This Marathon Life

by a passionately stubborn runner

The Days Of My Boston Qualifier Training Cycle

runner with snow gogglesThis past April I qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon after over four years of long distance running. This is a recap of a few of my runs in my most recent training cycle, which, was laid out for me from my incredible coach David Roche from September 2016 up to the race in April 2017. Laying down the miles day after day and footstep after footstep is what lead me to have the race that I did at the 2017 Glass City Marathon. This is the story of the best training cycle of my life.

Clear day in Detroit.There were days when the sky was clear and blue and the miles flew by easily.

A hill.There were days when I drove an hour round trip to find a “hill” to run up and down on.

Street lamp.There were nights so quiet and dark that the only other thing moving was the flickering light from the street lamps.

Beautiful Michigan trail in the late summer.There were weekends when the trail looked so beautiful that the hours of running on them felt like minutes.

The author after a running race. There were fall races with people that I care about where the post race smiles and laughter made up for the hard race we had just finished.

Runner at night.There were nights where I would struggle to get myself out the door but once I did I would get lost in my thoughts while listening to music. My coach would remind me that some runs would serve as “bricks in the wall” and I would grind onward.

Runner with foggy glasses.There were nights I wished I would have worn contacts.

A music theatre.There were days when I would have to squeeze runs in before social events.

Car parked in the dark morning hours.There were cold and early weekend mornings when I would meet friends at the trailhead. Mornings when most of the people I knew were still asleep. Being a runner is truly living a double life.

Runners on a trailWe would watch the sunrise as we ran.

Runners after a race.There were days when I would run a hilly half marathon and end up with a time only a few seconds off my personal best. I could feel the strength I was building up.

Night timeThere were nights when I would get home from a long day at work and struggle to put on my running shoes. But, once I got out the door and looked up I realized I was running in the moonlight. Is there anything more amazing than that sort of glowing silence?

Blurry scene of holiday lights.Being outside for five to six days a week. I watched the streets change throughout the season. I remember the night they put these lights up. I liked them. They gave me and the street lamps some company.

The author with a headlamp.No matter the weather, darkness or tiredness - you could always find me smiling underneath the glow of my headlamp. I was training to qualify for Boston. I was following Coach’s plan and I was going to make it happen.

A Thanksgiving parade.There were days when I would find myself running in or next to a really chill looking parade.

A smoothie bowl.There were days when I would only crave smoothie bowls and then be really tired the next day because I didn’t eat enough. My coach would remind me that a smoothie is not dinner.

A street in the dark.There were nights when the greyness was overwhelming. When I would wish I lived somewhere else. Somewhere more interesting. But, then I would remind myself how strong I was to get out and embrace what I have.

Snowy street.There actually was a lot of grey nights and I was a warrior of the grey night.

Snowy trail.One of my favorite feelings is the first crunch of snow underfoot.

runner with snow gogglesThere were days when my partner would run with me and we’d come up with something fun to do. Like participating in the Ginger Runner Holiday Scavenger Hunt. We were tasked with finding different holiday items and snapping photos of them. We never did find that Giant Snow Globe…

runner with snow gogglesThere were days when I would have to do speed work but the sidewalk was covered in ice. I did it anyway. Theres always a little patch of non-icy sidewalk somewhere. You can always find a way to get things done. You can’t or you won’t? Coach would remind me that “In winter we show our strength not our speed.”

runner with snow gogglesThere would be some leg pains that I would struggle with until Coach informed me of the power of rolling. I would roll for 10 minutes minimum a day for the rest of my life.

runner with snow gogglesOn some lunch runs the Detroit River would sound so peaceful.

runner with snow gogglesOther lunch runs I would find really cool things in Detroit.

runner with snow gogglesSome nights would be so cold my water froze.

runner with snow gogglesI liked weekend runs. I could run them in the daylight.

Sometimes I would need to push hard on a run.

runner with snow gogglesSometimes that pushing hard would result in winning the two hour category of a local free trail race put on by my friends.

runner with snow gogglesThere were nights when the sidewalk ice would actually be melted and I wished I had brought a kayak.

A road.I’d look forward all week to the weekend long runs on long roads.

runner with snow gogglesThere were times I would run on the local track to get away from the cars and to maximize my sprints that I would throw into a run. I would try to run my sprints under the 5min per mile pace and I would fail every single time. But, kept trying.

runner with snow gogglesSometimes I would come home from a really hard run and my partner would have dinner or other surprises waiting for me. Like this dinner and flowers on my birthday after a hard speed work session.

runner with snow gogglesThere were days the track was covered in snow and I for sure couldn’t get my sprints under 5min per mile. But, regardless, I persisted.

runner with snow gogglesBefore most runs I would do lunges.

runner with snow gogglesSome days I would have to do a tough tempo run and go back to work exhausted but refreshed at the same time.

runner with snow gogglesI always looked for new areas to run in the neighboorhood.

Most nights I listened to podcasts or music.

runner with snow gogglesOn valentines I day I stopped during my run to pickup my partner some chocolates! She loved them. #winning

runner with snow gogglesThere were weekends where I would just run north of my home and see where I ended up. The weather was strange. I would overdress.

runner with snow gogglesThere were very few hills to find in this area of southeast Michigan but after intense googling sessions my partner found me a ~25 second sprinting hill. Hill sprints would boost my fitness.

runner with snow goggles On every run I would think about my late mom. Some runs I would think about her the entire run.

runner with snow gogglesThere were nights where something stressful was going on in life but as soon as I got out on the run it would fade away.

runner with snow gogglesI would pass the remnants of a St. Patty’s Day parade.

runner with snow gogglesThere would be some nights where I would be out on a regular easy paced run and then experience the most amazing sunset. An experience that I would of never had if I had been inside like most everyone else in the neighborhood was.

runner with snow gogglesSome days I would wear 5 million layers.

runner with snow gogglesThere were days where I was on a work trip and would be a bit jet lagged but the run felt so refreshing and soothing.

runner with snow gogglesThe run is the best way to explore a new city.

runner with snow gogglesI would get done with a few days full of 9-5 meetings and everyone else would be going out to dinner, but not I. I had Boston to train for. I remember talking to my partner on the phone during this. It was our only chance to talk and even though we were across the country - it felt like we were both there running together in this beautiful place.

runner with snow gogglesAs the days got colder the number of people on the Detroit River Walk declined.

runner with snow gogglesI would set a personal record in the Half Marathon and smile the entire time.

runner with snow gogglesThe first long run with a tempo thrown in would be very tough. I would count down every single mile till I finished. Laying in the grass afterward I realized how far I had come and how far I had to go.

runner with snow gogglesAs we moved into spring the days of sunlight were upon us! Nothing is better than running in the daylight after months and months of darkness.

runner with snow gogglesApril showers bring May flowers…

runner with snow gogglesI would run with my friend Alex and we would crank out 16 of the 20 miles at my goal marathon pace on a windy day. This was the keystone in my training and my excitement for my upcoming race was at an all-time high. I knew I could do it.

runner with snow gogglesThere were many days of coffee and stroop waffels.

runner with snow gogglesAs the race got closer I would start to stress over the details.

runner with snow gogglesI would lay out my race kit the night before.

runner with snow gogglesI would eat the most amazing pre-race dinner with my partner’s family.

runner with snow gogglesOn race morning the temperature was perfectly around a cool 40 - 45degrees with zero wind. I ran the first 16 miles of the race with Alex and after mile 16 he did his own thing. We meticulously ran each mile as close to my goal pace as possible. Rambling off the split times each mile..8:04…8:05. At mile 16 my legs felt incredible. Each mile I thought about a different situation that my mom had dealt with in life - that she had overcome. Those memories served as strength. I pushed hard and thought to myself - “Today, I’m going to try to be half as strong a person as mom was.”

runner with snow gogglesAfter mile 19 my legs wouldn’t feel as incredible anymore but it didn’t matter. I was a few miles away from qualifying for Boston! This was going to be it! Hold steady Amber, hold steady.

runner with snow gogglesAfter crossing the finish line I sat in the grass for a while and looked around. I eventually walked over to the results table and snapped this pic of my time. It’s a really weird feeling accomplishing something you’ve dreamed about for so long. While I was sitting in the grass, a gentlemen who ran with me a little during the race would spot me and come up and say “How’d ya do?” and for the first time in my life I would say the words “I qualified for Boston.”

runner with snow gogglesI don’t think there was and will ever be a better tasting beer than the beer I would have that day. I don’t even remember what brewery it was. All I know is that it was an IPA and it was damn delicious. Though, I gave my second drink ticket to my partner’s dad because holy wow does one beer hit you hard after running that long.

runner with snow gogglesAll in all, there were lots of days, amazing days, transcending days, exciting days, hard-working days, sore days - but all those days combined together had made this day. This day, after the marathon, where I visited my mother’s grave at the cemetery and placed my medal beside her headstone. I did the thing she always knew I could. The thing I swore I would do someday. That I would never give up on. Marathon after marathon of “failure” I still kept going. Kept trying. And, that, is what this marathon life is all about. The process of growing, learning and being happy.

What are you waiting for? You can do anything if you’re passionate enough and you pursue it relentlessly. So, the next time you think you can’t start a new hobby, ask that person out or qualify for Boston - ask yourself - you can’t or won’t?

Written on May 6, 2017