Quest to Qualify Series: Ryan

For many runners, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of their running careers. Some are talented enough to nab a qualification on their first marathon attempt, while most work for years to finally run a qualifying time. And qualifying is not always enough, With Boston Athletic Association’s already tough standards, in recent years a cut off time was put into place due to a higher volume of qualifiers, causing qualified runners to lose a spot.

The Rogue Racers Quest to Qualify Series will tell the story of each of the Rogue founders’ journey to their first Boston Qualifier. In this, hopefully you will find inspiration and motivation to keep pushing and keep improving.

Ryan

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The idea of running a marathon was something I had thought about doing some day as part of a bucket list item. Having competed in Track & Field in high school and college as a sprinter and long jumper, I had thought about the marathon as a different kind of challenge.

12 years after graduating college, I met my wife Erin and she suggested I join the local running group that she was a part of. The idea of paying money to train along with waking up at 7am on a Saturday did not appeal to me at first, but I wanted to give it a try. I mean what the heck, I was running about 15 miles a week and had never run a race over 5 miles, why not train for a full marathon? I vaguely entertained the idea for qualifying for Boston but It seemed like such an unrealistic pace for me to maintain for 26.2 miles. I will admit it was fun to dream about.

I began training for the Columbus marathon in May of 2010. I realized very quickly that running longer mileage was very hard on my body. I completed the 2010 Columbus Marathon in 4 hours and 14 minutes, short of my goal of 4 hours but I was thrilled to finish my first full marathon. I walked most of the last 6.2 miles after hitting a brick wall by mile 20. After finishing I thought to myself, I can do better next time! I was able to reach my next goal of breaking 4 hours in the 2011 Air Force Marathon, after battling through quad pain and calf cramps from mile 22 on. By my 4th marathon, the 2012 Chicago Marathon, I continued to train very hard, and I was able to improve my time to 3:33:07. At this point, I started to consider the possibility of qualifying for Boston, and I wanted to continue to push myself in training to try to do so.

I proceeded to run 4 more marathons after Chicago, and was seeing improvements in my time as I edged closer to the BQ goal. It took a lot of patience and focus to hone in on my own personal goals for improvement and not get disappointed with seeing others qualify for Boston while I worked my time down gradually. With each marathon, I felt like I was learning a lot and identifying areas I could improve upon. I began reading a lot of running books and continued to get advice from my running friends.

My first true BQ attempt was at the 2013 Erie Marathon. I had had a good summer training season, and I felt that I was finally ready to go for it. During the race, things were going extremely well and I felt great, so I started to pick up the pace around mile 18 and then the calf cramps kicked in. I had to slow my pace down but I was able to manage a 9-minute PR, but came up 9 minutes short of a BQ.

Next I ran Columbus a month later and I was able to shave off a couple more minutes but I still came up short by 5.5 minutes. I felt like I was getting so close so I signed up to run the Last Chance for Boston full Marathon in February of 2014. The Friday before the race I came down with a bad cold and a slight fever going into Saturday with a fair amount of congestion. I took some Nyquil on Saturday night and went to bed early, never intending to DNS. I ran the marathon with my buddy, and knew about 13 miles in that I wasn’t going to be able to keep the pace and I cheered for him to go ahead and get that BQ. I was crushed when I can up 1 minute and 35 seconds short and I ended up breaking down with disappointment when I got home. My buddy had qualified and we were supposed to qualify together and I had failed.

After a couple of days, I dusted myself off and started to analyze the race and focused on doing all I knew to do; train even harder, eat better, and earn that BQ!!

Fortunately, my next BQ attempt was unique in the sense that I would be 40 for the 2015 Boston Marathon so I no longer needed to run under 3:10 but rather under 3:15. As has been the case with a lot of my training seasons, the taper brought on an injury. I had developed painful knee bursitis weeks before the marathon; the kind that hurts when you walk and stretching is excruciating. I was able to get proper medical treatment and a steady daily diet of anti-inflammatory, and luckily the knee improved enough for me to race Erie. Things were going extremely well, and I felt great so I started to pick up the pace around mile 19 and then the calf cramps kicked in; my old nemesis. These were the kind of calf cramps that felt like knives digging in so I had to stop frequently to massage them and gauge a pace that was fast enough to keep my time from falling off the BQ overall pace. My quads started to break down as did the rest of my body as I fought to keep moving, giving up was never an option. When I crossed the finish line in 3:12:25 I was thrilled and elated. I did a fist pump and emotion took over. I hugged my friends and I was very excited. I knew that it had taken me 10 marathons and 4 hard years of training to qualify. I had suffered numerous injuries such as IT Band Syndrome in both knees, bursitis in both knees, glute strains, hip bursitis, calf strains, quad strains, Achilles tendonitis etc.… I had earned this moment!!!

I added some more buffer time in the 2015 Columbus Marathon in 2015 by running a 3:08:55. When the 2016 Boston Marathon finally arrived I was elated not only because my dream had come to fruition, but even more special than that was the fact that I was able to share that moment with my family and friends.

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The 2017 Boston Marathon will hold extra special significance for me as I will run it with a heavy heart. My father grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts and he would watch the Boston marathon come by his neighborhood on Patriots Day. Qualifying and running the Boston Marathon was something that I also wanted to do as a tribute to him. Dad passed away a few months ago and I will be dedicating this marathon to him. I will think of him as I run the marathon, and especially when I run by his home town at mile 13. I will forever feel linked to my father in spirit with the Boston Marathon because he was always so supportive of my running and he was a true Bostonian.

I hope to make it an annual tradition that I can share with my son and daughter some day when they are old enough to understand how truly amazing this marathon really is.

Read about other Rogue Racers’ Quest to Qualify stories here.

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