Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The long road to Boston (Marathon)...

I've been running for a few years now. I started running simply to get in shape for hockey, which in my mind is the best sport in the world. But my running has taken on a life of its own, in a sense, and now my whole family has taken it up: Jenny, my wonderful wife, has done a half-marathon in under 2 hours. And Karen (b. 1990) and Tori (b. 1992) each did a 14 k run last year and are now training for a half marathon at Disney World in January 2008.

A couple of the people that I run with qualified for and ran in the Boston Marathon this year, so Jenny and I made the trek to Boston to watch them. It was simply amazing the number of people -- a sea of people -- running in this race. And I knew that all of them had qualified one way or another and were, therefore, all better runners than me.

I've done two marathons. My first was in 2003 at the Niagara Fallsview Casino Marathon which runs from Buffalo N.Y. to Niagara Falls, Ontario. I did it in roughly 4 hours 45 minutes -- and since my only goal was to finish, I was quite pleased with the result. My second was the Forest City Road Race in London Ontario in 2004, which I completed in 4 hours 31 minutes. Better -- but I just barely dragged my sorry butt across the finish line -- and thereafter swore off marathons as they were just too hard on my body.

But having seen my two friends and co-runners Brian Watson and Gwyn Hayman compete in Boston has put the bug back in me. I want to be realistic, though. For me to qualify for Boston, I have to complete a Boston Qualifier marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes or less. That's an hour off my best previous marathon time! But things are different for me now. For one thing, I have a really good running group to support me -- especially my mentor, Brian, who is currently working to do a sub 3 hour marathon. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that since I have been running fairly regularly over the past few years, I know I've gotten faster. So I said to myself, my running group and my family (who could see me starting to think crazy marathon thoughts again) that I'd only consider trying for a Boston Qualifier (BQ) if I could do a half-marathon in half the time I'd need in my BQ -- or 1 hour 45 minutes.

Now, there wasn't a convenient race nearby to do this test -- so we made one up! On July 1, 2007, 9 of us ran in the first annual Canada Day Lucan -Exeter Half Marathon. Not very fancy -- no running shirts, no finishers medal, no chip timing -- just plain and simple running, with a group of excellent support crews in 5 vehicles to support the runners. We started at 7:00 with a rendition of Oh, Canada, and at 7:05 we took off from Lucan to the Conservation Area just east of Exeter Ontario. Brian paced me (reined me in and had me pick up the pace, as required) and we finished in 1 hour 41 minutes and 51 seconds -- upright, smiling and not out-of-breath. Amazing!

So, the good news was that I had taken the first step towards qualifying for Boston -- at least in my mind. The bad news was that this was the easy part. The work would now begin.

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