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”).
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.
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?