I tried to focus my eyes. Still half asleep at 7:15 this morning, I checked my text message from Jeff (which arrived at 5:37 a.m.). As I read his words, my eyes snapped to my blue and yellow Boston bracelet, and everything was right with the world. Nearly five years after I committed to making it happen, I’m going to run the Boston Marathon. I’m finally going to be Boston Strong.
Here are the exact words from Jeff: “Congrats Brent. It’s finally official!! Road trip in April.” I knew that he had checked the Boston Athletic Association’s official entrant list, a list I had been refreshing obsessively since I sent in my application on Friday morning. No need to check my email to know that I had been accepted. But I did anyway.
I was never worried that I wouldn’t make the cut for a third year in a row. But I was extremely anxious. After those two years of qualifying and still not getting in, I wanted to see my acceptance letter. I wanted it in writing. I still have those two rejection letter in my inbox. Anytime I needed extra motivation, I pulled them up. While they stung at the time, especially last year’s when I thought I would be in, they have helped make me a better runner. I’ve pushed harder because of those failures.
So yesterday afternoon, when my anxiousness kept growing with every hour of no official email, I did what I do to calm down. I went for a run. With the Portland Marathon just a few weekends away, I desperately needed to complete a long run.
To make sure I wouldn’t cut it short (I’ve been dreading this first long run back), I made it an out-and-back. For 10 miles, I weaved down the California coast, the Pacific on my right. The entire route was hilly. Long gradual inclines and a few sharp ascents. Then I took my Clif Shot, turned around, and headed home.
As I took my gel, I saw my “Boston Strong” bracelet. I have worn it every day since the 2013 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati. That race came a few weeks after the bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line. I had already decided I had to qualify for and run Boston. But that act of terrorism gave me a sense of urgency. I wanted to be one of the defiant runners lining up in Hopkinton the next year. Runners aren’t afraid. We aren’t intimidated. And we are a family. At the time, I didn’t know anyone who had been in Boston that day (now I know many who were there, with Jeff and Wallace at the head of the list).
As I looked at my Boston Strong bracelet, adorned with two tiny flying pigs, my anxiousness melted away. I thought back to what I’ve been through to reach this point. I’ve bled for this with multiple blisters and black toenails along the way. Running in Louisiana had a lot to do with this, but I’ve sweat gallons and gallons. I grew giant beards as daily reminders, and I’ve talked about it constantly (I know some of you have probably suffered from my obsession along with me).
The final 10 miles of my 20-mile run were rough. I haven’t run more than 13 miles since my Fargo Marathon in May. But I desperately needed a quality long run. So, as the sun set to my left, I put my head down and checked off each mile mentally.
At mile 15, I stopped at a water fountain I had seen on my way out. As I put my head down to the spout, I saw movement out of the corner of my right eye. Two rats bolted out of the trash can right next to my head. I flipped out and went right back to my running route (the fountain didn’t work either, making it a double negative). Anyone checking out my Garmin data will probably see a HR spike at that moment.
I expected to have my acceptance email awaiting me when I finished. But when it wasn’t in my inbox, I didn’t care. I had reached a point of peace. Something about finishing a long run at night makes it much more taxing, physically and emotionally. So I wasn’t stressed. Last year, I waited 10 days to find out I didn’t make the cut. This year, I could wait just as long if necessary, because I knew I would make it.
When I woke up to Jeff’s text message and my official Boston email, my heart soared. It has taken much work. But it’s all been worth it.
I’m already Boston Strong. I’m just finally getting a chance to prove it.