My Favorite Day

4.19.10: What it takes to qualify

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Every third weekend in April, we celebrate Patriot’s Day, a holiday only recognized in Massachusetts and Maine. At 5:30 a.m. in Lexington and Concord, there are reenactments of the historic start to the Revolutionary War. In Somerville, Arlington, Charlestown and many other towns, Paul Revere and William Dawes ride through town warning patriots that “the redcoats are coming.”

And out in Hopkinton, runners descend on “runner’s village,” read to run the full 26.2 back to Boston.

This year, I had hoped to be one of them. Instead, I am sitting in my bedroom on a rest day, in the midst of my taper. Yesterday I ran 13.1 in 1:44, which is better than my half marathon time in February (1:45), but not as good as I had hoped (1:40).

They say you should add two hours to your half marathon time and assume that will be your marathon time. Then again, it was a training run, not a race. Still, just like last time, I am on the cusp. Nothing is a sure bet.

Despite the fact that I am not toeing the starting line, I love the Boston Marathon. I love the qualifying times and its reputation as the most difficult marathon. I love the challenge and the talent it takes to get there.

Patriot’s Day is my favorite day to be from Massachusetts. And it is not just because my husband is currently curled up in bed beside me instead of showering to get ready for work.

Personally, I feel a connection. I graduated from high school in Lexington and have completed 90 percent of my training runs on the bikeway that runs behind it, the Minuteman Bikeway. Along the way, I pass monuments and statues that blend into the towns so much, I barely notice. The history they represent has become a part of my running. Today is a day to celebrate both.

Boston prides itself on history and athletics and today they all converge: a baseball game, a marathon and men in tri-corner hats, carrying muskets. Really, what’s not to love?

I have heard it described as “just an excuse to skip work,” but I think it is something more. The few times I have watched it—once in Newton, once around the Fenway area and several times in Copley near the finish—I have always been in the center of a huge crowd. People cheer, they line the police barricades, they hand out water, orange slices and Gatorade.

They support the runners.

And even though we all know I am not a huge fan of spectators, being one, especially in Boston, is pretty awesome. You feel part of something great.

I always cry when I watch any marathon. But Boston makes me blubber. After all, the feat of human endurance is impressive. But it is something more, too. The whole city stops to celebrate true athleticism, to honor a difficult race even for the mostly veteran athletes who are running it.

I want to run Boston.

A huge part of that is because it is my hometown race. But it is something more, too. I want to prove to myself that I can. I have done it all myself. No coaches, no trainers and, as is the case with this training session, not even a running partner. My longest runs have all been alone.

I am proud of that. And next year, I hope to do it again.

I don’t know what May 2 will bring. But I hope next year at this time, I am on a bus to Hopkinton.

Of course, a lot of things have to happen first. I need to run better than a 3:40:59. I need to get through another round of spring training. And I need to conquer the nerves for my upcoming race and face the beast, trusting my training.

But every third Monday in April, I remember why I am a runner. I remember the sense of competition and the natural ability that runners need to qualify and I wonder if I have that, too.

Next year, I hope to find out.

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.