â??We found Bigfoot.â?? â?¦.Yep, that is what it feels likeâ?¦finding Bigfoot. Thatâ??s what waking up the day after finally running a Boston qualifying time in a marathon feels like, especially if you have been trying to run one for close to 2 decades.
Alright, I probably need to explain. I grew up watching a lot of the old â??In Search of Showsâ?? on TV. Do you remember those shows? I think Leonard Nemoy narrated a lot of them. They would interview these scientists who had spent most of their lives trying to find Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness Monster, or alien life forms. During the show, the experts would pull out files of pictures and proof that they had spent decades collecting. They spoke of the sacrifices they had made in their pursuits. You know full well that people had doubted them along the way, maybe not to their faces, but probably behind their back (â??Gee, Dr. Figglestern is brilliant, but can you believe he still thinks he is going to catch a Yeti?â??) These people were perpetual chasers of something that deep down inside they knew they would probably never catch or see, but they kept showing up everyday trying to prove themselves right, (and maybe some people wrong.)
So when someone asked me this weekend how it felt, after 16 marathons, to finally run a time that could send me to Boston, I didnâ??t know what to tell them. The first thought that popped into my head was â??I found Bigfoot.â?? Running a fast enough marathon to qualify for Boston had me feeling exactly as one of those scientists would have felt had someone told them, â??we found Bigfoot!â?? I imagined that scientist being in disbelief at first, â??You found him? Really? What? How? Prove it!!â?? And then, when it finally sunk in, those scientists would know that all their effort, all the self doubts that they had fought for years, all the times they thought â??whatâ??s the point? We are never going to catch this thing!â?? would all be washed away. Vindicationâ?¦even if only for themselves.
For 16 marathons, and even more years, I was chasing my Bigfoot. Every so often I would have 10 miles of a marathon that were just enough of a glimpse that maybe I could actually run a Boston qualifying time some day. (Itâ??s the equivalent of those scientists finding a tuft of hair in the woods!) It wasnâ??t exactly proof, but it was a teaser. For 16 marathons, I came up short. The wheels came off, I hadnâ??t prepared enough, or the heat got to me, or I didnâ??t do the right type of training. Oh that Boston qualifying time was an elusive as a Sasquatch.
So what changed this year? I got help. Sure I trained harder and longer and logged more miles than I ever have, but the reality is I didnâ??t do this alone. Far from it! I had a coach in Lisa Taylor who knew when I needed a pat on the back, and when I needed her to put on her stern face! She coached me through 16 weeks of 5 day a week running. She modified my plan around injuries and family vacations. She got me mentally prepared every Monday for what lay ahead. And then she got me ready to do something that I didnâ??t think I could. Heck, I had proof 16 times over that I couldnâ??t do this! But Lisa is as determined as she is knowledgeable. She wasnâ??t going to let me fail myself. She wasnâ??t going to let me quit. She warned me that this was going to be hard for me on race day. She was right.
It was the hardest race I have ever run. At mile 22 I honestly wanted to quit. I was tapped. I had been running as fast as I could for 2 3/4 hours. There were no easy miles. I had nothing left. I was on pace at that point to get my sub 3:15 marathon, but I was willing to throw it all away if only I could stop running and walk for a few steps. Oh that sounded so tempting! But I had been there before. Those few steps quickly multiply, and the time lost quickly grows. I had a decision. I didnâ??t want to let Lisa down, but I knew she would say â??NO! Donâ??t let yourself down Marc!â?? So I literally ran from one house on the course to the next one. I made a deal with myself â??run to that house and if you make it there you can see how you feel.â?? (I should point out that the houses at this point on the course are literally right next door to each other!) I donâ??t know how, but I kept making it to the next house. That Coach Lisaâ?¦she sure knows how to get in your head!
There is a vacuum at every marathon. Itâ??s the crowd that builds as you get closer to the finish line. It sucks you towards the finish. At that point you can hear the announcer calling off names, you can feel the energy of all those wonderful families just waiting for their loved one, and as a runner, you feel better than you have in a long time! I realized the moment I came around the corner that there were a lot more people who were anxiously watching the clock for me. They were part of the team that got me there. A sea of blue Excelerate Run/Endurance Evolution sweatshirts suddenly swelled and shouted â??Itâ??s Marc!!!â?? (I didnâ??t write much about this, but in the past month, I have actually spent more time at Excel Physical Therapy than out running. A lingering nerve issue had made everything, even sitting still, painful. The team at Excel did everything they could think of to get me healthy in timeâ?¦.and they did! I owe them more than I could ever repay!) I have a feeling, based on their amazing reaction when I came around the bend, that they had been counting every minute since the start of the race, hoping I was going to make it in time. (What? I had 2 minutes to spare? Why so nervous?) They say there are only two types of runners, those who have an injury, and those who will have an injury. If you get hurt, get a great team of physical therapists who understand running. They helped keep my dream alive. Thank you so much Excel!
My goal 16 weeks ago was to run my fastest marathon by far and to finish in 3 hours and 12 minutes. I logged more than 500 miles in training, I ran through three pairs of shoes, sub zero temperatures for most of the season, I sat in bath tubs full of ice to recover, I taped a bag over that awful cast on my hand for weeks, and then on race day, I suffered through a run that was hard work from the start. But when all was said and doneâ?¦my chip time 3:12:18.
I am still in shock. It still hasnâ??t sunk in. You chase something for that long, and when you catch it, you canâ??t believe you did. That happened right? I find myself saying that over and over again. And itâ??s the best feeling ever!
I guess I found my Bigfoot.