Being SO close is sometimes worse than being far away…you’re taunted with the reality of achieving your goal but still you cannot have it. There were many races in 2007 when I just knew I had it, but in the later miles of the race I hit the wall and could not recover. The disappointment of seeing my watch turn to 3:41 while I still had less than a mile to go was gut wrenching. And it happened over and over again.
At the beginning of this year, I made plans to do a double (2 marathons, 2 consecutive days) in March. The sheer challenge, of course, fascinated me but a huge part of me just wanted a major running goal that was NOT tied to Boston. I was tired of feeling like a failure! It never occurred to me that the Rock N Roll marathon in Phoenix would be a possible race to BQ…
On a whim at the expo, I decided to wear a 3:40 pace band and even join the pace group. Hell, I may as well TRY, right?! On race morning, I ate breakfast with Amanda and Jen (who were both running their 3rd marathon that day) without giving much thought to my time OR strategy. As Trey and I drove to the start in downtown Phoenix, he told me to “stop talking so much and focus on a PR”. He never sugarcoats anything, which I appreciate because it is always exactly what I need to hear.
I met up with the pace group and headed north away from downtown for the first 5 miles. We were at 52:09 at the 10K, 8:24 minute miles- dead on for 3:40. It was refreshing to see friends at mile 7 (Trey, Ashlea, Jeff, Shane, Zach). Near mile 8, we saw Camelback Mountain for the first time and it got closer and closer as we continued east. While I enjoyed the camaraderie of running in a group, a lot of the girls were really talky. Had our leader not been so efficient, I would have left them earlier than in mile 10, when I pulled away.
The “signature” piece to the RnR marathon is a band at every mile; it’s a great boost to hear them even if you don’t like their style of music! They also had a ton of local kids participating in “spirit squads”. Since my name was on my shirt, I got to hear their appreciation. “Way to go Suzy”, “You can do it Suzy”, “Suz, lookin’ good”. The support helped, because at the halfway mark I was running at a pace of 8:18 and hit 1:48:37. This gave me a very small amount of cushion for 3:40.
At mile 19, we entered downtown Scottsdale and I was feeling GREAT. You talk to yourself a lot during 26 miles, and I kept reminding myself that the uncontrollables were in my favor: great weather, flat course, super crowd. I could only focus on what I could control and…no pressure…but I was the controllable. If I had to see another 3:41 while still in the race, it was my own fault. Maybe this thought sped me up, because at mile 20 I clocked 2:44:55 and had an 8:13 pace.
As we crossed over the bridge at mile 23, I could see ASU and Sun Devil Stadium. It was 3 miles away and I knew that was the finish. At this point my legs, knees, hips were hurting. It was quiet, not like the start when everyone’s all talky. Almost eerie. We all just kept moving forward.
I held off thinking about the reality of qualifying for Boston until I got to the final mile. Mile 25 started with a detour around a water main break. As Young Jeezy and R Kelly sang “Go Getta” on my mp3, we ran through the Salt River Project compound. I looked at my watch at mile 26 and knew that this WAS in fact going to be my BQ race.
Perhaps exhilarated by the realization, I began my final “kick” to the sound of TuPac’s “Hail Mary” and took my pace down to an 8:08 minute mile. This would not only solidify my negative split, but also my BOSTON QUALIFYING time of 3:32:59. I finished 773rd of 6489 marathoners, 163rd of 2974 females, and 39th of 620 in my age division. Having committed to a full 2008 calendar (including the aforementioned double), I will run Boston in 2009…FINALLY!