I dunno if this surprises anyone but I am not a runner! So for those who do race long-distance, I am always amazed and inspired at that kind of athleticism. A few weeks ago, I was especially intrigued by my friend Nichole, and her amazing story towards chasing her goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I asked to hear the whole story and I was even more blown away. Prepare to be inspired!…
“I haven’t always been a runner. In fact, back in my high school and college basketball days it was totally normal for me to be one of the last ones to finish a conditioning run. After having my first baby, I started training for a 5k, moved up to a 10k, and after my second pregnancy did my first half marathon. Once I had a couple half marathons under my belt, training for a marathon seemed like the next thing to try. As I crossed the finish line at 3:53 of that first marathon back in 2011, my exact words were ‘that was stupid. I’m never going to do that again’. Even though I had properly trained, it just felt like something I only needed to do once in my life. Fast-forward a couple years, another baby, and while pregnant with baby 4 all I craved was a good long run. On a whim I registered for a marathon a year from then. After our son was born I began training. Immediately I was reminded why I had told myself I would never do another marathon. Training sucks! It is long and time consuming, and with 4 kids it required major planning in order to fit in all my runs.
I remember the exact day I set my sights on qualifying for the Boston marathon. It was after my fastest half marathon (1:39) which was just weeks before my marathon. I had been so committed in my training, race day came and I gave it all I had. I realized around mile 23 that I would not be getting the time I needed to qualify and the tears started to fall. I finished that race with a time of 3:39, missing qualifying by 4 short minutes. I left that day feeling defeated, even though I had improved my previous marathon time by 14 minutes I wasn’t satisfied. I truly believed I was going to qualify that day. I hadn’t trained that long and hard for only once chance to get my goal so 3 weeks later I ran my 3rd marathon. Once again I came up short, this time by 6 minutes. I tried to have a better outlook, and stay positive and happy for my family awaiting me at the finish but I was disappointed with myself once again. That following Monday, I’m pretty sure I cried the entire day. It had finally set in that everything I was working towards the past 8 months was over. My next chance at qualifying would be in the spring, which felt like an eternity.
I was determined to qualify in 2015, I registered for 4 marathons;. Ogden in May, Utah Valley in June, Big Cottonwood in September, and St. George in October. I was so excited for the Ogden marathon; I had heard great things and felt that this would be the one. Unfortunately mother nature threw me a curve ball I was not prepared for, snow at the start line and rain the entire race. Around mile 9, I knew this was not going to be my day and I stopped to walk, something I had never done in a race before. I was having some major self-doubt. I remember thinking that maybe getting to Boston was too lofty of a goal for me. Sure every marathoner would like to run in Boston, but reality is, only elite runners are accepted and I was not an ‘elite’ runner. I thought of my kids though, and how I would hate for them to give up on their dreams because it was hard and took a lot of work. I considered quitting several times but I finished, which to me felt like a huge accomplishment. I would have another shot in 4 weeks. With that miserable Ogden marathon still fresh on my mind, I went into the next one lacking confidence; I was hoping to qualify but had already given myself permission to fail. Which I did, I missed qualifying by 7 minutes. But this time when I crossed the finish line I felt numb, no emotion. I felt like I was getting used to feeling like a failure. It was time for me to make some drastic changes. I only had 3 months until my next marathon, and this would be my last opportunity at qualifying for Boston 2016. I felt like what I was doing in my training obviously wasn’t working. If I wanted different results I would have to train differently. I contacted two elite runners who both had ran Boston several times. They agreed to make me a training guide to follow and offer their advice. They made me do things I had never done before and pushed me physically and mentally harder than ever. With my next race only weeks away I vividly remember one particular run. It was early and I was miles from home, I sat on the side of the canal and cried. My run felt too hard that day. I called my husband, secretly hoping he would offer to come pick me up, but instead he reminded me why I was out there freezing in the dark. It was this type of challenging run that was going to get me to Boston. After a little pep talk, I wiped my tears and finished that run. That day, along with all the other difficult days are the ones that I seem to remember the most. Those are the days I became a stronger runner, overcoming mental blocks.
The days leading up to Big Cottonwood I felt prepared and more ready than ever. I was extremely nervous, but also really excited. Years of dreaming and countless months of training would finally pay off. There was no doubt in my mind that I would qualify that day. All of the hill workouts, sprints sessions, and long tempo runs had made me physically stronger, but mentally they had done so much more. I had a new sense of confidence in my running ability. I was thinking so positively and had done away with the negative self-doubt that crippled me before. In preparation, I had ran the marathon course 2 previous times. I knew exactly where it would get hard and where I need to stay focused. It’s a long race, and one bad mile would not break me.
When the marathon finally started I took off and felt awesome. I had fun, and the miles flew by. My body performed just as it was trained to do, and my mind was exactly where it needed to be. Instead of thinking about how much further I had to go, I thought of how far I had come. I knew I would see my family when I had the most difficult miles to go. When I saw my husband, I yelled to him ‘Book the flights to Boston, baby!’ A pretty assured statement with a long hard road ahead, but I was confident. I was doing it. My 8 year old ran next to me for a bit and I told him I was going to do it this time. He looked at me and said, ‘I know you are, mom!’ I think that is what made this experience so special for me; my sweet kids had been at every single race. They had seen me not get my goal several times, watched me cry when I failed, but they never saw me give up on my dream. They knew it wasn’t easy; I had to work hard and run far every single day. They watched me put in the time and work necessary to achieve my goal. On that day, I ran that race for them. To teach them to dream big and that nothing is impossible. If you want something, you have got to work for it, and even if you don’t succeed the 1st, 2nd, or 5th time, don’t ever give up your dream. Hard work, determination, and perseverance will pay off. I finished the marathon with a time of 3:33:35, qualifying by 85 seconds, and it was the best feeling in the world. Now that I’ve qualified I can say that I’m grateful for all those times I didn’t. I learned so much about myself during this process. Knowing what it feels like to give it all you’ve got and come up short multiple times makes victory all the sweeter. At a turning point in my training I read a quote that really resonated with me ‘Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself and then do what is necessary to make it a reality’ –Ralph Marston”
I LOVE Nichole’s attitude and her journey towards achieving her goal, for she truly has the heart of an athlete and a champion! There are so many times, as Nichole said, to doubt yourself, because you’re not in the “elite” category, and maybe your goal is “too lofty.” Those are lies we tell ourselves- there is nothing we can not accomplish!
I think Nicole’s example to her family (and especially her kids) is SO great. Her 4 children saw her fail, they witnessed her defeat- more than once! But they saw her putting in the time and work day after day and looking to improve and never giving up. That is one of the coolest gifts you can give your children, to instill a passion for greatness even though the road is bumpy. After all, nothing worth having in life comes easy! Blood, sweat, and tears: that’s what winners are made of.
I’m super proud of Nichole and excited for her future and know she’s going to kill it at Boston next year! And she’ll have her adorable family cheering her on I’m sure (they really are a great family!)
Thanks for sharing your story Nichole and being an inspiration to myself and others!