Chris Piper SpeaksUp
On a beautiful spring day in 2013, I was working from home and enjoyed my lunch break running around the neighborhood. When I finished, I realized I had done the whole five miles at an average pace of 8:10 minutes per mile, and it felt easy! That was the fastest I could remember running since before my wife and I had separated, and I had become a full-time single dad.
Prior to that run, I had been reading the just released Runner's World issue about the recent Boston Marathon bombings, and I thought, "I would love to run Boston to show my support for the running community." I texted my friend who had also just returned to running after a long hiatus: "I think I could one day qualify for the Boston Marathon! I just ran 8:10/mile for five miles." His text reply was, "I just literally LOL'd. You have to run at least a whole minute faster per mile AND do that for 26.2 miles, not just five miles."
Sounded like a challenge to me! So that's the day I set the goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
I started running to lose weight, quit smoking, and reduce my dependency on alcohol. It worked, and running saved my life for the first time. I kept running as my marriage was falling apart, but then I stopped because I couldn't find joy in much of anything.
After a while, I needed something to process my anger and frustration, so I turned back to running. I met up with groups of runners and put myself out there looking for new friends. I met new friends, and I found something in addition to my kids that made me strive, that gave me purpose. Running saved my life for the second time.
I knew on that spring day in 2013 that I couldn't just wake up and shave a minute off of my mile splits over the course of a marathon, especially since I hadn't actually run a marathon yet. But as my therapist was fond of saying, "Life is a marathon, not a sprint."
So, I ran and I ran, and then I ran some more. I ran my first marathon, my second, and then my third. Each time I got a little closer. I did it all while running my kids all over town to their events, working full-time, finding rides for the kids, cooking dinner, finding babysitters, and on and on and on and on.
One day I went to train for a marathon, but my knees hurt the whole time. I couldn't run fast on marathon day. I trained for another one, but I screwed up by going out too fast and ended up walking most of it. I ran another one, and I went out too fast again, barely making it to the finish. I trained for another one, but I got injured and didn't even make it to the starting line.
So, I took a break because I was tired.
And I tried again.
This time I knew I could do it. I trained hard. I fell in love with an amazing woman, and we got engaged. My kids loved her. The weather was perfect, and I ran hard and fast and strong. And I did it! I beat the Boston Marathon Qualifying Standard by two minutes fifty-nine seconds. It was so hard. I was so tired, and I was so glad I didn't have to train that hard again.
Then they announced that you needed to beat the qualifying standard by three minutes twenty-three seconds to get accepted. I was 24 seconds short. But I wasn't mad. I did what I could do. I controlled what I could control, and it simply wasn't enough this time around.
So I set out to try again.
But I was scared. It took a lot out of me to run that hard and that fast for that long. I wasn't sure I could do it again. I did it anyway.
And you know what? This time I beat the qualifying standard by eight minutes forty-eight seconds! And there was no way they were going to deny me again. I received and accepted entry into the 2019 Boston Marathon.
The hardest part of training for Boston was not wanting to screw up and injure myself, but wanting to train hard to run fast and possibly qualify for 2020. So, I pushed myself, but in retrospect, my heart was more into enjoying the race than it was pushing myself any harder. I have pushed myself hard both in running and in life for six years.
My body has been telling me to take a break, again.
But there I was on the sixth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, lining up with the greatest in the world, ready to start running the most amazing race of my entire life.
I started out right on my plan. The weather was nice, and I was feeling good. Why not go for it? However, after five miles I stopped tracking my pace on my watch and decided I needed to just let my body run the race it wanted to run. I was still on pace, but unfortunately, by mile 10 the race my body wanted to run wasn't going to be easy. By mile 13, I was feeling a lot of pain in my right ankle. By mile 16, I was walking. By mile 20, I stopped in the medical tent just to see if they could do something to get the ankle to stop hurting when I ran. They couldn't. As I was walking out to finish the last 10k, the volunteer asked, "Are you sure you'll be ok?" And I said, "There is absolutely nothing that is going to keep me from getting that medal today!"
I walked, trying to run when I could, but I mostly walked. I talked to other runners who were hurting and reminded them that even though we didn't have our best race today, we were running the Boston Marathon! We did so much just to get there. I talked to the massive crowds on the streets. I raised my hands, and I asked them to cheer louder for the runners who were still pushing. It was my slowest marathon ever and I'm so thankful because it meant that I got to enjoy the greatest marathon in the world for even longer than I would have otherwise.
You see, just before I left for the bus to take us to the start line, I sat in my chair at the hotel and I cried. My life since becoming a single father flashed before my eyes. I saw the hard work, sacrifices, stress, exhaustion, love for my kids, and the exhilaration! And I cried. Because I said I would qualify for the Boston Marathon, and I did. I did it all while raising my kids and working and fighting other battles. I showed my kids that you can push yourself to do anything. That you can fail and then try again and fail again and keep trying because when you push yourself to do hard things you WILL fail! But if you don't do it, you will NEVER succeed.
A lot of people overcome a whole lot more than I have in their lives. I'm grateful because there were times when I wasn't sure, but my kids pushed me. My brother and his wife pushed me. My mom pushed me. My wife pushed me. I overcame my own mountain, and I crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon to complete my 26.2 mile victory lap.
There's nothing you can't overcome. All of the bad things happening to you are usually setting you up for the glory that's ahead. It's hard to see it when you're in the midst of it, but I promise it will come. Set your sights on what you want, and take the steps you can control to make it happen.