Monday, October 25, 2010

What I'm Up Against

People often describe the Boston Marathon as the Olympics for amateurs. I can't remember where I first heard that, but it's apt. Only about 10% of female marathon finishers and 10.7% of male ones qualify, according to another blogging runner's estimate.

To qualify, you have to run a marathon within the 18 months ahead of your target Boston date and beat the time standard established by the marathon's parent organization, the Boston Athletic Association, for your age group on the date of your target Boston (you get all that???). If I want to qualify for my current age group, 35 to 39 years old, I must meet or beat 3 hours 45 minutes. To qualify for the next oldest age group, 40 to 44, I must meet or beat 3 hours 50 minutes. In both cases, that's around a full 30 minutes, or about a minute a mile, faster than my best time set five years ago in New York. And according to one calculator, my recent half-marathon time predicts a 4 hour 19 minute marathon. Obviously *that* won't cut the mustard!

As if all that's not tough enough, there has been much publicity lately, some of it in my old employer, the Wall Street Journal, about the women's qualifying standards being too lenient compared to those for men. So it may get tougher before all's said and done.

And that's just the objective stuff!

The subjective stuff--personal issues of mine--could fill a book, a long and whiney book that I hope never to write. I'll just summarize it here, and expect to return to some of it in later posts (hopefully with "I came, I saw, I conquered" stories).

1. I am lazy and self-indulgent! I like running, but it's safe to say that I like sleeping more, while eating (especially counterproductive food like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups) goes neck-and-neck with running in every "how I like to spend my time" contest. Luckily, wanting and needing lots of sleep is good for a marathoner. The food thing...not so much, but I'll address that in another post down the road.

2. I have other more immediate responsibilities. I have two small children who, I'm happy to say, no longer cry when I leave for a run and actually root for my running, but also do inconvenient things like get sick, interfering with training schedules and that key 8 hours of nightly sleep. I also have a job where--get this!--I'm expected to show up at certain times and stay for a certain amount of time (30 hours a week, to quantify). I realize having both children I love and a job I like and that requires no overtime makes me extremely lucky. But those things do mean I can't always go spend three hours running when that's what needs to be done for my goal.

3. I lack grit. This probably goes along with being lazy, and it's true of lots of areas of my life. What does this mean? In the case of running, it means there has been many a race where I gave in to the negative voices in my head ("your legs are dead; slow down;" "the headache is setting in; you didn't drink enough water; it's over now;" "these hills are huge") rather than doing what the elites do: call upon some inner strength to power them past the tough times. Grit is something I know I *must* develop if I am to succeed in getting past all the other stuff above, the objective and the subjective things. And while I find many comparisons between running and life cheesy, I do think that developing some grit will serve me well in other times and places (see above about sick children and lack of sleep!).

So that's what I'm up against.

Next post: what I've got going for me. Fortunately it's not nothing. :^)


  1. I think that the fact that you have actually *finished* marathons shows that you DO have grit!

    I'm loving these posts, definitely think that you should feed them into Facebook (not that I have any idea how to do that!


  2. Thanks, Kate! My grit just has to get grittier, I guess. But at least I think I finally figured the feed out. It worked on today's post.