The Road to Boston – By Coach Jen

For many runners, especially those who run marathons, Boston is the Holy Grail.  It’s a milestone that can represent so much to so many in a running career.  After I ran my very first marathon in 4:05, I thought, “I only need to drop 25 minutes off that time to qualify for Boston, that’s about one minute per mile.  I could possibly do that”.  And so qualifying for Boston became a goal.

Time went on and I ran more marathons and began to chip away at that time.  A 3:52, and a 3:46, getting so close!  I thought the 2017 Houston Marathon was going to be my year and my race, but due to weather being much less than ideal and some under-training, it didn’t happen.  So the fall of 2017 was going to be my time to train and finally hit that goal at Houston in 2018.  

And then Harvey came.  That storm destroyed my home, my neighbor’s homes, my kid’s school and a huge section of my community.

The fall of 2017 suddenly became not at all about training goals but about rebuilding our home.  I still ran through it all. I didn’t run very far or very fast, but I continued to run.  When I first began running 5 years ago it was a way to escape the noise of a large busy family and just have a chance to think and to breathe. It has served as my therapy for many years.  During the aftermath of Harvey I needed that more than ever.  So I ran.  From the homes of the friends who took us in and let us live with them,  I got up early every morning and would run; before starting the day shift of dropping the kids at the bus, putting in a full day of manual labour at the house before picking everyone up and starting second shift of baths, homework, dinner and bedtime alone while my husband put in his second shift working at the house after a full day at his job.

Eventually the house started to look like a house again.  We moved back in in October.  We had no floors, working appliances, and it was a disaster but it was our home.  We lived upstairs while the construction continued downstairs.  And I continued to run.  I remember the first time heading out in my neighborhood and seeing the deep ruts of truck tires through the grass where the high water vehicles had come in to make rescues.  Fences were down everywhere.  Massive piles of trash for miles in every direction.  It was quiet.  So quiet.  No one was living here.  Maybe one in 10 homes were occupied when we moved home.

By the time Thanksgiving came our home was fully functional, we even had guests for Thanksgiving.  We started to settle into our new normal.  The kids catch the bus now for their new school that is too far to walk to.  I was able to return to a regular training schedule.  During the last 3 months of 2017 I steadily increased my running mileage each month, and even managed to finish out 2017 with 2017 miles for the year which was a goal I didn’t think I would make.  I only managed one 20 mile long run. I missed one due to being very ill after Thanksgiving and one I just had a terrible run and called it quits at 18.5.  All this is to say that my confidence going into the race was not very high.

I can recall saying to friends before the race that all the stars would need to align for me to be able to hit my BQ goal on race day.  Well, those stars aligned.  The weather was absolutely perfect, it was very cold for Houston, which was ideal for racing.  Throughout the race I just stayed present in the mile I was in.  I knew my goal paces for each mile and that’s all I focused on.  In the end I ran a 3:40:11, which gives me an almost 5 minute buffer for getting into the race.

All this is to say we as human beings are stronger than whatever circumstances are thrown our way.  We have the choice to rise above, and be stronger than the storm.  The lessons learned from Harvey are too many to count, but when it comes to running it’s going to take more than a hurricane to take me down.

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