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Running to Boston

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney  January 25, 2010 05:46 AM

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Going the distance

Globe correspondent Elizabeth Cooney is writing about the Boston
Marathon in the series "Going the Distance," which appears in the Globe's G Health section. She's also training for it, and hopes you'll check in with her along the way.

I am running the Boston Marathon.

Not "I'm thinking about running the Boston Marathon." Not "Someday I'd like to run the Boston Marathon." But "I am running the Boston Marathon."

Now I've said it, I really have to do it.  I promised the nice folks at the Boston Athletic Association who gave me a media exemption that I could finish before they stop timing people on race day.

Starting today, I am writing stories about the health implications of running the marathon, following runners and interviewing specialists about such topics as training in the cold, keeping motivated, staying on top of hydration and nutrition, and the wear and tear of race day. We hope you — whether you're a runner or not — will see your own fitness challenges mirrored in these athletes' journeys.

But this blog is my story. I hope you'll come along for the ride I'm lucky/crazy/privileged/all of the above to take. Hit "comment" to tell me your stories and what you think.

My promise to the BAA means I'm committed to completing 26.2 miles in under six  hours. I'm not running for charity and I didn't finish a qualifying race. If I really do it, I can put one of those oval decals on my car that says 26.2,  just like the ones I see every Saturday morning in the parking lot where my running club buddies gather for a friendly 5K.

We joke about the wind and which direction around the circular course favors the fleet. But we're serious about those 3.1 miles and about supporting one another as we practice our individual sport together. I joined the group only a few years ago, after an adult life of on-again, off-again jogging, cycling, and swimming. I'd been thinking a triathlon might be nice, if I could just get my running up to speed. My dream was to fly through the field with the abandon and ease of childhood.

My first road race gave me a taste of competition, if not that lighter-than-air feeling. At 55, I'm one of those women born too soon for Title IX to make girls' sports everyday options. I
still get a kick out of seeing colt-like girls galloping down soccer fields, pony tails streaming behind them. At my debut 5K, just finishing was my first goal, then not finishing last, then taking my category, which is not as crowded as some age groups. Some days I
plod, some days I fly. I haven't seriously swum or cycled since, so the triathlon will have to wait.

Two summers ago, I felt like a kid again when I ran my first cross-country race up and over a ragged trail bumpy with tree roots.

Then Art passed me. At 72, the Marine veteran had dozens of marathons
behind him. He looked like a lifetime runner, but he didn't start racing until he was 49.

"Don't stop!" he yelled as he high-stepped past me up the staircase-steep hill.

Later, when I asked him how he does it, he said it's easy, if you follow just one rule. "Don't stop."

Art's in Florida this winter as I rack up the miles for Boston, running through slush puddles that make me feel like I'm dipping my feet in and out of ice buckets. According to the rookie training schedule, I'll run at least 700 miles before I reach the starting line in Hopkinton.

I am running the Boston Marathon.

I am following one rule.

"Don't stop."

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34 comments so far...
  1. Good for you! I'll be patiently waiting at mile 20 to wave as you go by . . . .

    Posted by Paul Levy January 25, 10 06:49 AM
  1. Thanks, Paul. That's just what I need.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 08:07 AM
  1. Great story !! Good luck with your training !! There is nothing in world
    like crossing the finish line in Boston !!!! Chase your dreams !!!

    Posted by Gerald " Curly" Carey January 25, 10 08:31 AM
  1. Thanks, Gerald. It is a dream.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 08:34 AM
  1. I love Art's advice. I took up running late last year at 52, training along the shore of Lake Champlain..thinking about Boston. I'll be following your story. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Posted by Dan January 25, 10 08:57 AM
  1. Damn. I want to do this! Information like this moves me closer.

    Posted by D. Bremer January 25, 10 08:59 AM
  1. Good for your Elizabeth!! I also am training for Boston. This will be my fourth marathon and I still get those exhilarating feelings from my first one!
    Good Luck!

    Posted by Kerri Casarano January 25, 10 09:08 AM
  1. Dan, Art is an inspiration. Running along Lake Champlain is, too. Good luck!

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 09:11 AM
  1. D., good luck.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 09:14 AM
  1. Congrats Elizabeth! This year will be my 4th Boston after getting hooked in 2007 - something I did as a gift to myself for my 20th birthday! :) At the time, I hated running - it's still a love-hate relationship but I don't know where I'd be without it! With any luck, you'll reap the all of the health benefits and enjoy it just as much as I have! You will feel like a million bucks when you get to the end! See you there... And you better slap one of those sticker's on your car! (I DID!)

    Posted by Erin January 25, 10 09:14 AM
  1. Kerri, thanks so much. See you there.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 09:16 AM
  1. Erin, what a great gift. And thanks for the encouragement.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 09:17 AM
  1. Not be a party pooper, but geesh, I wish the BAA would give me a media exemption! Anyway, good luck with the training...I'll be doing the same in hopes to "qualify" for Boston someday.

    Posted by Mike January 25, 10 09:25 AM
  1. Mike, you certainly have a point. I hope I can live up to my good fortune.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 09:31 AM
  1. FYI. I am pretty sure that they time runners for six hours not five. Hopefully you can finish under five hours but if not, you will still have another hour to get there and keep your promise to the BAA. Good luck!

    Posted by Dan January 25, 10 10:25 AM
  1. Dan, yes, you're right. Thanks.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 10:58 AM
  1. It's great to hear stories like yours. I will be running my first marathon with you in boston. I am determined and i also cant wait to put that oval sticker on my car when i complete 26.2 miles! wow it makes me feel alive and i won't stop either!

    Posted by Kerry January 25, 10 01:10 PM
  1. Kerry, good luck.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 01:21 PM
  1. Good luck Elizabeth. Being part of a running club or group is the way to go. You need your mates to keep you going especially in the cold weather.

    Posted by Carmel Papworth-Barnum January 25, 10 04:06 PM
  1. Thanks, Carmel. I learn that lesson every day.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 25, 10 04:13 PM
  1. Which rookie training schedule are you following?

    Posted by Frank January 26, 10 10:35 AM
  1. Frank, I picked up the Boston Athletic Association's training schedule at a clinic last night, which is similar to my running club's regimen. You can find it at www.baa.org.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 26, 10 01:07 PM
  1. Hi Elizabeth! Good luck, I'm also running my first marathon (Boston) this year and am blogging about it. I look forward to reading more about your journey as well! :)

    Posted by Tricia January 27, 10 11:42 AM
  1. Just wanted to say that I did one of my longest runs yesterday, and I kept wanting to walk for just a bit, but your article kept popping into my head. I kept telling myself "Don't Stop" and it worked...thanks for the advice!

    Posted by Bart January 27, 10 02:29 PM
  1. Good luck, Tricia. What's your blog?

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 27, 10 04:37 PM
  1. What an inspiration, Bart. Thank you!

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 27, 10 04:41 PM
  1. Congratulations, Elizabeth. I'm running Boston for this first time this year, too. Good luck with your training and see you on Patriot's Day!

    Posted by Mike LaChapelle January 30, 10 02:02 PM
  1. Mike, good luck to you, too.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page January 30, 10 03:10 PM
  1. It's going to be fun following your progress. Have a great time and enjoy the journey. Completing my first marathon at age 41 was the single most rewarding athletic accomplishment in my life. May your experience be everything that you desire.

    Posted by Eric Brown January 30, 10 09:22 PM
  1. Thank you, Eric.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page February 1, 10 06:33 AM
  1. In the winter of 2005, I was diagnosed with brain cancer. I had my first surgery in the spring of that year and I was determined to not let my illness limit what I could do in the future. I would fight to re-gain my abilities and to push my boundaries, if only to say I’m still here and fighting. Having run several marathons before my diagnoses, I slowly learned to walk and run again and was able to complete the Marine Corp Marathon six months later in the fall. One of my life-long dreams was to run the Boston Marathon, and with the help of my many friends and family, I was able to train and compete. I worked hard over the spring and summer with my friend/trainer and felt confident I could run a 3:50 at Marine Corps Marathon in order to qualify for Boston. During the beginning of the race, I just couldn’t get comfortable and struggled to maintain the pace. I even broke down and stopped on the 14th Street Bridge (mile 20) and cried, thinking that I just couldn’t make it. I ended up missing the qualifying time by 1 minute and 16 seconds.
    Determined to not give up, I searched for an upcoming marathon that would allow me to qualify for Boston before it closed. I even considered flying across country to compete in the Las Vegas marathon in December. A friend recommended the Richmond Marathon as a flat, fast course, which was only three weeks after the Marine Corp Marathon. I immediately registered for the event and tried to recover from the MCM as much as possible. Though the day was cool and rainy, I felt much better in Richmond and got off to a great start. Around the 18-mile mark, I knew it would be close and fought to maintain my pace for the last few miles of the race. Amazingly I finished in 3:49:43 and qualified for Boston.
    As you are following one rule, “Don’t stop,” I follow that up to you and others with, “Never, never, never, give up! - BethAnn

    Posted by BethAnn Telford - Team BT February 1, 10 04:39 PM
  1. Good luck Liz! Enjoy every step. I ran my first Boston in 2006 and immediately got hooked. Now I'm trying to run a marathon in each state.

    Posted by Rob Brogna February 2, 10 05:10 PM
  1. Good Luck!!
    I too, am running my first Boston this year. I never thought I would be doing this at age 59. I'm amazed and humbled at the same time. See you at the finish line!!

    Posted by Carrie February 15, 10 09:17 AM
  1. Thanks, Carrie -- see you there.

    Posted by Elizabeth Cooney Author Profile Page February 16, 10 10:55 AM
Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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