Sun 27 Feb 2011
Have you ever had a dream that totally consumed you—a dream that seemed to just slip away due to the lack of ability? It couldn’t be lack of desire or effort because I tried and tried. But the dream came back—like a gift from the heavens.
I am a runner and I am 56 years old. I am in the best shape of my entire life, both mentally and physically. I believe in dreams and am living proof that barriers can be overcome well past what is considered middle age in our society. Through running, I learned that anything is possible. “Really” you ask?
Yes, running transformed my life. I emerged from being an unconfident, nervous, stressed, overachiever (defined as one who succeeds through sheer effort) who could barely run a quarter of a mile without stopping to a confident, empowered, relaxed, athlete who can run a marathon—fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon for the first time at the age of 54. This is after I tried to qualify unsuccessfully by running eight marathons in nine years. I didn’t just qualify either—I beat the qualification time by 10 minutes.
“How did you do that?” you ask. Read on and I will explain.
Running is like life. It’s a journey. You must have great persistence to be a long distance runner—much the same as dealing with the twists and turns of life. Running is hard, no doubt about it. It can be a lonely and cruel sport. But the empowerment and confidence I gained was worth every step. If I can break barriers at 54, what is to stop me in my 60’s and beyond? Life is an exciting journey and we are capable of achieving anything if we believe we can.
After I started running my early twenties, I started to dream a typical dream among serious long distance runners—I wanted to run a marathon. A marathon is 26.2 miles long—that’s 26.2 miles. It seemed an impossible goal, but I also wanted to break the magic 4-hour mark. But that’s not all—I also dreamed of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Any serious runner knows how daunting a goal that is. I am not a gifted runner. I’ve won a few medals in small races in my lifetime and in bigger races I can make the top 20 to 30 percent. Not bad but not great.
The Boston Marathon is the only marathon in the nation that sets qualifying standards for entry. For 114 years, the popularity of this race has grown and now attracts entrants from all over the world. The qualifying standards are tough which increases the allure of the race. The rule of thumb is that only ten percent of runners will qualify to run Boston. In fact, the qualifying standards just got tougher due to it selling out in a record 8 hours this year. Check out the new qualifying standards on the Boston Marathon website.
My running obsession started when I broke the 4-hour mark at age 40 at the Long Beach Marathon in 1993. Yep, I was really happy about that. But that accomplishment threw this overachiever into marathon mania chasing my dream. I ran 8 more marathons in 9 years and didn’t even come close to breaking the 4-hour barrier again or qualifying for Boston. Talk about discouragement and frustration. I thought I could make my dream come true through sheer effort. But it didn’t happen. I didn’t want to face the fact that I was getting older and just wasn’t good enough to qualify.
Sometimes we do get wiser with age. I reached a point when I learned how to let go of my dream and appreciate what I have. No, sheer effort is not the key to getting what we want. It’s much easier than that. “Easier?” you ask. Yes—easier.
I am writing this blog to share my story and to encourage all of you who are looking toward middle age to look forward with courage and confidence because our greatest joys are still ahead to experience—and we can experience them easily and without stress.
I invite you to join me on my life journey over the next eleven blog entries through frustration, anger and persistence to the realization of an incredible dream. I am still astounded at what happened, even today.
I am training for the Lincoln (Nebraska) Marathon on May 1. My goal is to finish strong under 4 hours (which will qualify me for the Boston Marathon with a good expectation of getting in under the new registration rules.) My long run on Saturday was 16 miles in bitter California weather. It was 53 degrees and strong winds but no rain. My Sunday run was 8 miles. I couldn’t run the hills on the trails due to the recent rain.