Why I Don’t Want to Run The Boston Marathon

Don't insert me here.

So the big Boston Marathon will here in a week. The BM is the one super popular, crowded race we runners need something besides connections, a really early alarm or super fast typing fingers to get into. We also need speed in order to make the qualifying times. (And, truth be told, with the race becoming so popular, we probably need connections, the alarm and quick digits too.)

Let it be said that I am duly impressed by people who qualify, who set a goal to qualify, who have the dream, no matter how distant, to get into Boston. Please know that I am not diminishing their accomplishments or their goals with this post.

But I have never--and will never--want to qualify for Boston. As somebody who writes about running for a living, I realize that may be a bit sacrilegious to type. I should want to be there, want with all my guts and soul to ride the bus to Hopkinton to the starting line, want to prove that what I lack in talent, I make up for with drive. But I don't. My running Boston is like my fitting into a size six pair of jeans. It's not natural, and it's just never going to happen.

First of all, I would have to run a really fast marathon just to get into another marathon, where all my co-runners are really fast? That is so unappealing to me. I'm a one-and-done marathon girl who likes her marathons spaced out by, oh, about a decade. First 'thon: 1997. Second: 2007. Something tells me if--a big if--I qualify for Boston in 2017, my time won't be valid in 2027. And I've never given myself a time goal in a marathon, other than to have a good time.

Second, I am way too injury-prone. I would have to work, work, work to get down to qualifying time. (I don't even know what it is for my soon-to-be 40-44 age group: that's how truly uninterested I am.) Even with a bottomless account at a physical therapist's office (I wish) and all the time in the world to strength train and foam roll and ice bath, I am not sure I could get to the starting line injury free. I simply don't think my body could handle the work.

And I know my mind couldn't handle the work. It's too much pressure in my already running-on-a-quarter-tank life. With twenty+ years of running under my treads, I've learned that when I amp up the training, I lose my love of running. It becomes a chore, full of number and repeats and intervals that turn every workout into black and white: either I succeed or I don't. When it's the latter, I obsess about it and get mad at myself for not nailing it. As I wrote in Train Like a Mother, I've definitely trained hard for certain races and I need that focus occasionally in my life, but I've never trained with that concentration and intensity for a marathon. To me, 26.2 miles alone is plenty of challenge.

When it comes to solo pursuits, I'm about as uncompetitive as they come. If the BM were a team sport, I'd put it all on the line because I thrive on communal goals and love--and miss terribly--the spirit and camaraderie of working with like-minded teammates. But the BM is just me against me against the unforgiving clock, and as I've made clear: thanks, but no.

Finally, and I guess most importantly, is that even if I did focus and work my glutes off and stay injury-free, I could still fail to qualify. Given my Athena build and lack of natural running talent, that's a real possibility. And while I don't like to fail--who does?--I pretty much accept that the beauty of life is that it's a cycle of failures and successes.

But I can't let myself fail at running. Maybe when I was 26 and hadn't figured out how important running was to recalibrating my attitude and spirit, I could've shot for it and missed and not have the experience ricochet through me. (I say that hypothetically: I was as uncompetitive at 26 as I am now. I wouldn't have shot for it.) Still, at almost 40, I'm unwilling to put myself in a position where running has the potential to be associated with defeat or failure.

Running is so important to my well-being, so vital to my positive perspective, such a big part of my self-definition that I'm simply not willing to jeopardize it for the possibility to cross a finish line that gives me a reputation as being fast and legit.

I usually don't feel like I have rationalize my I-don't-want-it attitude, but when the BM rolls around, I suddenly become defensive about the reasons I run. Truth be told, finishing times have never made my top three reasons. I run to release, not stress. I run to lose track of time, not to clock it. I run to believe in myself, not doubt my ability.

My legs still have a ton of finish lines to cross, but they'll never see the Boston Marathon one. And for that, I (finally) make no apologies.


73 responses to “Why I Don’t Want to Run The Boston Marathon

  1. I am so glad this was posted. I can say that I crossed the BM finish line… in a DUK boat. I am okay with that. I have no desire either to run Boston. While it is a Beautiful City, I just have no desire. I enjoy my time on the trails, will I be working and cross training to pick up some speed, yes. Do I want to take all the fun out of my running heck No. I am 5’e and have a very short stride. Only so much I can do with that. Plus I’d need Dimity’s bottomless pit for the PT budget

  2. Finishing times have never made my top three list of reasons to run either. It’s not in my genes or body type to run fast. People who can have a gift. And I’m okay with not having the gift of fast splits. Love this post.

  3. I have to say I found this to be a very uninspiring post . I agree that running BM is not for everyone, whether it’s easy for them to qualify or extremely difficult. Running it doesn’t make you any better than anyone else; not running it doesn’t make you any worse. Don’t write about what your goals aren’t. Write about setting goals that are appropriate and meet your needs. I think that is sort of the theme behind this article, but mostly what I got out of it was you putting yourself down. I’m constantly inspired by people running in the back of the pack and respect those that run just to run and have no interest in racing. But I don’t want to hear that it’s because they aren’t good enough (or don’t think they’re capable enough) to aim for something higher.

    1. I suppose the beauty of the written word is that it touches people differently. I found this post to be both brave and inspiring. I see it as a post that embraces the author in a very authentic way, rather than putting her down. And it helps validate my own feelings about running.

  4. I actually qualified for Boston in my 20’s and, now in my 60’s. I am very proud of this. However, the reason to push myself was to work against me and find out what I was made of. My determination needed a tangible goal to strive for.

    I can honestly say that without the support of the women I run with, it would have meant almost nothing. Their encouragement and excitement at what I was doing on race day made me “fly”. I ran for my buddies, for women who can’t run, and for myself, to see what I was made of.

    To race at Boston? No thanks. I’ll take the Bay Trail or Inspiration Point any day.

    God bless all of us who are able to run. It is such a gift!

  5. This is why I will never run Boston. Would I like to be that fast? Yes. But I’ve never been fast. Fast for me is running a 9:30 mm, and that’s for 10 miles. My only marathon so far had a finish time of 4:48; that will not qualify me for Boston at 35 years old. 🙂 and I’m okay with that.

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