Arms raised, I crossed the New York City Marathon.
A few seconds later there was a fist pump followed by a few quiet moments off to the side of the finisher’s area, my face buried in my hands.
Purposefully, celebrating this moment, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, had gone unscripted for the past 8 years.
It had taken so many miles — more than 15,000 — to attain a qualifying time in which the pursuit, at times, represented more than the goal. That pursuit required dedication, determination and perseverance.
Those ingredients almost weren’t enough: if I had run 1.5 seconds slower per mile during those 26.2 miles, I would have been on the wrong side of the qualifying standard.
Determined to make this my greatest race, my goal was to run beyond my current fitness and training. Accomplishing that goal would require running by feel, focus and heart considering the marathon buildup provided no indicators that I could finish below 3 hours, 25 minutes.
Throughout the race, there were calculated risks and broken rules.
Before the race began, I missed the announcement for Wave 1, and found myself in the next start corral — assuring that I’d start well behind runners who expected to run a similar time.
The congestion forced a slow start up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Practical advice cautions runners from weaving through traffic. If I wanted to push, though, I would have no choice. For the next 25 miles, I raced around runners, passing thousands on the course. The crowd — estimated at more than 1 million people — energized me as I slapped high fives with kids and adults along the way.
My thoughts flashed back to 2 key races:
- At the 2011 Grandma’s Marathon, my legs felt zapped at the 9-mile mark, but I pushed my way to a negative split. In New York, I stowed that race in my memory bank, should I question my resolve to push through late-race fatigue.
- At the 24-mile mark of the 2016 Fargo Marathon, my mile splits were below my qualifying time. My tangents weren’t great, though, and my actual distance was well off the official course distance. Still, I used the remaining distance for a mental exercise to prove I could close should the clock ever become a factor.
In New York, I dipped below the age standard for Boston by 41 seconds.
A few hours later, after a short recovery and hot shower, I walked to 5 Boro Burger for a celebratory meal and Guinness.
By dinner time, my thoughts turned to all those times where I felt I was ready to run a Boston qualifier, but fell short. In New York, the weather — outside of some northerly gusts — was ideal. That hadn’t been the case in my past 6 marathons.
I’ll never know if the weather played that big of a role during my previous attempts — it almost certainly had earlier this year at Fargo and Grandma’s — but it really doesn’t matter.
All that matters now is the road ahead.