Last week I asked my readers and running buddies on Twitter to chime in with their suggestions about what strategy I should take for qualifying for the Boston Marathon. My dilemma revolved around the deadline for registration–my original goal race fell after the September deadline, so if I BQed there, it would be under the procedures and standards for the 2013 marathon. Boston, it seemed to me, kept moving ever-further out of range.
After a little bit of angst (I won’t qualify before flipped into the next age group, 40-44, the horrors), and a lot of consideration about what everyone had to say, I am sticking with my original plan of racing the Empire State Marathon on October 16, 2011, and I will try to race fast enough to qualify and gain entry to the 2013 Boston Marathon. Because of the new tiered registration process, simply qualifying is no longer enough. I’ll have to hope that whatever my time is, it will be fast enough to get me a bib after all the women who qualified with a greater buffer than I. Also, using an October 2011 race as a qualifier for Boston 2013 means I’ll have to live in suspense for 11.5 months until I know for sure if I have actually got in to the big show. Despite these few less than ideal details, I am really excited about the Empire State Marathon for many reasons.
First, racing the Lehigh Valley Marathon in early September would have jeopardized my performance in several key ways. I would have truncated my basebuilding by a whole month. I would have been dealing with much warmer, more humid weather on race day. The course is partly on trails, so as DT succinctly wrote, I would get a “lower return on mechanical energy” by running on uneven surfaces. (That’s not even mentioning how much Betty hates those kinds of surfaces.) More than one runner testified as to how difficult running on a net descent course can be on the body, and while I could (and would) have trained for that, I’d rather not add challenges to this endeavor.
The bottom line, for me, is that it’s a difference of 36 days between the Lehigh Valley Marathon and the Empire State marathon, yet the BAA has set two different sets of standards for me. The irony is that as the standards flip down, my age bracket flips up, so my qualifying time remains the same. I think this is what you call a zero-sum game, though for whom I am not exactly sure. On second thought, it’s not irony, it’s absurdity. But whatever, clearly I imbibed the Kool-Aid: I want to race the Boston Marathon as a time-qualified participant, so I am willing to jump through their hoops. If the BAA told me my BQ would count only if I was photographed crossing the finish line in a pink tutu, I would go out and buy a pink tutu. What can I say? Even though I agree with other runners who have made the case that the Boston standards are much more arbitrary and bullshit than any time goals I might set for myself based on my own past performances, I still want to be a Boston qualifier! I want the frikkin blue and yellow race gear, OK?
Not to mention, it is very unorganized to have run all but one of the five World Marathon Majors (another goal of mine. I’ve two down, with three to go). I like complete sets, and having all the boxes ticked off on my to-do list.
These are the reasons I am excited about the Empire State Marathon:
- This will be the first-ever small field marathon I’ve run. My past two have been massive, crowded, aggravating experiences. I have learned my lesson: on the race course, hell is other people. Considering this, the EMS should be heaven.
- It’s the premier running of the race. I know that could mean there will be SNAFUs that might affect my ultimate performance, but I have faith that instead I’ll just be an insider until others cop on and run it next year.
- It’s in Syracuse, which is about a four and a half hour drive from where I live in Queens. I’ll have to hotel it, but I don’t have to deal with the dehydration and disorientation that comes from trans-time zone air travel. Also, it means that if I plan well enough, I can drive up there one weekend during my training for a long run to test part of the course. This will give me a big mental advantage and a confidence boost heading into the event.
- It’s in October, which means I’ll be able to cheer on all my friends running the New York City Marathon without stressing about my own training. During my taper, I have two fun events the weekends leading up to race day: The first weekend of October I’ll be cheering AC as she competes in her first half Ironman triathlon. It’s here in the Poconos, so she & her man will stay here that weekend, replicating the fun I had with AG when he raced the Pocono Marathon. The second weekend in October, I’ll be celebrating the wedding in Denver of one of my first-ever running buddies, KW. Also in attendance to party with us will be my other first-ever running buddy, DT. Two excellent events to reinforce my motivation, inspiration and confidence going into my goal race. It will also be nice to have things to distract me from the taper, which I always find nerve-wracking. Hell, I might take that whole week of October 10 off from work and spend part of it with my brother and friends in Colorado!
Apart from race-specific reasons why I’m happy to have settled on a Fall race, I am going through all of the typical satisfactions us marathoners have in this honeymoon stage. I’ve made a suitable match, so I’m feeling a little pleased with myself. I have been listening to people tweet, blog and talk about their long runs, races and PRs for a whole year now without really having (m)any of my own–I’m JONESING to be back part of the Distance Training Tribe. I love the laser beam focus the training plan gives me, the sharply defined shape it gives to my life. I just surrender to the plan, I take a vow. OK plan, do with me what you will, I am yours. I will retreat from my (non-running) social life, I will bid a sad farewell to my red wine, I will swear off excess quantities of dairy, processed sugar, simple carbs, and late nights.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.