June 8 2018
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The Boston Marathon is the epic, milestone marathon that anyone who takes running seriously looks forward to. The Boston Marathon is a race on its own that many runners strive to qualify for. Sadly, some never will. It’s one of those “bucket list” goals that is a reach for many of us, yet still motivates us and gets us out of bed for those early training runs.
I’ve watched my husband run it, and I’ve experienced the thrills and excitement secondhand. But not firsthand. Not yet. Someday.
After completing several half marathons and working with many nutrition clients on their marathon fueling strategies as a registered dietitian, I finally felt ready and up to the task to attempt 26.2 myself. My first marathon, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon, was a very pleasant experience in 2016. I finished in just under 3:42, feeling like I had a little juice left at the finish line. Could I have paced myself better? Did I save too much for the end? Should I have started out faster? These questions plagued me as I contemplated signing up for a second marathon the following spring.
I complied and signed up for the Ogden Marathon in Ogden, Utah. With one marathon under my belt, my goal was to try and qualify for Boston with my second marathon. Ambitious? Yes. The qualifying time for my age group is 3:35, but we all know that means a few minutes under that time. I had my work cut out for me. We’re talking cutting nearly 10 minutes off my first marathon time in just under six months of training, in a high-altitude location.
I chose the Ogden Marathon because it was marketed as a beautiful downhill course that was a great Boston qualifier. My training went pretty well, for the most part. I made the sacrifices that us marathon runners make: turning down party and late-night invites in lieu of extra sleep for early morning runs, taking extra time to stretch and cross-train, practicing and timing my fueling and fueling enough to avoid injuries and sub-optimal performance.
When May came around, I felt ready for my second marathon. While qualifying for Boston still felt like a stretch, at least it was on my radar. I stuck with the pace group for the first half of the race and felt great throughout, eventually finishing in 3:31.05. I was elated, having finished nearly four minutes under the qualifying time and confident I was in a good position for qualifying.
Here we are, nearly nine months later, and I’m not in the middle of training like I expected to be. In fact, I never even started my training cycle because I’m now seven months pregnant. I have been running throughout pregnancy, but not for the purpose of marathon training; instead, I have been running for mental and stress relief, enjoying movement that feels good on my growing body.
Yes, I probably could have trained throughout pregnancy. I could have hoped my due date didn’t fall on or days before Marathon Monday. I could have adapted my training schedule and still done enough long runs to feel confident for Boston. I could have just taken it as a race to do “just for fun.” But to me, Boston represents grit, determination, motivation, tears, blood and sweat. I worked so hard to get there. A relaxing training cycle wouldn’t feel right to me. Not giving it my all on Marathon Monday wouldn’t seem appropriate, given the training load and dedication it took to get there.
So, despite my road to qualifying for Boston 2018, I’m not running. Ultimately, I didn’t want to associate marathon training with pregnancy. They are both such large milestones that I want to enjoy, cherish and celebrate separately. I’m so excited and thrilled to be welcoming a baby girl (our first) into our world come early April. And I want to give her all of my attention and devotion.
I’ve had my ups and downs with running, but the relationship has been long. I know it will always be there for me when I’m ready to return. Despite the good and bad times, running is always there. This is a lesson I’ve learned. It will be there when I’m ready to train again.
Does opting out of the Boston Marathon make me crazy? Sometimes I think it does. I realize I’ll have to qualify for Boston again, when I really am ready to run it. There’s a big unknown if I’ll even be able to qualify again. Will my body perform in the same way after giving birth? Will I prioritize running the same way I once did? Will I be motivated to continue running marathons? All of these are unknowns at this point, as I head into this unfamiliar territory of first-time parenthood.
But when I do return to running, I want to look forward to it. I want to be and feel committed. To have that lust and love back. That spark and desire to achieve my best. I want to get those runner’s highs, feel that temporary pain as I try to hit my interval splits, yet also just be able to enjoy a Sunday run just because. Thanks for teaching me these lessons, Boston. You’ll be there when I’m ready for you.
I will be back with a vengeance. I’ll qualify for you again, Boston. I’m coming for you.
Sarah Schlichter is a registered dietitian and marathon runner based in Charlotte, N.C. She works as a nutrition consultant and in private practice, where she writes the blog, Bucket List Tummy, sharing nutrition posts, healthy recipes, running tips and everything on her bucket list.