Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Marathon Monday’s Bittersweet for This Bostonian

As a prelude to the Boston Marathon, Fit Girl Happy Girl wrote a post describing the race as “our city’s shining moment.” I don’t disagree; it’s a fantastic, historic and by all accounts awesome race, and I’m proud to live in (OK, near) the city that so warmly embraces the marathon.

Unfortunately, my relationship with the Boston Marathon is a bit more bittersweet. (In social media parlance, it’s complicated.) For me, the race resembles a raging high school party -- you know, the one everyone but you was invited to. On Monday, despite living little more than fartlek’s length from the course, I’ll be ripping apart a dilapidated shed in my backyard instead of watching the race. (To be fair, the next steady wind will know the damn thing over.)

I am 0-for-8 in Boston Marathon qualifying efforts, having come closest in my mid-20s when I missed by a whole 3 minutes. Well, 0-for-8 is inaccurate. After failing to qualify three or four times, I saw the writing on the wall, approaching subsequent marathons not as BQ attempts that were bound to fail but, rather, as races that I ought to enjoy. For the most part, I have. Even my most recent marathon -- a disastrous 3:51 and change at the Manchester Marathon, the result of woefully inadequate training and, I tell myself to make myself feel better, high wind -- was, in hindsight, not terrible, even if I spent several miles wondering which front lawn would be the best spot on which to collapse and spend the final moments of my life.

Still, it’s tough to be around the race. Living so close to the course, I often see dozens, if not hundreds, of yellow-DriFit-clad runners making their way through my neighborhood. I run past them, head down, wishing I were in their shoes, so to speak.

Yes, I could run for charity, but I haven’t found one I embrace wholeheartedly enough to raise a few thousand dollars for. I could finagle my way to a number, or run as a bandit, but I’m much too honest. I want to qualify, even if it’s only going to get harder for me to do so.

I don’t bemoan the Boston Athletic Association for implementing a rigid, difficult qualifying process at all. The Boston Marathon’s a huge race, with a field larger than the population of half the municipalities it runs through, and it’s a prestigious, world-class race. Frankly, there should be a qualifying process, and I’m more than willing to abide by it, even if it means I spend Marathon Monday doing yardwork instead of running 26.2 miles.

Luckily, I’ve been a faster, more determined and more focused runner since my debacle in Manchester. My next marathon probably won’t be a BQ, but I do think I have one in me -- and not solely because I’m creeping closer to a more forgiving qualifying time.

Once I hit the mark, you can bet I’ll be registering as soon as I can, hitting “Refresh” on my browser as many times as it takes, and telling everyone I know (until they make me shut up) that I’m taking part in Boston’s shining moment. I sure as hell wish I were running this year, but I know, deep down, that someday I’ll get my invitation to the party of the year.