2016 Boston Marathon: Entry Rejected; One Mother Runner Thwarted (Again!)

Terzah looking strong at Cross Country Nationals (!!) in February.
Terzah looking strong at Cross Country Nationals (!!) in February.

Yesterday, Sarah shared a post about squeaking into the 2016 Boston Marathon by a mere 38 seconds; today, mother runner Terzah Becker, who lives in Boulder, shares her tale about trying to gain entry to Boston for a second year in a row. Terzah wrote a candid essay for our latest book, Tales from Another Mother Runner, about her multi-year quest to qualify for Boston. 

Last week, in the middle of the 2016 Boston Marathon’s two-week registration process, a Runner’s World story warned Boston had only 5,000 or so spots left for qualifiers after the first week of registration. As soon as I read the article, I knew my fate was sealed.

I’ve been trying to qualify for Boston (a.k.a. "BQ") for five years. As a woman in the 40-44 age group, the standard I have to beat is 3 hours 45 minutes. Two years ago, I thought I had done it in the Chicago Marathon, where I ran in 3:44:06. Last year, I thought I had done it at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, where I ran in 3:43:25. But my 54-second “cushion” for 2015 didn’t get me in. And, as I just found out, neither did my 95-second qualifier for 2016.

Wednesday morning I—along with 4,561 other unlucky squeakers—got the official email confirming I am out for the second year in a row. Even though I was ready for it, the reality of the rejection still hurt. Reading the email felt like a slap in the face. It didn’t matter that it’s a first-world problem. It didn’t matter that I know others worked hard too, many harder and longer than I have, or that it’s a meritocracy and the faster people really *should* get in ahead of me. It didn’t matter that, “You qualified and no one can take away that accomplishment” (to that frequent, well-intentioned comment I reply, “Actually they can take it away. They did. Twice”).

Terzah's Boston Marathon rejection email (a.k.a. "a sucker punch to the gut")
Terzah's Boston Marathon rejection email (a.k.a. "a sucker punch to the gut")

What does matter is that I have to keep at it when part of me wants to quit. I was looking forward to moving onto other running goals—like doing more mountain trail races or chipping away at my half-marathon PR. Trying to qualify for Boston again—and trying to qualify better; I really need a 3:40 or faster to feel comfortable during 2017 registration—looks as appealing right now as a series of really long, hilly runs on hot, humid days. It’s hard to imagine anything fun about what’s ahead.

But I’m constantly telling my 8-year-old twins that not getting something hard right the first time (or the second, or third, if we’re talking about math homework) is no excuse for not trying again until you nail it. I may not be 8 myself (far from it!), but my kids obviously aren’t the only ones who still have a lot to learn about having a good attitude in the face of defeat. If I quit the Boston effort now, will I some day find it easier to quit difficult endeavors that are much more important? What if my marriage goes through a rough patch some time? What if my kids’ teenage years are painful? What if someone I love gets sick and needs me to take care of them?

Quitting won’t be an option in any of those cases. I need to not quit this first-world challenge, practice what I preach about sticking with things that aren’t easy, so that when something high-stakes happens and I need strength and perseverance, I’ll have them. I’ll be able to push through and win.

Besides, I want that damn unicorn jacket.

Boston Marathon "unicorn" jacket is proving almost as elusive to Terzah as the mythical creature itself.
Boston Marathon "unicorn" jacket is proving almost as elusive to Terzah as the mythical creature itself.

This year, there won’t be any tears or any Facebook posts seeking sympathy. The only thing that made me feel better last year was qualifying again, and doing it better. So Wednesday after work, I headed home. I explained to my kids why we aren’t going to Boston in April, and I put on a brave face for my kind, forbearing husband, saying something about how it's good we won’t have to spend the money on an expensive East Coast trip. I executed the workout my coach had down for the day. I ate dinner, walked the dog, and helped with homework.

Then I sat down at the computer to find my next marathon. I still haven't figured out which one it's going to be. But wherever and whenever it happens, I'm going to run the hell out of that thing.

We want to hear from other mother runners: Did you get an entry to the 2016 Boston Marathon? Are you opting for a charity spot? Or does the whole thing sound as unreal as a unicorn to you? 

29 responses to “2016 Boston Marathon: Entry Rejected; One Mother Runner Thwarted (Again!)

  1. Found this blog while searching for Boston Marathon stuff and really appreciate this post. I’m going to look forward and hope you’ve got a strong BQ for 2017. I BQed by 31 seconds in October and came back for another try last week, getting it by 11 minutes. I worked harder and ran more than ever. Qualifying became an obsession, because I was so scared if I did it again and couldn’t register, I wouldn’t have the heart to keep trying. You’re perspective is strong and amazing. Hope to see you in Boston 2017!

  2. Terzah, I am sorry for this. I will share my story briefly: I BQ’d and I was exited to get in, I trained and then I got hurt. My dream of actually going and completing the race were in jeopardy. I went, I ran/walked injured and I was 3 from LAST in my age group. Yes, 7th from last in women’s. What I kept telling myself when I almost didn’t go: I qualified, I am already a winner. I say to you: You qualified therefore you already won: twice at that! The hard part was getting the BQ and you did it!

  3. U are awesome terzah.. I really got inspired.. and i wish u great great success for ur future.. i hope u will not stop even u are in the topmost.. thanks for the share 🙂

  4. I didn’t get in to the Boston marathon for the second time either! I qualified twice, the first time not making the cutby 15 seconds, the second time (for the 2016 race), not making the cut by roughly 30 seconds. It’s painful but I am more determined now than ever to qualify and actually make it in! The worst part is, I live in Boston and am constantly reminded of the marathon…adding fuel to the fire! I really appreciate your positive attitude, thank you for this post! Good luck!

  5. Keep trying! I finally BQ’d by enough at my 25th marathon last year. There is no way it’ll take you as long as it did me. Don’t give up! And in the meantime, save up so you can buy one of everything at the Boston expo! (My husband is terrified.)

  6. I was hoping to be able to respond to all of you individually, but I don’t see a button like that. Thank you all for your supportive comments, condolences and race suggestions, and congrats to those of you (including the awesome SBS) who *do* get to run Boston next year. :^) I am feeling much better–still haven’t picked a race but still working on it. Thanks also to SBS and Dimity for letting me write about this and hear from all of you.

  7. Terzah, I missed it by exactly the same margin, and when I got the email this week, I cried. Yes, I’m 49 years old and I cried. Your post helped me; I’ll be running Vancouver in May 2016 – I want that goddamned unicorn jacket, too.

  8. I missed it by ONE second. Ran my very best race at NYC last year in terrible terrible weather–and it came down to one second. I’m considering running for a charity–but can’t believe that one second is what shut me out!

  9. I qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon this past April in Champaign/Urbana, IL and I am happy to announce my entry was accepted!! I am honored to run my first Boston Marathon next Spring:)

  10. It might not seem easy now, but persevere and keep the dream alive. There are two big things that can’t be taken away from you – two, not one, but two BQ times. The third will be the charm. Once you’re ready to focus and go for the dream, you’ll acheive it and run into Boston on Patriots Day.

  11. CRAP! I keep waiting to hear that you made it in. So sorry to hear this for the 2nd year in a row. You continue to be a huge inspiration and I admire your perseverance! Great Boston Qualifier: Flat, fast, no bells and whistles. Just a great marathon in a great town. Ran my fastest there so far. Plus it is GORGEOUS. You can do this!

  12. Oh Terzah, I’m so sorry! After hearing the cut off time, my first thought was my BRF with an 86-second buffer over the BQ, and then YOU were on my mind next! I couldn’t remember from the book what your buffer was, but I was pulling for you! You are so accomplished and your perspective is incredible. I know your tenacity will positively impact your kids! Many blessings to you, and please keep us all in the tribe posted on this! And in the meantime, I’d also add that if you want to take your running in a different direction for a while to recharge your batteries, Boston isn’t going anywhere – don’t lose the joy!

  13. Thank you for sharing this. What you say about not giving up just because something is hard is resonating with me right now. Sometimes life does stink but your attitude is a great example for your family and all of us. I hope your training goes well & that you’ll be crossing the finish line of Boston 2017.

  14. Terzah, your positive attitude and persistence are an inspiration to me. I am training for my first marathon now and will use that as a baseline to determine if a BQ is in my sights. If so, I hope to pursue it with your grace. Good luck in whichever direction you choose to follow.

  15. I’m there with you. I got that rejection email from the BAA too. I suspected my 1:32 cushion wasn’t enough when I heard the figures early on, but still, I secretly hoped it would be a good surprise when they made the announcement. I gave myself some time to feel angry, sorry for myself, and now I’m just OK with it. It sucks, but still, I will be in Boston cheering on my husband as he races. I have BQ’d twice now and know what it takes to do it again. Can I do better? Can I find a minute or two more during my next marathon? Yes I can. And I will. Terzah, you can too. Good luck on your future efforts 🙂 You rock!!

  16. I missed out by 22 seconds. Here is my perspective though, I would have LOVED to run Boston, and I will run it, but not in 2016. In the end though it’s just a race, and they have to cap it somewhere. The fact that there were almost 5000 people who were turned away just tells me how awesome it’s going to be when I get there. In the mean time, I’m going to run with joy and enjoy all the other amazing races out there. There’s also the fact that my BRF did not qualify last year, and I feel like maybe this is just fate… I’m hoping that we are meant to run this thing together.

  17. So unfair! To BQ and then not be able to run….. You have a great attitude… You wouldn’t tell your child or a friend to give up on their dream, and neither should you…. It will be that much sweeter when it happens:)

  18. Terzah! I’ve been thinking about you! I’m SO sorry. The whole Boston thing has become so cruel and I suspect the qualifying standards will be tightened as a result. My BQ recommendations for you are Grand Rapids and Columbus. Flat, fast, great weather, good crowd support. I KNOW you will get there! xoxoxo

  19. Just a thought. You BQed twice. You met your time goals. Why not put Boston aside for now and do the other things you mention, like trail running. It sounds like qualifying has become a chore. Try again when you are in a different age group. Delayed satisfaction is also a concept you can teach your children.

  20. As someone who will never qualify, I can’t imagine going through all that and still not getting in, I’m sorry. Yes, it’s a first world problem, but you are human and you worked REALLY, REALLY hard, it’s natural to feel that way. Sending good vibes to you, sounds like you have a great attitude, no doubt you will get there!

  21. Terzah, I feel your pain. Five seconds did me in…needed a 4:07:32 and my BQ was 4:07.37.
    I’m saving the dink email from BAA. First, because it’s almost unbelievable that five seconds took me out of the race. I did stop to fix my shoe tongue three times. I did stop at a port-o-potty. I didn’t walk. So, the second reason I’m saving the email is to remind me I can do it again.
    (And you’re right – it seems like so much work right now. But I have reminded myself many times in the last 36 hours that I like this kind of “work” and I’m betting you do too. Good luck with #3!)

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