Boston expectations

So. This Boston Marathon thing is happening in ten days.

People keep asking me if I’m excited (only for it to be over) and whether I am enjoying my taper (well, you need a peak in order to have a taper, sooo…). This whole so-called “training cycle” has been a taper. I am comically underprepared for this race.

Nonetheless, I will be at the starting line in Hopkinton a week from Monday. Is this a good idea? No, probably not. I haven’t run more than 40 MPW in months. I did do a slow twenty-miler…in February. My heart just hasn’t been in it. If this were any race other than OMG Boston, I’d have bowed out weeks ago.

I’ve done this before (suffered through a marathon with inadequate prep) and I’ll be fine. But I am not endorsing this style of training. Do as I say, not as I do. (Well, probably don’t do as I say either most of the time. Occasionally I pop a kernel of brilliance like taking the Color Run concept and turning it into a Vodka Squirt Gun Extravaganza, but usually my judgement is, at best, clouded by the wine.)

Anyway. Here are the things that I am not expecting from this Boston Marathon experience:


Obviously. At this point, I’d consider a sub-4 finish a victory.

This might be attainable.

Case in point: Back in 2009, I ran the NYC marathon on seven weeks of questionable training after spending an entire summer traveling in Asia. During that trip I spent lots of time scarfing noodles and drinking cheap beer and did not run a single step from July to September. Upon my return to the US, I was chubby and flabby and worked my way up to about 40 MPW with one twenty-miler before it was time to “taper” for the race. I finished in 3:58.

There are certain similarities between then and now. Mostly the chubby-and-flabby part; also, the low-mileage part and the single-twenty-miler part. (There are also certain differences, like the three year age difference between then-me and now-me. Three years may not sound like much, but tell that to my ever-slowing metabolism.)

So: sub-4 or bust. Or not. I don’t really care. Normally I’m not one to run races “just for the FUNSIES!” but in this case, it’s my best option. Since I have no chance of being anywhere near PR range, I may as well run easy and try to enjoy it, right?

(There will be no sparkle skirts involved though. Trust.)

NOT EXPECTING #2: Good race pictures. 

Okay, so no one ever expects good race pictures. Raise your hand if you’ve never gasped in horror at the way your mouth looks like a drooly amoeba, or cursed your thigh (which is all muscle! WTF!) for resembling a drumstick made of Jell-O. Generally speaking, running is not a flattering activity.

Race pics make me cringe when I’m in good shape. And right now? I am not in good shape.

I’ll be honest here. I have gained some weight. About 10-15 pounds from my low point last summer. I’m not going to go in to the reasons for this, and I’m not going to complain about it, but I will say that while I am at peace with my clothed self in the mirror, I do not need to see this shit half naked and in motion.

I have considered making a diva-esque sign to hang around on my neck: “NO PHOTOS PLEASE.”

no photos please

But really…I am not a celebrity ducking the paparazzi. These MarathonFoto people mean me no harm. I just wish they would stick to pictures of, like…my ankles. Or my nose. Yes, ankles and nose photos only, please, MarathonFoto. If we could just avoid the thighs and the midsection and the double-chin danger zone, that would be great.

NOT EXPECTING #3: To ever return.

Mark my words: I am not doing this again. This as in Boston or this as in marathons generally. I’ve marathoned every year for the last 13 years. I am done.

I’ve always enjoyed running but I have not enjoyed it recently. There is nothing fun about feeling daily guilt over not running enough because you have an upcoming race that you’re dreading.

Lately, it’s been hard for me to read running blogs where people are all like, “OMG! I love running so much!” I wonder why I don’t feel that way. But then I remind myself that I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years. Seriously. The travel break that I mentioned earlier? That was the only significant break I’ve taken from running since I was 13. I’m burned out. And it’s okay to feel burned out.

I cannot wait until after this race when I can just, like, go to yoga or whatever. Yes, I am excited about going to goddamn yoga. The times, they change.

I promise, I’m not all negative about Boston, though. There are a few things that I am happily expecting from this experience.

EXPECTING #1: Friends food beer friends food beer!

Our good friends Chris and Annie live on the finish line of the marathon. Literally. I took this picture last year, while spectating Boston Inferno 2012 from their rooftop.

boston finish line

(That white tent is the finish line.)

Being the best hosts ever, they have offered to house us again this year, and after finishing this damn thing, I will be heading straight back down Boylston Street for a shower, a cold beer, and shenanigans.

EXPECTING #2: Decent weather.

Probably jumping the gun, but unless there’s a dramatic change, it looks like highs in the 50s right now. Fucking rad.

boston weather

(I’m sure I’m jinxing it by writing this. Sorry, everyone.)

EXPECTING #3: To go out on a high note.

Over the last sixteen weeks, as I’ve beat myself up for ditching my training plan, wallowed in self-loathing over my lack of motivation, and bemoaned my body-fat percentage, I’ve also entertained kind of a nice thought: after thirteen years of running marathons, Boston could be my last, and that would be kind of nice. I could just do it for the high-fives. A twenty-six mile victory lap.

I won’t lie and say that Boston was never on my mind during the decade that I marathoned annually and failed to qualify. On my very first try, at age 20, I came within three minutes of the standard. That 3:42:XX was my PR until age 31. During the ten races between, while I was never obsessed with Boston…it was there, in the back of my mind. I guess I assumed that I’d qualify eventually. Fortunately, I was right.

In some ways, my current situation reminds me of track season my senior year of high school. I’d worked all season to qualify for a spot in the 3200M at the state championships. Which I did. But I was seeded tenth in a field of sixteen, and the top three girls were, like, a full minute (or more) ahead of me. I had zero shot at a podium. Did it really matter whether I finished sixth or sixteenth? Was it worth sacrificing the end of my senior year (missing parties and, uh, other important stuff) for this race?

(It didn’t end up mattering, as I got mono and finished second to last. Yay.)

But the point remains: I made it to the big dance. The making it was what mattered. Everything else was icing on the cake.

If Boston is my icing, then I intend to just enjoy it for what it is: that last bite of sugar when the plate is empty. As I said earlier, I really think I’m done with marathons after this. It would be lovely to end the era by floating happily over the finish line with a smile on my face.

I know. Good luck, right? It’s still a marathon. Even at an easy pace, it’s hard. I know this. I’ll get through it, and I’m looking forward to closing this chapter and moving in to other things.

End note to an already long post: I know I should be happy to be running Boston. I know there are lots of people who would gladly take my place. I feel like an ungrateful shithead for being so negative. I do think that qualifying for and running Boston is an achievement, and I wish I were as stoked about it as I should be! But I won’t fake it…and honestly, this is one of many reasons that I haven’t posted much recently. (So if you’re still here reading…well, thank you.)

44 responses to “Boston expectations

  1. That sounds like a good plan! Hope you have a wonderful time at Boston, and am sure you will float in with a smile in sub-4.
    Will wait on this side of the world for MSPaint enhanced updates of the race, and then the YOGA! :-)
    Wish you loads of luck!

  2. I hope you still post after Boston! Even about Yoga class!

    At my first (and only) marathon I bombed so hard and felt so sick but was hellbent on dragging myself over the finish line. Somehow in my delirium I thought that I never wanted to see these pictures do anytime I saw a photographer after like, mile 18, I covered my bib number with my hand so it didn’t show up. I don’t know why I thought it was important at the time but I’m happy that I don’t have photo proof of my last few miles death march.

  3. You’re going to do great! You’ve put a lot of hard work into this. Enjoy the day! And then reap the benefits of doing other things afterwards (celebrating and yoga)!! :)

  4. You will have a wonderful experience, trained or not. And you’re right: no matter what you’ll be ending your marathon career on a high note.

  5. It’s okay to be tired of running, I think that’s pretty normal! I’ve had to take several breaks and I’m not a marathon runner or anything like that. Hopefully Boston will be a fun party for you. And then, you can do WHATEVER you want! Good luck Shelby.

  6. You’re a fucking rockstar, and don’t ever forget it. I’m proud of you, friend. I hope you keep writing post-era because I can’t wait to see what you do! This was a great post, and I love the honesty. xo

  7. Yeah, but yoga is the worst.

  8. no shame in being burnt out and then your blog will just be called: Eat, Drink

    seems reasonable to me!

  9. Are you going to “retire” from marathons like another blogger with “eat” and “run” in the title who has run three marathons just this year? Please say no.

    Hope you do enjoy Boston/

  10. Whatever you choose to do I hope you still post!

    I also hope you did not jinx the weather!!

  11. Dude. I hope Boston is as enjoyable as possible for you. But most of all, I’m worried that you will stop blogging. Will you promise to still blog about yoga? Or drinking? Or your cats? You write seriously funny shit about most any topic that you tackle and I guarantee that yoga has far more potential for funny stories than running does, especially if you are willing to poke fun at the other yogis.

  12. soooo right there with you on the marathon stuff. of all the marathons to end your career with, this is a good one!
    And if (WHEN) we move to atlanta i’ll happily be your lifting/yoga/beer buddy

  13. It’s liberating to go to Boston with no PR expectations. I did that last year because I was inadequately trained (injury) and it was the Inferno, and I had lots of fun during the rest of the weekend! Drink lots of beer!

    Also, everyone wants to stop doing marathons during taper. 😉

    • It’s weird, this is the first marathon I’ve ever done where the taper thing isn’t even a thing. It’s like the whole race isn’t even on my radar.

      The Inferno looked so miserable! I would say you picked a good year to be unprepared.

  14. I still remember reading about how hard you trained & your awesome race at CIM to qualify. You’ve made it to Boston – which I envy even though I know I will probably never put in the work & miles to BQ. I hope you get gorgeous weather and can enjoy the race in spite of less than ideal training. We’ve all mostly “been there” unprepared for a big race, but you did earn this spot & absolutely deserve to be there. Great to read your words again. Post more soon. :-)

  15. I could have written the first part of this post. I really really was not excited about Boston at all. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make it through my training. It wasn’t fun. I got injured again.

    I’m not ready to say no more marathons, but I am definitely ready to say no more marathons for a while.

    • I have felt so guilty about not being excited about Boston.

      Where are you starting? I think I’m in B9 or something like that.

      • Eh, it is what it is. In some ways, it’s nice to take the pressure off of yourself. I am looking forward to reaching the top of Heartbreak Hill and seeing the Boston College kids. I wasn’t excited at all until I got my 20 miler under my belt. Injury is under control and my speed is finally starting to come back.

        I am in Wave 2, Corral 6. Eep.

  16. Best of wishes for Boston! Just try to enjoy it – I promise it’s a cool experience.

    I think I echo a lot of the comments when I say that I don’t ready you blog to hear about running, I read your blog because it’s well written and fun and you are suppperrrr relatable. So…if you ever want to write about anything, I know you’ll have some fans looking forward to it!

  17. We all miss you and we don’t even care if you don’t like running anymore (I don’t either and 13.1 is the furthest I’ve ever ran and that was one time). Please post moar kthx.

  18. Boston might feel awesome or it might suck, but good for you for doing it! I think taking a break from, or breaking up for good with, running is reasonable and it’s good to realize what does and doesn’t work in your life.

    Also, I echo other commenters when I say don’t let the lack of running keep you from blogging here. We’ll be here, reading. But if blogging isn’t working anymore either, then you gotta cut that loose too!

  19. Have fun at Boston and soak it all in–you will not regret running it!

  20. I got so excited when you popped up in my reader! I think Boston is a perfect victory lap… and I hope that you will be in fact enjoying some real cake and icing after the race – you deserve it!

  21. Have a great time in Boston, I’ll be thinking of you while I’m drinking a beer on the couch in my underwear.

  22. Have a great time Shelby. It really is a race like no other. I also believe the real challenge is getting there. Boston itself is just the victory lap to savor and enjoy. Soak it up and enjoy the experience!

  23. I’m sure you’ll do great at Boston this year!! And I really hope you keep blogging; I love to read your ramblings on beer, food and your cats.

    And if you happen to be on the corner of Berkeley and Stuart, stop in to the John Hancock Hall to say hi! 😉

  24. Shelby!! We MUST meet up in athletes village, on the course, at the expo, somewhere! Which wave and corral are you in? I am in wave 2, corral 5 but will drop back to corral 7 since that is which corral my dad is in.

    • I’m in wave 2 corral 5 as well! It sounds like they lump 5-9 together for a while so maybe we can catch each other at the start? And I’m planning on expo-ing on Sunday – how about you?

  25. I was a competetive swimmer from the time I was 5 until my Junior year of college. In the end, I felt exactly as you’ve described. Like stick a fork in me done. Oddly I switched over to running (same high I guess?) but if I had a nickel for every person who is like “you grew up swimming and you don’t do triathlons?” I’d be rich. I still loathe the pool, the dry skin, the smell of chlorine, etc.

    Best of luck in all your future endeavors. I’d probs still read you even if you were a yoga blog, I like you that much!

  26. When I was a wee lass, I wanted nothing more than to be on the volleyball team. Tried out in 7th grade, didn’t make it. Tried out in 8th grade and was named team “manager.” (Read: you’re decent but we’re not putting you on the team.) Freshman year, when they cut basically no one, I made the team. I improved, and made the sophomore team. I improved more, and my junior year, I made the varsity team. Yay! I should have been so happy! But I wasn’t. I dreaded the thought of the hours I’d spend at practice, on the bus, at games, etc. So I quit. After the first official practice. And I never regretted it. (I did stick with the soccer team in the spring though. That I still enjoyed.) So yeah, I totally understand that getting there is awesome, and then you finally make it, and it’s like, OK, I’m kind of over this, what’s next?

    And now, I’m all into running, but I know someday I’ll be like, OK, over it, what else? So, best of luck with yoga. Can’t wait of the MS Paint interpretations of that! (Seriously. At least give us one MS Paint picture of someone farting during yoga.)

  27. The only time I will make it to Boston is to spectate and drink. Qualifying is the real victory.

    So are you “breaking up with running?” Seriously though, I hope you keep writing here. About anything, really. You never know…maybe after some time away you will want to run again. Or not. And that’s okay, too.

    • No, not breaking up with running! Just with marathons. And maybe half-marathons. I’m not sure I ever really need to run more than 10 miles at a time. :)