In May of 2004, I finally broke three hours in the marathon. I actually blew it away. Ran a 2:55:52! I had no idea what to do after that.
I always had running goals, but for some reason after the three hours, I was struggling to find a suitable goal.
I did run several more marathons. Most just for fun or to help a friend. I paced a friend in Las Vegas so he could qualify for Boston. I tried to help someone in Seattle. I did run a 4:59 mile at age 45 which was huge for me and won a masters 1500m race with a dramatic finish. I trained with people if they needed company, but I was a bit adrift. A year after I had broken three I decided to run the same race again and sort of defend my accomplishment. The course had changed and it didn’t feel the same. I was running ok, but part way through simply lost the desire. Nothing was driving me. I finished in the top 10 as I recall with a very respectable 3:02:05, but it really didn’t matter to me. I had reached my goal and did not have another one.
In 2006 I became an assistant principal at a very busy school and that became all consuming. I hadn’t forgotten about running, but I just didn’t do it much. My friends still wanted me to train with them, so I told them I would run one long run per week with them. That usually meant between 16 and 23 miles. For many months, I ran that one day on the weekend and then would run once per week during a weekday. Typically just a few miles starting at my home in Spanaway, Washington.
I started to play with an idea. What if I could qualify for Boston training only two days per week. Of course, no one would believe that it was possible. Especially for a big guy like myself. I liked that kind of challenge. I always believed I was uniquely strong mentally for running. So I started documenting my training. Two days a week. On the long runs, I would run the 20 miles or so but would also mix in hills, speedwork and tempo work to make it a multipurpose workout. I would run fast for 200m, 400m, 800m, etc….A tempo run is maintaining a pace faster than your marathon pace and typically near your anaerobic threshold, so I would run ahead of my friends doing this for a few miles and then circle back. I decided to put this to the test in a Tacoma Marathon.
I don’t remember a ton about the race right now, but it was brutal. I could feel that my body did not have the miles on it necessary to provide the foundation, but I still thought I could do it. I was hanging on by a thread, but it seemed I was losing ground little by little. I was older then, so I needed only a 3:30 marathon to qualify. The last miles were torture and I ignored the clock. I just ran as best I could until the finish. I ran a 3:27:29 and qualified for Boston. I had done it. I finished 38th out of about 600 participants.
I had planned to write a book about this as I thought it would make a good story but it wasn’t to be. I felt that I had mastered a lot of mental aspects of marathon running. Pretty much all of my training partners were much lighter and faster than I. I simply could not run 400m as fast as them. I always believed they should beat me and run faster times but I had something they did not. However I could not have done it without them. I had convinced myself that I should be able to do certain things no matter what.