I’m taking a brief step away from the typical Mike-centric post to tell a story of heartbreak, disappointment, and superhuman abilities that indirectly affects me. This past Sunday my long-distance running
buddy/nemesis frenemy Colin ran the Philadelphia Marathon. “Run” doesn’t really capture the whole story. You see, Colin has been busting his hump with the singular goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. New qualifying standards were put in place this year making it more difficult. The requirement for a 26 year old male is to run a marathon under 3 hours 5 minutes. To put it another way, crazy fast.
Colin and I have had competitive times for our age group, but qualifying for Boston was never more than a hope for a dream. Over the years we have gotten faster and faster to the point where we were both down to within 11 minutes. While 11 minutes doesn’t sound like much, it’s about 30 seconds per mile, 26 times, that needs to be taken off. I was happily resigned to seeing small improvements but never confident I’d be able to knock another 11 minutes off. But this isn’t about me.
Colin set forth the goal of qualifying, naysayers (i.e., me) be damned. He ran six days per week, accumulating over 250 miles per month. Focused. Determined. Unrelenting. It was difficult, but that was no reason not to try. Finally, November 20th rolled around and Colin had his plan. Run hard. Run fast. He needed to average under 7 minutes 4 seconds per mile to achieve his goal. I was supporting him from 1000 miles away tracking his progress online.
He ran the first half of the race in a blistering 1:31:51, well under the target pace. For all intents and purposes, he was crushing it. The next update I got was at mile 18.6 where I saw he slowed down to exactly his target pace of 7:04. Not being there, I was a little nervous. Was he slowing down to save energy for the end? Was he already running on fumes? In some sort of twisted joke, there wouldn’t be any more time updates until he crossed the finish.
I was talking to myself / my computer (which is worse?), both to urge Colin on and to calm my nerves. It was going to be close. And then… he finished. His time updated on my screen. Was he under 3:05:00? My brain took a moment to process it. 3:05:26. NO!! I was distraught. Ev said I looked like I was going to cry. To be honest, I wanted to. He ran 1051 miles in training. 145 hours. That’s over 6 days of running. From July 4th til nearly Thanksgiving. And yet, it wasn’t enough. 27 seconds. So close. Less time than it takes to tie your shoes.
Yet it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. He took 10 minutes off of his previous
best. He ran a marathon in 3:05:26. That’s absurd. And don’t feel bad for Colin. He’s already talking about the next race. The one where he will qualify for Boston. Philly answered the question “can he?”. There’s no doubt about it now. A plan is in the works to choose the next race, this coming Spring, and do what needs to be done. I may just try to tag along for the ride.