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The Most Important Mile of my Life: Lois O’Brien

Running toward a marathon PR at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn.
Running toward a marathon PR at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minn.

Minnesota mother runner Lois O'Brien shares striving for a long-held goal in the latest installment of The Most Important Mile of my Life.

The set-up: 2013 Grandma's Marathon (my sixth marathon and first Grandma’s). Previous PR: 3:42 (2010). Goal time: 3:38. I followed Train Like a Mother; I was READY!

Marathon morning, though, quickly unraveled. The porta-potty lines were too long. My carefully constructed playlist had randomly shuffled. Checking bags was mad chaos, and I lost my running friends. Then my Garmin beeped and said, “low battery”!!! The hours upon hours that I spent putting together my pace chart to run a perfect race ... gone! There was no gun time.

Throughout the race, I kept fighting the demons of defeat: abandoned time charts, loneliness and an agonizingly hurt side knee. But I just kept telling myself, "Triumph."

I would run near someone and then ask what our last few miles had averaged and adjust from there. The race was closing in and after a few rough miles around 19-21, I picked up the pace.

MILE 25—THE MILE: A clock read 3:30 and change. I had to run this mile and push myself harder than I ever had. I was sprinting and yelling expletives as everyone around me laughed as I passed them. And then, my shuffle started playing: "I'm Going Back to Boston" by the Rosebuds. I started singing, "I'm going back to Boston, back to, back to Boston." The last mile was corner after corner into the wind and around another corner. I passed 68 people in that mile. After I finally crossed the finish line, my husband told me my time: 3:37:54. Tears of relief and happiness just kept coming. A sub 3:40 has been my goal since I started running marathons. I had finally done it.

After ten grueling days of waiting, Boston registration finally came: -2:06 was good enough. I was "Going Back to Boston."

Going back to Bean Town!
Going back to Bean Town!

What was (or will be) the most important mile of your life? We want to know.

We’re going to make this an ongoing feature on the website (and potentially include some important miles in our yet-to-be-named third book, out in spring of 2015). Best way to submit is to email us your story with a picture: runmother {at} gmail {dot} com with “Most Important Mile” in the subject line. Please try to keep your mile stories under 300 words. Thank you!

15 responses to “The Most Important Mile of my Life: Lois O’Brien

  1. Lois, You inspire me to no end! Had you not been my mentor I do not know that I would have accomplished what I have to this date. You are often in my thoughts and I am proud and grateful to know you. You go girl!!

  2. Wow what a great story! It’s nice to know when things don’t go as planned there is always a way to salvage a good race. I’ll remember this when I get into that situation. Congrats on the BQ and PR! I BQ’d at Grandmas in 2012. Sub 3:40 is mighty impressive~!

  3. Wow, what an amazing experience and story. Very motivational as I am currently looking over plans and setting 2014 Marathon PR Goals!

  4. What an amazing story and mile! Every runner had had those issues at the start of a race and somehow we dig deeper then ever to finish on top. Thanks for the inspiration!

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