How I Got Into the 2014 Boston Marathon

Well, I finally got in. I’ll tell you all the sordid details of how momentarily, but first I’m going to make you endure another race recap. You’re welcome.

Let Me Run 5K

A while back, Laura signed up her son Wilson for Let Me Run, a cool organization that, according to their website, “inspire[s] boys through the power of running to be courageous enough to be themselves, to build healthy relationships, and to live an active lifestyle.” Now that’s something I can support.

The fall/winter program began shortly after school started. The boys met with their coaches a couple of times a week. Then the program culminated on December 7 with a 5K in the Huntersville business park. Of course I signed up.

Race day showed up and as usual, Laura, Warren (Wilson’s younger brother – too young for the program but registered for the 5K), Wilson, and I rushed to make it to the start on time. We made it with just a few minutes to spare. Laura and the Dubs hoofed it over to where Wilson’s school team had set up camp while I jogged around in a feeble attempt to get warmed up.

If you recall, I had a horrible race on Thanksgiving Day where a pre-teen beat me. This race was a lot like that only this time a whole bunch of pre-teens beat me. Nothing crushes a has-been (never-was?) runner’s ego like getting walked down by a bunch of 9-year-olds. But that’s pretty much what happened.

Me (in the Jitfo singlet lest there's any confusion) on my way to getting smoked by a bunch of 9-year-olds.

Me (in the Jitfo singlet lest there’s any confusion) on my way to getting smoked by a bunch of 9-year-olds.

I didn’t shed any tears or anything. I looked at my finishing time with disgust and then let it go quickly. This day was not about me – this day was about the kids. I crossed the line then I turned around to go find Wilson and jog it in with him.

I found him earlier than I expected and he had a solid little pace going. I matched his stride, asked him how he was doing, (“Fine.”) and we cruised it in. Laura was on the sidelines at about the 3-mile mark and she cheered wildly as we went by, at which point Wilson took off. He kicked so hard I could barely keep up and I exuberantly yelled, “Yeah! Now we’re talking!” Or something along those lines.

With Wilson safely across the finish line, I headed back for Warren. I was a little worried – there was a slew of folks in this thing, over a thousand total, and I was afraid I might miss the little guy. But then I spotted his tell-tale tie-dye shirt. He was walking and did not seem nearly as happy about things as Wilson had a few minutes earlier. In Warren’s defense, this was a tough course and he was running it on very little training (I can remember maybe three times where he ran in the two months prior to the race).

But when I joined him he started jogging and upon spotting his mom in the crowd, he sprinted very nearly, if not as fast as his brother had.

Afterward, we munched on some pizza while we waited around for the awards ceremony. Each school’s Let Me Run team honored one boy that the coaches felt best exemplified the Let Me Run credo. When Paul (Martino, the announcer) got to Wilson’s school, Elizabeth Traditional, he read out the winner’s name, “Wilson Gray” and we cheered madly.

So despite my lame performance, it was a good day and we all left with big smiles on our faces.

The Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School Let Me Run team. Wilson, number 268 on the back row, with Warren, t,o his right in tie-dye photobombing the team.

The Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School Let Me Run team with their coaches, Kevin Brown (visor) and Steve Shober (LMR cap). Wilson, number 268 on the back row, with Warren, to his right in tie-dye photobombing the team picture.

How I Got Into the 2014 Boston Marathon

If you’re reading this, there’s a very good chance you know my story by now, but please allow me to summarize on the off chance that somebody has randomly stumbled upon this and is curious.

I’ve been trying to get in and run the Boston marathon for some ten years now. I finally got in in 2012 only to get destroyed by the heat. To say I “ran” it that year would be a bit of a misnomer.

I’ve spent the last couple of years desperately trying to get back in so I could redeem myself – like I’ve said many times since, that can not, will not, be my only Boston marathon.

Here’s how it’s all gone down since that fateful 2012 Patriot’s Day:

I ran the Wineglass Marathon and missed qualifying for the 2013 Boston marathon by less than 3 minutes. I ran the latest, during Boston registration, race I could find so once I came up short, I was out for 2013. I could have gone the charity route but being the low self-esteem, self-deprecating kinda guy I am, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be in the race after missing the qualifying time so significantly.

I trained and ran the Myrtle Beach marathon in February. I beat my Boston qualifying time, but only by 10 seconds. I hoped, but wasn’t confident, that that would be good enough.

Then came April 15 and we all know what happened there. I vowed I would run the 2014 race, now not only because it was my ongoing quest, but also because I wanted to show those asshole bombers that we would not be deterred.

After the bombings, I knew my 10-second buffer wasn’t good enough to get in – virtually every marathoner in America was scrambling to get in. So I signed up for another marathon and trained my tail off. Again.

In August, Laura and I flew all the way across the country so I could take another shot at making the cut. I ran the Santa Rosa Marathon, and I bettered my qualifying time. But only by 20 more seconds.

September came and the BAA opened registration. I registered and crossed my fingers. The BAA announced they would be adding more spots so maybe I’d still get in.

On September 25, I got an email from the BAA that began:

Dear Allen Strickland:

Thank you for submitting your application for entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon. Regrettably, we are unable to accept your application”

Since I hadn’t gotten in the traditional way, by officially qualifying, I started scrambling to find another way in. I felt there was no shame going charity this time around since I had bested the Boston qualifying time not only once, but twice. I applied for charity, i.e. the Children’s Hospital Boston because it somehow seemed apropos to run for them after my 2012 finishing photo – that’s who the two girls behind me were running for:

A nearly dead man crossing, followed closely by two chipper ladies running for the Boston Children's Hospital.

A nearly dead man crossing the finish line of the 2012 Boston Marathon, followed closely by two chipper ladies running for Children’s Hospital Boston.

But alas, the Children’s Hospital Boston sent me a rejection email as well. Apparently, I’m not the only person out there who wants to run this year’s race – the charity spots were getting snatched up quickly. Spots went to the highest bidders – “I can raise x amount of dollars” – and had little to do with one’s ability to run a marathon. I was depressed, if not downright despondent.

Along came PowerBar. They sponsored a contest for folks that had run a Boston-qualifying time but didn’t get accepted to the race. All one had to do to enter was tell your story in less than 250 words, add a picture, and upload it. The users of the internetz would vote. The top ten vote-getters made it to the finals where a panel of experts (Bart Yasso, Sarah Reinertsen, Meb, the ED of the BAA, and others) would pick the winners. Four lucky runners would win all-expense paid entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon. I jumped all over that. And, shocker, lost.

So I was out. The end. Say good night. I had booked airfare and accommodations long ago. It looked like I would be going to Boston as a spectator, not a runner. Sigh.

Enter Mike Kahn. A couple of weeks ago, he messaged me that the Dick Beardsley Foundation had slots available. I read Dick’s story a few years ago in the book, Duel in the Sun (John Brant’s brilliant book chronicling Alberto Salazaar and Beardsley’s epic battle at the 1982 Boston Marathon), and Mike had introduced me to Dick (yeah, have fun with this those of you whose minds are in the gutter and let’s face it, most of my friend’s minds are) a couple of years ago at the Thunder Road Marathon expo. I applied and was accepted.

Alas, I need your help. I apologize in advance for all the begging – I’m sure you’re sick of it after all that begging for votes during the PowerBar contest. But hey, now at least you’re not only helping me, you’re helping people that actually need your help. So go here and donate a few bucks, please. All I need is 100 friends and fans of this blog to donate $75 each and we’re done. That sounds doable and reasonable, right?

You’re all caught up. See you in Boston. So which one of you bitches is coming in second?

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One Response to “How I Got Into the 2014 Boston Marathon”

  1. Boston Bound Says:

    Congrats on getting back to Boston! I enjoy your blog and race reports–we share some running history. I also ran Boston 2012 and had trained for a sub-3. Like you, the heat hit me hard and it took me over 3:45–my slowest marathon ever. That was as tough a run as I have ever had. I also ran Myrtle Beach this year and was quite frightened by the 2 ton elephant at the start line! I went out with the 3:05 pacer who was on a 3 hour pace at mile 20. The 3:05 pacer finished around 3:01 and I finished at 3:03 to get back to Boston. Good luck with your Boston training.

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