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.

  6. So what about the folks who want to run Boston for different reasons: to raise money for their favorite charity? I love all your reasons and your celebration of running Dimity, but get a little frustrated at the perspective that the only way to run Boston is to be a qualifier. The charity folks work their butts off, not only training, but fundraising too and that should be respected.

  7. I too have not had the itch to run BOSTON. I have a personal best of 2:52 and it kills me when people enthusiastically ask me if “I qualified for Boston?” I have ridden on the press truck of the Boston Marathon (1999) and yes, it is a magical marathon….but so are many other marathons. Personally the most enjoyable marathons I have ever done are the ones with a small town feel like Grandma’s and Santa Barbara International Marathon. These are world class events that make every runner feel like a very very special runner. In Boston, you’re just a number. I ran Chicago- YUCK! I was just a number. But in Houston (only 11,000) I felt like a super star. I can see why people love the Boston Marathon. I will probably want to do it some day….maybe….but in the mean time, if I am going to work that hard…I like to be more than just another runner 🙂

  8. I could have written this about ANY marathon. Thank you for being willing to speak for “the rest of us,” and doing it so well.

    I agree with other folks about race adrenaline – what adrenaline? It’s never happened to me. I just get out there and do it – it’s all mental.

    Also agree especially on the injury side and the amount of time to dedicate to training. I will stick with 5K-half marathon and be proud of it!

  9. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon was the fast twin’s goal. She met and surpassed her goal on Sunday at the Charlottesville Marathon (3:38:11)! The slow twin has no desire to run Boston, but will be the official twin cheerleader if the fast twin decides to run in 2013! 🙂

  10. My achievements in running are found in what it gives me…health, peace, friendships and satisfaction. I save my competitive spirit for other areas of my life. I do admire all competitive runners who give so much to such a great sport.

  11. Isn’t it great that we can all have different goals? I will never ever qualify for Boston, but I sure do respect anyone who can and puts the time in to make it. I love reading about running and hearing what other women set as goals for themselves. Sometimes, Dimity, when I listen to your podcasts I think, “Wow! She does triathlons! She’s amazing.” We are all different and can accomplish so much in so many different ways. Ok, some days it’s all I can do just to get dinner on the table and remember to make sure everyone got a fork, but on the other days–when I have it all together–I am so proud of my ability to put in a run. Boston or not, when we take that time for ourselves and improve our health and set a few goals, we all win.

  12. Thank you Dimity! I have recently stressed myself into burn-out and I’m only just beginning my taper for BSIM at the end of the month. This will be my first marathon but the grueling training and toll it’s begun taking in my relationships makes me not want to run another (in the running community that doesn’t seem to be widely understood or accepted). I run to live, not the other way around… I’m so glad to see so many other mother runners who feel the same!

  13. Isn’t it funny how some posts just come at the right time?
    I qualified for Boston. I worked my tail off to do so. But, I did LOVE every minute of it. In fact, I loved the qualifying part so much, that I told my family that was all I needed. I didn’t even want to try to get into Boston. But they’ve been with me at every finish line, and they wanted the Boston finish line too.
    That being said, I got in.
    Here I sit, days before Boston, and I’m pretty sure that the last 4 weeks have been some of the hardest of my life. I’ve been through a lot in life and this seems to top the cake. I got injured 9 weeks into training. I can’t put into words how this has felt. What should be one of the most exciting times of my life has become stressful. I have worked so hard to maintain positive talk, telling myself “it could be worse”, “I’m very lucky”, “I will finish”…..all the tricks. I’ve cross trained. I’ve cross trained and I got multiple cortizone shots in a most unpleasant place….my crotch and groin. Sigh.
    Anyway, I know I’m not alone in this. Thanks for sharing your perspective. Hope to see you both at the expo. I’m learning that my running is just for me. I have also learned that my body likes other things too….weights, cycling and swimming. That’s good. At age 40, I’ve learned a TON through this experience and for that, I am thankful.
    Here’s to 26.2 miles, which will be emotional, exciting, thrilling and hopefully not too painful!

    1. Michelle: sorry to hear you’ve had such a tough journey lately. Do your best to absorb Boston as best you can. Seriously, if your groin isn’t killing you, just soak it up and consider it a really cool 26.2 mile journey. And then heal, get on the bike, in the pool and be very proud of yourself. xo.

  14. Oh Dimity, I wish I could read this sooner. I needed it to knock me back to senses n remember what is it I’m running for. Obsession over an event took the joy out of running. Maybe it’s a blessing I got injured n had to withdraw from 2 events I was gunning for, trying to be what I’m not n losing sight of why I run in the first place. It’s ‘me time’ I need, not ‘fastest time’. It’s supposed to make me feel better abt myself, not worst. N it’s supposed to make me a better woman, wife n mother. Thank you Dimity n all mother runners:)

  15. Thanks Dimity, for putting my thoughts into words. I was just telling my husband on a 6 mile run Saturday, that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to even run a single marathon anymore. I don’t ever want to get to the point that I loathe running. I love what it does for my mind and spirit, not to mention my body. I love watching my surroundings, and the comradiere while on local running paths (how cool is it that every runner respects one another enough to pass a good thought or hello as they pass!!), and I love how it makes me feel. And if I never run a marathon, who cares. At least I’m still running. 🙂

  16. Thank you Dimity, what an awesome post! I am struggling a bit with considering myself a ‘real runner’ and was just reminding myself the other day about one of your podcasts when you and SBS were saying to never say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend (I’m slow, I’m no good at this, I jiggle too much, etc…). I love that! And I love this post because to me it’s very similar, accept and embrace the mother runner that you are 🙂

  17. Haha! You’ve encapsulated how I feel about running marathons, period.
    I’m a halfer all the way. Only my BRF could convince me otherwise, and I’m gambling she’ll never put me up to it! My husband is training for his first marathon now, and as I tell all my friends, I’ve always wanted him to do a marathon! Just not me!!!!

  18. Speaking as one who is running Boston next week, I think it is very important that women run for themselves FIRST. Every other goal is a distant second. I don’t know why my short little legs have speed in them, but they do and no one is more surprised than me. Qualifying for Boston is not something I have to kill myself for. If I had to dedicate all my waking moments to qualifying, I know for sure that I wouldn’t. I run for me first and always. The fact that I hit the mark and qualified was secondary to the joy I get when I run marathons. I don’t do it for the jacket or the accolades. I do it because it makes me feel good. I love Boston with all my heart. I will run it as many times as I can, but that’s just me. I’m not a better runner or a more serious runner. I do enjoy the challenge of hitting time goals. I won’t lie. I’m competitive to a fault, but it’s with myself. Not the clock. Not my neighbor. Certainly not the guy down the street who’s run 50 marathons. I run for me.

    1. I agree, Kim, that we run for ourselves and to feel good. Very cool that your legs have speed and you can get there. Enjoy your 26.2 mile victory lap on Monday: we’ll be rooting for you!

  19. I LOVE this post! It’s me exactly. Whenever non-runners hear I am a runner, I feel like they ask me if/when I’m going to aim for running Boston. I kind of want to print this out and have it at the ready to hand out whenever anyone asks! 🙂

  20. Thank you for this post!! I have the same attitude towards running. In fact, I have no desire to even run a marathon!! A half, maybe, but not a full!! And it’s nice to know that it’s alright… thank you!!!

  21. Dim, you and I are cut from the same cloth. I could not ever have said it better than you just did. I did train HARD for several races, had a hard goal and know what? Those were the least enjoyable races I’ve ever run. I literally cried at the finish at NWM 2011 (Half for me.)- and not for the usual reason of relief. I admit I was PISSED! My heart was broken! I’ve decided to enjoy every race. I remember one race where a woman wore a tee that read, “What’s your hurry?” I “worked” so hard at Nike in SF that I totally passed up all the beauty of a place I never dreamed I’d ever run. At mile 11, I broke down when I saw I’d never make my goal with my exhausted legs. Then I realized I was in a beautiful forest and literally stopped to smell the eucalyptus. Boston can run past me, and I’m so ok with that!

  22. I love this post on so many levels!

    “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.”

    Yet another Dimity quote that’s going up on my wall! Thank you!

  23. Thanks for this post. I am also injury prone and it’s hard to see my friends getting faster and I’m always lagging behind. They wait for me at the finish, but I’m feeling like I’m always trying to catch up. Maybe it helps me go faster in the end, but truthfully, I feel like a slow turtle mostly. I love this perspective, “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.”

    I want to keep a similar perspective, to run for me and to be proud of the finish lines I cross, in whatever time it may be.

  24. Thanks for the inspiration. I do wish I could qualify for Boston, but there’s a reason why God didn’t make me a fast runner: I would become a Runzilla. Right now, running brings out the best in me. If I put myself through that rigorous training and competition, it would probably bring out the worst in me…and I would lose my love of running. Your post reminds me that we all have our “Holy Grail” of running and BQ times need not be it.

  25. This was such a refreshing post! I *do* want to qualify for Boston, but I have gone through periods where the not-qualified-so-far part has gotten me really down. While it’s an important goal to me, it’s also important to me not to lose my love of running in the process. I’ll return to your post when I need a reminder of the *real* reasons I run.

  26. I’m not training for anything right now–missed my last race due to a cold that morphed over a 3 month period into awfulness–but I’m back to running. I have to say it felt darn good to run just because, not for time or distance! I have loved training for a few years, because it gave me focus and felt so athletic (as opposed to running/working out to look good). I’m now enjoying the non-training, feel good and look good workouts! I guess that’s the great thing about running-we can do it however we want and don’t have to judge ourselves for it 🙂 I’m with you, I”ll never be running Boston and I’m okay with that-good for those who set the goal and make it!

  27. I love this post. Everyone has different goals when it comes to running. Though we find kinship as “mother runners,” we all run for different reasons, with different strengths. It’s frustrating that so often the talk of runners surrounds finish times, paces and races. I admire those who set goals, work toward them and achieve them, BQ-ing included, but it’s definitely not the be-all and end-all for runners! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  28. Dimity, I am right there with ya! I run races as an excuse to stay in shape for my other outdoor pursuits. I have so many other hobbies/activities that I love I don’t want to concentrate all my time & energy on one sport. For me, races are for having fun and cheering (and being cheered on)with my fellow participants and spectators.

  29. Well said. While I do want to qualify and run Boston, I only want to do so if I don’t lose my love of running and if the # of attempts it might take to get me there doesn’t wreak havoc on my self-esteem. If I can’t get there that way, it won’t be worth it.

  30. Wow…..were you in my head during my long run yesterday?? I was thinking the exact same thing after listening to your latest podcast. I love the idea of BM but it is “the” goal for me. I’m more excited about going to the NYC Marathon and being a supporter not a runner.

  31. Dimity, thank you for putting all of my thoughts in a concise little post. I will print and hand out next time it comes up in my running group 🙂

  32. Thank you so much for saying that when the training amps up you lose your love of running. I feel the same way and it seems like thats the opposite of how people normally feel in the running community. They thrive on the rigidity of the schedule and the demanding training. And for me, that’s not how it works, so to hear another mother runner say that, makes me feel, well a little more normal 🙂

  33. At my first race I thought for sure a shot of adrenaline would heave me through. It didn’t happen. I yucked it up to beginner’s doubt, and went off to my first marathon. There, too, I saw dozens of people shoot off too quickly, while I stayed at the back the entire time. Even race adrenaline can’t make me run off too fast at a start line. Running is my own thing. I don’t look at “fast” runners in awe, in fact, I just think “oh, another runner, like me” Yeah, that’s right, I consider myself one of “them” even though they lap me. I do awe, however, at their diets – how do I get me some of ‘dem legs? Less peeps you say? I’m out.

  34. Could have written this word for word. I have zero desire to ever run Boston. Kudos to all that do, but I’ve never dreamed about it and highly doubt I ever will.

  35. Agreed! I think it is really great that others have Boston as a goal, and I acknowledge that it takes a lot of work and dedication to qualify. But I also don’t want the stress. I am not fast, and never will be. I run because my body lets me, and that’s good enough! 🙂

    1. Huh. I really don’t think I want to run another marathon, but I’ve heard Avenue of the Giants is amazing. Crazy, but I *do* want to do an Ironman to feel what that is like, but I’ve heard that the marathon at the end of it isn’t half as intense as it is in a straight-up marathon: at that point, it’s all about survival and getting to the finish line. Stay tuned and thanks for asking…

  36. Wow, this is an awesome post! My favorite line: The only time I run for is a good time. Hell yeah!

    I have some fast friends. One of the fastest has run three marathons in the last year in an effort to qualify for Boston and she’s missed it three times, once by 33 seconds. It is really really tough to qualify. But I don’t want to torque my life around the way she has even though I like watching her journey. I’m not even sure I want to run any marathon, let alone Boston.

    By the way, can we drop that “real runner” business? A real runner is someone who runs, on a regular basis. Maybe you get to be more of a real runner when running means more to you than it did before. End of story.

  37. I didn’t start running until I was 43 yrs old but I have always wanted to run the Boston Marathon. I will never, ever qualify but would run it in a heartbeat if my favorite charity, The NephCure Foundation, ever got some charity entries.

  38. I totally understand. I wouldn’t want to run Boston, either- these sturdy peasant legs can’t go fast enough to get me in, nor would I enjoy the crowd.
    You should look into a Tough Mudder- they are all about team work, not time, full of challenges (the good kind), and a heck of a lot of fun! It will teach you things about yourself. For me, I now know I can finish a marathon since i’ve done a Tough Mudder. Which is why my husband an I are tackling our first full this year, along with 2 more Mudders!

  39. Thank you for an awesome post for all the mother runners out there who run for their sanity and their families and despite never qualifying for Boston, still love the feel of sweat dripping off their faces and out of their sports bras even if the pace they run is an 11 minute mile. Love this!!

  40. Yes, yes, yes! You’ve put into words exactly how I feel. Running is my anti-depressant. It can’t become something that stresses me, or worse yet, depresses me.

    Great post!

  41. love this: “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.”
    Great post (from someone who feels just like this…except about the whole marathon distance period!)

  42. “To me, 26.2 miles alone is plenty of challenge.”
    THANK YOU!!!
    I ran my second marathon last week, and despite all of my training I finished much slower than I thought possible. For the past 7 days, I’ve been licking my wounds, secretly berating myself for missing my PR by almost 20 minutes. I read this and realized that I should be celebrating.

    1. You absolutely should be celebrating – you did something that so many others wouldn’t even consider trying. Yea for your accomplishment!

  43. Amen! Thanks for writing (again) exactly how I feel about running. I admire and am in awe of anyone who qualifies for Boston – especially women who are juggling so much, but that will never be me. I had my own personal Boston and that was when I got to the start and crossed the finish of TCM last fall.

  44. Thank you from me the other Athena runner who found running later in life (definitely not early at 26 or anything). I like running but I don’t ever wanna do BM. It just isn’t my end all be all goal. I just want to be healthy. I too like to run to destress.

  45. ” 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.”
    Amen. I will never run Boston and I am just fine with that. I run for so many other, better reasons than one elite race. Thank you for giving my feelings a voice.

  46. thanks for making it OK to consider oneself a ‘real’ runner and yet not want to run BM. I’m all about achieving success, but try really hard not to set myself up for failure. I get that it’s all about how we define success in any given moment, but, for me, in the attempt to BQ, there would be many many moments that were defined as failure, and I’m simply not willing to go there. Like you, I don’t want to put my running in that paradigm.

  47. AWESOME!!! I also do not run for speed (sometimes I try to beat my own time, but I am and will always be a 10 minute pace at the 1/2). But I still run.
    I run…

    I run to be strong.
    I run for my sanity.
    I run to be a better mom.
    I run to be a healthy example for my kids.
    I run to be a better wife.
    I run for my family.
    I run for me.

    Keep on running Dim! You’re an inspiration to us all!!!!

    1. I love your comment! I am the same way. I used to try to “race” but found I lost my drive when I did that and would get burnt out. Now I just run for me, my health, my family and my sanity. It makes running a lot more fun and I am sure I will keep at it longer this way. Thanks!

  48. Amen. I ran Chicago last fall, at age 49, my one and most likely only marathon. And since then I have had ITB tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and now a stress fracture in my foot. So I’m not running at all. I figured it was a bucket list thing, and I’m glad I did it, but I miss just running. I need it.

  49. I agree with the post and all the feedback because one of the mantras that has helped me go from a DNF at a half marathon to a lot of successful races is, “Run your own race.” Boston is an amazing accomplishment, but I’d rather set strong goals that help me use running to meet my needs and fit into my life.

  50. I wonder what it would take to make another race the “New Boston”. You know how 50 is the new 40. What if another race became the new Boston but for those who fall a little below the line. Maybe some where sunnier and flat. 🙂

  51. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to run THREE miles! Not only will I never run a marathon, I might never run a 10K. And you know – I don’t apologize for that either. Looking forward to running is better than any medal. And Dim, you’re an inspiration if you never train for another race. You win at life 🙂

  52. Thank you. Great post. As a new runner at 46 I do go for 1/2 marathons but at a crawl of a speed and tons of training. I am not a good runner more of a really fast walker. Not everyone is cut out for it and I for one need my legs and knees to last a few more decades

  53. I <3 this post. While I love running, it is NOT my life goal to run at BM – ever. I admire anyone who aims or qualifies to run at BM, but I myself "no wanna".

  54. “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.”

    Wow! I love this. It’s going on my wall.

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