forced myself to lace up. Even on those dangerously cold days, I told myself I had to put in the work. Was it worth it? I remember sprinting down Boylston Street in Boston – the pouring rain blinding me and wind battering my face. But when I crossed that finish line, I had never felt stronger or more proud of myself than I did in that moment. The months of cold runs, blistered feet, and repeated Spotify playlists instantly became worth it in that single moment.
A lot of the runners I know are like me – they have a tendency to be a little Type A and a little uptight. We can be perfectionistic and hard on ourselves. We can run so well but get hung up on how we could have run better. When we do something, we want to give it our all. With this personality, we quit before it’s even begun sometimes. It’s intimidating to be working toward the same big goal that someone with a team, coach, club and/or more experience is also working towards. But I can speak from my own experience and say that you are just as qualified for your big Boston dreams with a training plan from google and a lonely Iowa highway as anyone else as long as you have a little belief in your untapped potential. Whether your goal is to get to finish a marathon, walk a 5k, or simply make it to the gym, your metaphorical “Boston” is right in front of you. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.