Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What is a ¼ mile worth?

From: Denise Sweeney
Dennis Purcell
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2008 12:36 PM
Subject: Flying Pig Marathon

Thank you for your email.

We just received the results from the 2008 Flying Pig Race Officials.

Your time of 3:29:25 at the 2008 Flying Pig Marathon will be accepted for the April 20, 2009 Boston Marathon. Registration will begin on our website on September 3, 2008 at

Best of luck with your training! We look forward to your participation in the 113th running of the Boston Marathon!

Denise Sweeney
Manager, Registration Processing
Boston Athletic Association
1 Ash Street
Hopkinton, MA 01748

So I am in. I am a qualifier. It is an achievement I am very proud of, and even though it did not happen the way I had envisioned, it still feels good. It also allows me to tell you what the end of the Flying Pig was really like. I had not wanted to say much about it in case it sounded too pitiful or like I was whining.

As I have said before, I started to slow around mile 23. Up until this point, I had tried to push the thought of actually qualifying out of my mind. Sure I was trying to stay on a qualifying pace, but I wanted to allow myself an out if things got too bad. I knew I had some cushion, but it really started to be a struggle. Still I was feeling good about my chances. I had not really thought too much about the detour, because at the time, I really did not know how much distance it had added. I ran that “mile” in 8:35 which I attributed to my slowing down. In fact I had run that mile in 7:10 – the fastest of the race.

During mile 25 I heard what I thought was the 3:30 pace group coming up on me. I felt I must be mistaken because I had almost a two minute cushion by my calculations. But when the pace group leader passed me holding up that balloon with “3:30” on it I was crestfallen. How could that have happened? How could it all be slipping away so close to the finish?

I bore down and tried to keep up, but as they continued to pull away I became discouraged. This was exactly what I did not want to happen. I had raced hard, pushed my body and would come up just short. I would be physically drained and sore after the race and not have a BQ to show for it. I thought I was stupid for trying. I should have been happy just running easy, enjoying the race and not worrying about time. But that is not how I am wired.

The point from when the pace group passed me until mile 26 was the low point of the race. It might be the low point of my athletic career. How could I have thought I could run that fast? Why was it important? It certainly did not feel very important right then. It is no wonder that with this all going on in my head and the fatigue of 25 miles in my body that this was the slowest mile of the race.

When I hit the 26 mile marker something clicked in me. In one of those moments that can only happen late in a marathon when the body is failing and the mind does not think straight I saw the clock at “3:30:15”. I had 0.2 miles to go. Maybe I can still make it I thought. Maybe with the difference between my gun time and the chip time I had a chance! I picked up the pace and gave everything I had. I knew I had 44 seconds on the gun time. The next 1:50 was the most painful of my life, but it represented a time when I pushed myself further than I had thought possible. Good thing my mind was not thinking clearly enough to calculate that I would have needed a 7:25 pace to get in under 3:30:59. I would never had tried.

I crossed the line and checked my watch – 3:32:12. Even with the 44 seconds I knew I had not made it. You know you are not in good shape when a volunteer takes your arm and asks you twice if you are alright. Looking at my finish line photo I can now see why. My expression was pained and I was unsteady on my feet.

I walked through the finish area, got a bottle of water and sat down on the curb. My legs would not work. I could not muster the energy to stand and I was dejected.

I knew I had missed a BQ and I knew I had not missed it by much. I had run a great race and had a PR and a time I should be proud of, but it was not what I wanted. I felt mad that I was not strong enough at the end to push harder. At the same time I was mad at myself for feeling so selfish. I had just ran a PR, and by a significant margin. I did not want to always say I had just missed a BQ as a preface to a wonderful finish time. It was the oddest mixture of feelings I ever had.

In the end it all worked out. According to my watch I passed the 26 mile marker in a chip time of 3:29:25. This would have been equivalent to 26.2 miles. There are many things you can’t control on race day, but one thing should always be the same – the race should be 26.2 miles long. I do not fault the race organizers – they did a great job with an extremely difficult situation and always had the safety of the firefighters, racers and volunteers as the main consideration.

During my training runs I had always thought of how I would react when I crossed with a BQ. Arms raised, tears of joy cries of “I did it!” None of that happened, but a BQ is a BQ.

I am very appreciative of the Pig and Boston for considering the extra distance of the race. Now it is time to get ready. The recovery is over and the base training begins. I can’t wait to toe the line in Hopkinton next April.

No matter what comes, now I will always be a qualifier.

1 comment:

DPeach said...

Great job Dennis! I know you said little about the disappointment you must have felt at the end of the run. But, I knew you had to be greatly disappointed.

I am happy for you that they are accepting your time.