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Tenacity = my key to marathon success

"I could never run a marathon!"

To every person who's ever uttered those words to me, I respond, "More people can run a marathon than you'd think." 

There are more people who have amazed themselves by completing a marathon, people who never dreamed they'd attempt one, let alone go back and do it again.  And completing a marathon sets the stage for even more staggering accomplishments.

I’ve fumbled my way through running marathons.

My first few marathons were many years ago.  I was fit and blessed to run times that easily qualified for Boston.  But I was foolish and preoccupied with other matters in life like falling in love, getting married, homeowning, and career.  What a waste!

Fast forward several decades.  I set my sites on qualifying for Boston after I’d been away from marathoning, added a few pounds, and slowed a bit.

Qualifying for Boston took me five tries over four years, including two near misses by less than two minutes and one heartbreaking miss by 53 seconds.  The other misses weren’t even close.  Each time I was hyped going into each marathon certain I would BQ.  These marathons went very well, hanging onto goal pace, until the final miles when the cramps set in and I watched the BQ fade away.

First thoughts when crossing the finish line after missing a BQ were, “Never again,” and “What’s the use?”  It was easy to write off my BQ goal and just assume I’d never hit it, that it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

Each new marathon experience taught me more about training, pacing, race strategy, and my mental game.  I listened to others talk about their marathon success, tweaked my routine to strengthen my training and came closer. 

When I finally earned my BQ, it all came together, and I owed it to the right blend of mileage, speed, recovery.  But mostly I owed it to tenacity.  If I’d stopped trying to BQ after missing the first four times, I’d never known the thrill and honor of running Boston several years ago. 

These days, I’m trying to BQ again in order to get to the start in Hopkinton in 2010.  I’ve aged up to a new qualifying standard, but it doesn’t seem a whole lot easier.

Ask someone who's BQ'd or achieved another race milestone.  Those with humility will tell you it's not as unachievable as you'd lead yourself to believe.  One of my heroes, Marathon Dude Bill, has a marathon career that began ordinary and has reached phenomenal levels.  We can amaze ourselves!

But it's not all about running the Boston Marathon.

Whether you’re trying to BQ or run under six, five, or four hours, the effort is worth achieving the goal.  Whether you’re preparing for your first marathon, half marathon, or PR at another distance, the learning along the way is as valuable as running the distance itself.

No dramatics here.  I know talent is always a factor, but for me the key was and still is tenacity.  Every missed goal makes reaching a goal seem more possible, likely, and worthwhile.


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hamburger teri

Thanks for the sound advice. I'm having a hard time with the bigness of the BQ goal - it looks almost insurmountable. I do need to remember that it is something that can be worked for.


i wrote the same thing to bill-- but i am thankful that the first marathon i run won't necessarily determine the rest of my running career. i'm worried enough about it as it is!!! :)


Tom -- I'm hoping to see you at the starting line in Hopkinton in 2010!


Great post, Tom.

I was really feeling a BQ on my second marathon, but it was not to be. My first marathon came closer. But I'm game to learn my lessons, and I know that with the new age group on the horizon and my dedication to achieve my goals though purpose, direction and motivation I'll get there. Even if it's just to say I've got a BQ!


This has really helped me. Your post has given me the courage to continue. I want to BQ this year but during my track work out this morning I was wondering "why try" I'm never going to be that good. I lacked 13 minutes from on my last marathon. Of course I wasn't trying to qualify then. Thanks for your tenacity and words of wisdom.

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