Before I post about how I was able to improve my running enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I thought it would be fun and helpful to give you a history of the previous marathons I have run, from the beginning.
I have been running marathons since 2003. My first one remains one of the most memorable. I raised $4200 for Team in Training, traveled to Alaska, and completed the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage in 4:07:47. Ever since that first race I was hooked. I knew that someday I would break 4 hours, and that was my ultimate goal. My next 3 marathons were all Chicago, in 2003 (4:15:18), 2004 (4:27:10), and 2005 (4:17:00). I really wasn’t getting any closer to the 4 hour mark, in fact I couldn’t even beat the time from my first marathon. I decided it was time to do something different in training. Up until this point, I had never really done speedwork, and I’m sure all of my running was probably done at the same steady (slow) pace.
The next marathon I signed up for was the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee in 2006. I decided this was the year I would break 4 hours. I started using a 3-run-per-week training plan that included one interval run, one tempo run, and one long run per week. I also cross trained twice a week, usually biking. That October I ran a 3:57:03 at Lakefront. I was so happy to have finally accomplished my goal. I ran Chicago again three weeks later and finished in 4:27:20, thus running my fastest and slowest marathon to date in the same month. I considered giving up marathons at this point because I honestly didn’t think any other goals were possible. Yes, maybe I could beat my time, but Boston qualifying or even a 3:50 was so far out of reach I didn’t even consider the possibility.
In 2007 I did not run a marathon. I can’t remember the reasoning, other than I had a friend’s wedding on the date of Chicago, and I just didn’t sign up for anything else. I still ran throughout the year, but nothing longer than probably 6 or 7 miles. I didn’t think I would miss the marathon, but by the end of 2007 I was hungry. I decided that I would run Chicago again in 2008. I also got into triathlon around this time and signed up for my first half-ironman. Running in 2008 was memorable because I ended up training my friend Cammie for her first marathon. We did our long runs together amidst hours and hours of good conversation. I didn’t have any goal for the race other than to run for fun. I finished in 4:10:58, though deep down I knew I had the fitness to run a lot faster than that. Without a goal pushing me it just didn’t happen. I went home feeling a little bit unsatisfied.
In 2009 I heard about the inaugural WI Marathon in May, and decided I would carry over my fitness throughout the winter and go for a PR in the spring. I followed the same 3-run training plan, and I was feeling so good about where I was at that I made my goal for the race not only to PR, but to break 3:50. Though I was on pace for most of the race, my stomach got the best of me and I had a horrible finish. I still PR’d with a 3:56:31, but it was a huge disappointment.
Fall of 2009 was Ironman WI. Though I did not do another fall marathon, I ended the year in the best shape of my life and decided to go for a major PR at the WI Marathon in 2010. As I started training my goal was to break 3:50, but my running was going so well that thoughts of Boston started to creep into my head. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I started to wonder if the impossible had become a possibility. My long runs were on pace and I was feeling great. I knew that if everything came together on May 1st I would be golden. Well things obviously came together and I was able to finish in 3:37:49, good for Boston qualifying and also a huge 18:42 PR. I am still amazed with how far I have come in one year, and next I will try to go into specific detail on how I was able to get faster.