One year ago, I experienced my first Boston Marathon.
I remember standing on the sideline, holding my race day sign, and thinking about how different the race felt. Every single runner was radiating joy and gratitude on an abnormally warm spring day. The smiles here felt warmer, the cheers were louder and the high fives were more energized. My heart raced all day and as I fell asleep that night -- I couldn’t put into words what I’d experienced.
Before watching that Boston Marathon that day, I had run 5 marathons and had cheered runners on at a few more. But I completely underestimated how inspiring it would be to witness the Boston Marathon in-person.
There’s something different about the people who toe the line of the Boston Marathon. They don’t just run, they run unapologetically.
Before Patriot’s Day 2016, I’d look at a Boston Marathon qualifying time (BQ) and think, “I could never run that fast”. Just five months prior, I had accomplished a years-long goal of breaking 4 hours and that feat was one of the hardest accomplishments of my life. In order to qualify for Boston, I’d have to run a marathon 25 minutes faster.
Did I think I could run a BQ? No. And while I was afraid of how difficult it would be to shave 25 minutes off of my marathon time, I was really afraid of how ashamed I’d feel if I put myself out there and then quit a month or two into training.
But I promised myself that I would at least try to do anything I didn’t think I was capable of accomplishing after I ran my first marathon. And when I caught myself telling my friends that I’d never be able to take myself seriously enough to BQ -- I knew I had to try.
I understood that the process would be physically and mentally difficult. I knew that it was going to be the fight of my life. What I didn’t know was just how hard it would be believe in myself.
It doesn’t matter if your goal is to run your first 5K or if you’re trying to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time, we’re all fighting to push through the exact same doubts and fears.
It was eerie how similar trying to BQ was to what I experienced when I was first becoming a runner. Regardless of how trivial or inconsequential becoming a runner or BQ-ing was in the grander scheme of things -- they both felt equally overwhelming. Failing and quitting was always an option and for months, my doubts were louder than my desire to succeed.
But, there’s something to be said for having the courage to step so far outside of your comfort zone that everything is foreign. Sure, it’s really scary and harder to navigate because you don’t know what to expect; but it’s liberating to know that if you give your best effort, incredible things will happen.
Today, I understand why Boston Marathoners run unapologetically and with so much joy and gratitude. It’s because they’ve all had the courage to fight through the endless barrage of doubts and fears that come with trying to make an impossible goal possible.
It’s absolutely true that the things worth doing will be the ones that scare the absolute shit out of you. The last year I’ve spent dedicated to running my BQ has been anything but easy. I’ve doubted myself into oblivion but I’ve proved to myself time and time again that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for.
But the surprising thing I’ve learned is that my BQ is no longer about running a specific time. It’s about running unapologetically and knowing that I did everything I possibly could to show up to the starting line of the London Marathon the strongest version of myself possible. And I don’t just mean going 100% when I run. That means forgiving myself when I need more time to recover and rest. Getting enough sleep. Reaching for foods that don’t just taste delicious, but fuel my body. (Can we just take a second to acknowledge the new CLIF Nut Butter Filled Energy bars? HOLY MOLY, if you’re looking for a pre-run or post run bar that tastes like heaven, go grab a chocolate hazelnut butter CLIF BAR. They’re life changing.) And doing the not so fun parts about training like planks, squats, and strength training.
There’s so much more to running down an impossible goal than just running faster. It’s why I decided to stop saying “fast” and “slow” when I talk about how I run and use the word strong instead. Or why I ask my friends who tell me I look skinny to instead tell me that I look strong. Strong is a feeling I’m working towards. It makes sense to me. And it keeps me motivated to keep fighting when the going gets tough and you start to doubt whether or not you will succeed.
There’s nothing worse than limiting what you’re capable of or feeling like you want to quit on yourself. And I know I’m not out of the woods yet, but being able to spread my arms wide and proclaim that I believe in myself is a feeling I hope I will never, ever forget.
Whenever you find yourself saying that you could never accomplish something that feels impossible, ask yourself what you stand to lose if you just find the courage to try.
To hell with realistic goals, I say keep it impossible and dare to fail giving it everything you have. Will it hurt like hell? YES. Will you doubt yourself every step of the way? YES. Will you look back and wish you would have believed in yourself sooner? HELL YES.
No regrets, no excuses.
Here’s to running unapologetically.