When I started training after SCMM 2011, for my first attempt at qualifying for the Boston Marathon, my best marathon was in 4:00:18 at the New Jersey Marathon in 2007. Since then I have run 7 marathons (one was at SCMM 2012, trying pace Bhasker to a 3:45 finish failing comically) - 6 of them in the pursuit.
Also, I have come to realize, esp after the first BQ I managed, in my marathon(what turned out to be my very first sub-4), that I didn't want to run at Boston, as much as I wanted to have the choice and capability to do so. This was further enforced when the BAA revised its BQ norms even as I was training in 2012 by 5:59 min. Suddenly I needed to run a 3:05 to qualify in 2013, since I had ended up missing the final cutoff for the 2012 race by 1 minute. I didn't feel like whining much. After all, running faster meant I would be a better runner than I was. What was there to complain about? Of course, it would be difficult but this was something I really loved. I quit my job in Sep 2011 to chase my dream. But then I got older and moved to the 35-39 age group. So I needed to run a 3:10 again. In Dec 2012 I ran 3:10:07 in what remains my gutsiest effort in 3+ hours of heavy rain and headwind at CIM, missing a BQ by a tantalizing 7 seconds. And I had been in great shape for that race, hoping to run 3:05. At the time of writing this post, I am not 100% sure but for the 2013 race, I think it was sufficient to merely run the BQ time and apply to run in the 2013 race unlike the 2012 or 2014 editions, where you needed to be better than the age-group norm by nearly 80-90 seconds . Since the norms had just been tweaked by 5+ min, the no of eligible runners had dropped significantly.
That revision only enforced my will to work harder. I stopped quizzing (my only hobby until I began running) and spent most of my time trying to be a better runner.
So does 3:04:16 mean I will now not run as much? Not at all. But I will run with a sense of lightness unburdened by the attritional goal. Was it fun? Easy question - ABSOLUTELY. I have not enjoyed anything in my life more than chasing this goal.
From a self-confidence perspective, this means I can now succeed at a goal I set for myself at something I love. I have some loose plans to cycle in Europe sometime in the near future, even looser plans to try a triathlon. I have firmer plans to run Comrades sometime in the next 5 years and perhaps at least one of the WMMs. Theoretically I have attained a good for age (GFA) norm for the London Marathon (more ego massage!) although London allows only UK residents on GFA. All international applicants must apply for the lottery.
I now have logical closure on my book (still stuck with a working title) on my journey from Bangalore to Boston. So its publication is a possibility now (all publishing leads welcome).
3 years of training have driven more wisdom into me than anything else I have undergone in my 3+ decades of living. The value of support from friends and family has been reinforced several times over and the sheer joy of living has increased. Overall, the one pleasing takeaway (and I say this with no smugness or attempt at cliches) has been that passion combined with hard work produces a personal transformation, which is a joy in itself. No amount of money can buy that.
In 2011, I used the expression "I am ready to kill myself" to accomplish my goal*, with no flippancy. There were several days during my training when my HR stayed at 200+ for more than a few seconds. I was sore all over and so fatigued that I opted to sleep rather than even eat food. In some senses, training like that and quitting my job soon after, killed some part of the person I was in 2011.
3 years later, that person from 2011 is dead. As I have recounted to friends, I am not as brave/reckless/singleminded as I was then. I would not have the courage to quit a cushy job, foregoing so much income (believe me, the money or the lack of it, hurts!).
I have no idea what my next all-consuming goal will be, although I have a few ideas. But I am ready to die again. Carpe Diem!
* And I will revisit this in my post on running & depression