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Keeping 'The Streak' alive in Chicago

Posted by Ty Velde  October 12, 2011 12:30 PM

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As we all know, many changes have come with registering for the forthcoming 2012 Boston Marathon. Qualifying times were cut by five minutes and they essentially introduced a seeded registration process that assured priority entry to those with the fastest times. Therefore, even if you met the qualifying standards for Boston, you were by no means guaranteed entry, unless you have exceeded your qualifying time by several minutes. While simply qualifying for Boston has always been a challenge, these new standards have now raised the bar even higher.

However, along with the new qualifying standards came another little known change…the Consecutive Participant Waiver. In short, if you had completed 10 or more consecutive Boston Marathon’s (2002 – 2011 inclusive) and met the qualifying standards for 2012, you were granted a waiver associated with the new registration process and had the option to register early. Therefore, while the BAA’s new standards clearly give preference to faster runners, this policy also showcased that they did recognize “the streakers” and were going to ensure that as long as you could qualify, you’d able to get in the race. For those with streaks, this meant that it was not about how fast of a time you qualified with, but rather just that you qualified. Now this may sound trivial, but based on how competitive registering for Boston has become, this does provide a bit of breathing room.

Having just completed my 10th consecutive Boston run last April, while I had heard rumors of a “streak waiver,” it was not until I received an email in mid-August from the BAA that I knew it was official. Up until this point while I had been cognizant of my streak, being officially recognized by the BAA brought not only a tremendous sense of pride, but also some extra pressure. In short, my streak was no longer just something that was personal to me, but the BAA acknowledgement made me feel like my marathon status had somehow just been elevated. While my streak heading into 2012, barring injury, was assured to continue meaning that come this April I would have 11 consecutive Boston runs under my belt; heading into yesterday’s Chicago Marathon I now felt compelled to see if I could secure my spot for 2013 and Boston Marathon No. 12.

In other words, I suddenly felt a new sense of pressure to see if I’d be able to maintain “the streak”, which meant that I would need to run a 3:15:00 or better.

Streaking In Chicago
As this was my forth time running the Chicago Marathon, I felt that I had a pretty good grasp of the course and what to expect. I had also submitted my start time from this year’s Boston Marathon and as a result got seeded in Corral A, just behind the elites. Therefore, I knew that I’d be able to hit a good pace quickly. Additionally, the weather was good, but not ideal….mid 60’s at the start which meant that it would only get warmer throughout the race. Now, I’m not one to complain about the weather, and conditions like these certainly bring out the spectators, but it certainly can impact performance. Additionally, my two fastest times, including my only sub-three hour race, have been recorded in Chicago. Therefore, taking into account my history with the race, and despite the race day conditions, I felt like I was in a pretty good place to accomplish my goal.

The Race - October 9, 2011
As the gun went off, I was able to quickly hit my pace and by mile 8 I was running comfortably with the 3:00:00 group. However, by mile 10, they slipped away. Not to worry I thought, as I was still running a solid pace, but at the same time I still had 16.2 miles to go. As the race wore on and the temperature started to rise, I could start to feel the impact of the conditions, but the incredible crowd support and amazing volunteer staff kept me in check.

However, by mile 20 the 3:10 pace group snuck up on me and soon passed me by. “Uh oh,” I thought to myself, as getting passed by the 3:10:00 group meant that my window was closing and I could feel myself losing some steam. At the same time, I knew that as long as I did not see the 3:15:00 group I would be okay.

As I came into the final stretch at mile 24 on South Michigan Avenue, I was just around the three hour mark and now the pressure was on. I knew that if I did not turn it up a notch that I would not only fail to re-qualify, I would just miss doing so. (I have to say that sometimes if you set a goal, it’s more painful to just miss it, than to miss it completely.) Therefore, despite the pain and discomfort, I reached into my reserves and gave it everything I had.

As I entered the final stretch towards the finish line I knew it was going to be close. Once the finish line clock came into view I saw it turn over to 3:14:00 and with the seconds ticking away I eventually crossed around the 3:14:20 mark. While it was close, (my official time was 3:13:57), I had accomplished my goal and I knew my streak would now live through at least 2013 or 12 Boston Marathons.

Of course, had I not made it I still could have looked to my forthcoming Boston race this April for another shot, but at least the pressure will be a bit less. However, I will say that while being officially recognized as a “streaker” is great, it definitely made yesterday’s race a bit more interesting and mentally challenging for me.

Additionally, having now run 21 marathons over the past 11 years, what amazed me about yesterday’s race is the continual challenge and inspiration that each marathon provides. As yesterday clearly demonstrated, when it comes to running marathons whether it’s your first or your 50th, every experience is unique and each one is special. It’s a big reason why many of us come back time and time again.

I will also say that I certainly never started running marathons, let alone Boston, with thought that I would ever have a “streak.” It’s something that has just sort of happened. While my “streak” is certainly rewarding; it’s not about racking up numbers or races…it’s much more than that. Sure I’m proud it and I’m happy that my performance yesterday has assured that for the near term it will continue. However, when I really think about it, my streak is truly a symbol of my love for running and my desire to continually challenge myself. Without these factors, there is no way I would be in the position I’m in today, and it’s also why I’ll see you at the starting line this coming April and again in 2013.

In memoriam
On a side note, I do want take a moment to offer my condolences to the family of William Caviness. As a father of two young children, his death in yesterday’s race really hit home for me. By all accounts from what I have read, he was a very experienced runner, veteran marathoner and on top of all of this a firefighter, dedicated to serving others. May peace him with him and his family.

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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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