Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Boston Obsession

Why does anyone care about qualifying for Boston anyway?

Seriously, why?

Runner’s World has been asking that of athletes (“Are You Obsessed with Boston?”), and it got me to thinking. What is it that really motivates people to do what it takes for the almighty BQ?

I know what it was for me. The prize money. All $806,000 of it. I knew if I could BQ, that money would be mine. Look! I have no neck:

bethwinsboston

Honestly, though, it was simply the challenge. Could I, as a newer runner, really get to Boston? How many races would it take? How many years?

Someone (a group of someones) set up qualifying times for this race. Some of us want what’s hard to get.  You mean there’s a race where I can beg them to take my $130 if I run as fast as they say I have to? I’m in. I’d also like to park in handicap spots because I’m not allowed and go behind the first class curtain on airplanes even though I only have a coach ticket. Just simply putting my toe over the line is exhilarating.

I suppose there is a part of me that felt like getting a BQ would somehow define me as a runner. In my heart of hearts I know it doesn’t, so it’s an external thing. Really, when I lace up my shoes and run down my street, I am a runner. Hell, I’m even a runner now and I can’t even run.

Yeah, yeah Boston’s the oldest marathon and fast people run it. At mile 13 some college girls yell and scream. There is some hill at mile 16 that’s supposed to break your heart. But for me, I just wanted to see if I could do it.

Between you and me, I  didn’t know squat about the Boston Marathon when I started running two years ago. It’s a marathon. In a city called Boston. Big shit.

Confession time: When I ran my first marathon almost two years ago, I didn’t even run with a watch, let alone a Garmin. I just wanted to finish the damn thing. When I ran my first marathon almost two years ago it was bliss. I was free of technology, pressure, paces and injuries. A lot changes in two years.

While training for that first race, people kept asking me what my time goal was. Time goal? Are you high? Isn’t it enough of a goal to make it to the finish line? I had no clue about pace. I just went with what felt right and I promised myself I wouldn’t walk.

After that first race, I ran a half marathon three months later faster than I thought I could. With a Garmin. Somewhere along the line I started reading blogs and learned about this BQ thing. But, what was a BQ? A Big Queef? A Bonus Question? A barbecue without the extra B (we call that a barcue)?

Then I got it. It was this race where you had to have a certain marathon finish time to enter.  I looked up my time…let’s see I’m 42….that means I have to run a…3:50 marathon. Well, shit, I thought. I’ve only run one marathon and that was in 4:03, so could it be possible to cut 13 minutes off my time? Hell yeah. That’s only 30 seconds per mile. In truth, I could easily cut 4 minutes off per mile and win the whole damn race.

So, I went for it and it happened. May 9, 2010, Ft. Collins, Colorado. My second marathon. I crossed the line in 3:42:36, giving myself a nice 8 minute cushion. I was going to Boston.

People say Boston’s not all that. There are better, cheaper, more scenic races. True.

People say Boston’s no different/better than NY where you need a time (faster than Boston) to enter (if you don’t want to risk the lottery system). True.

People say the Boston qualifying times are too easy for women. Maybe true.

I say, I’m still glad I’m going. I want to say I did it. That I was there. It’s history making for me, personally. The thrill has been the journey to get there.  Boston for me is symbolic of hard work, determination and doing what I said I would do.

So, your turn. Why do you care (or not) about getting that BQ?

Going to find my neck,

SUAR

64 comments:

  1. I personally don't care, but I can understand why so many others do. It's a measurable goal.

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  2. I think I will do my first Marathon this year then worry about all the BQ and time qualifying crap later....to tell you the truth, I am amazed everyday that I am still alive. Any day I wake up on this side of the dirt is a good day!!!

    Have a Happy New Year and may you qualify many times more!!!

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  3. It is definitelt the prize money (ha ha). Seriously, it is the challenge of making the qualifying time. It sort of separates the pack. As a solid middle of the pack runner, I prob would never get in but can appreciate the joy of those who do.

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  4. i think i cared a lot when i ran my first marathon bc people seemed so crazed about it. but now, i don't really the big deal because i hit it so easy. i think the allure is that lots of people can't do it, or at least can't easily, and it's a challenge. any challenge is what i run for and about so i think it's great that people are chasing after bqs

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  5. whether is Boston, NYC, Kona, or any other big running/triathlon event....I'm all about it! Love the inspiration, the stories, the purpose!
    LC

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  6. I don't care about Boston, really, except that it would be a cool destination run and I could poke around looking at historic sites and such. But I am happy to cheer for those of you who do want to qualify, and I admire that drive.

    I wouldn't rule out Boston someday, but I got really out of shape in anesthesia school. I start my doctoral coursework this spring and honestly, I'll be happy if I can stay in shape to do 2-3 destination races a year while I earn my final (maybe!) degree.

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  7. When I started to run, my goal was to maintain 40 mile weeks until I was 40, year round 40 miles. No marathons. I truly thought that they were not good for you. Then as the marathon and running became popular, I kept meeting these guys who only ran 12 weeks a year and would run MCM. They would imply that until I ran a marathon, I really wasn't much of a runner. That burned my ass. So, I did it to BQ and tell them, "What, you didn't BQ? Oh, well you're not a real runner until you BQ." How silly. I BQ'd, but I did leave that race with a whole new respect for these marathoners; It's a tough, tough race, with Boston the toughest.

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  8. Its just like first grade when everyone wants to be in the good reading group. We are all 5 year olds with sneakers.

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  9. to me it would be about the challenge. I have yet to run my first marathon, but I have always had a competitive drive. having a certain time set for boston is a number i would work for. I would be able to say I BQ'd. I hit a goal.
    I do love reading everyone's stories about running Boston or getting ready to run! So exciting for them!

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  10. It's a benchmark, and the challenge of getting there is hugely motivating in part because of the result itself and in part because of what it takes to do it. At one point that benchmark was completing a marathon. Then, when my first finish time was within 15 minutes of qualifying, the benchmark became the BQ. I won't be done once I hit it though as I imagine that I'll keep craving that next challenge!

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  11. You are totally going to win all that money! I love this post. It seems like Boston has gotten a lot of bad rap that it isn't worth all the trouble but for me it has been my dream since I was 14. I am obsessed with it because I know that all of the people there running are just as obsessed with running as I am. Crowds motivate me and I look forward to having spectators the entire way! Oh you just got me so so excited...thank you!

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  12. Different strokes... haven't ever tried to qualify for Boston and never will. Even if I 'do' qualify, I wouldn't run it. Simply put, I have no desire and there are much better races out there.

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  13. Well, i know a BQ time will never be a possibility for me (and i'm ok with that). But i still think Boston is a big deal - it's something almost everyone(runner or not) knows about, and the sense of pride you have saying you've been there is something that shouldn't be discredited!

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  14. I would love to try for Boston but it's not even on my radar, I would be happy just to beat 5 hrs (lame I know). You (and anyone else who qualifies) should be proud, it's a great accomplishment!

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  15. It's definitely the challenge. I haven't hit the mark yet. So disappointing... This is my year though. It WILL happen THIS year. It's hard for me to understand how people can do it after a marathon or two. Constantly trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong. So excited for all that hit the mark...I'll be that person that is crying when I cross the finish line at some race at the 3:44:59 mark to qualify... I'll be sure to post the pick... :)

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  16. I just don't have the focus or time to commit to getting it (mostly lack of focus if I'm totally honest). I'd love to get a BQ, but it's not something I think I'll ever actively try for until my age group meets up with my current times... so I should be able to qualify in about 35 years!

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  17. Not close to qualifying, and I'm steering away from expensive running events. 2 No's make a no. But I do like vicariously following you as you get closer and closer to the line.

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  18. For me, it was more a personal challange & the idea of a destination run was exciting. Having run Boston in 2009 & running again in 2011 as part of the Boston to Big Sur challenge, the second time is more about enjoying the WHOLE experience and not worrying so much about the actual race. I can't wait.

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  19. They drew a line in the sand and dared you to cross it.

    I’ll see you on Patriots’ Day.

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  20. I'd have to cut 4 minutes off every mile to BQ. Okay, maybe not that much, but, um, close. Hahahahahah.

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  21. I want it!!!! Because I want to achieve that challenge. Not to mention prove to a LIST of people who have no faith in me and think I simply am not capable that I CAN!

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  22. It's all about the challenge. I get it. A couple of years when a friend of mine qualified to do New York I decided that I wanted to qualify too. I didn't even think I'd run the race (and I didn't). Just qualifying was enough.

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  23. I can seem to tell if I should put "qualify for Boston" in my goals lists or in my dreams list. Maybe I should just put it under DREAM ON list. haha!

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  24. It's the challenge of it. Knowing that not all runners can qualify and that it would be really cool if I did. I would have to run a 3:40 which seems insane at this point-so accomplishing that would be amazing (1 marathon under my belt at 4:18:02--2 planned for this year).

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  25. definitely on my list. we lived on the route and it is the most awesome, emotional race. so honestly...yes I really care and I want to qualify!

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  26. I have to admit, I would LOVE to BQ. I'm still quite a ways off from that - I ran my first marathon this summer in 4 hours, 23 minutes. I will have to shave half an hour off to qualify in the next decade of my life - which is pretty hardcore, it's true. But I would like to do it one day because I have completely fallen in love with racing. I didn't just dip my toe in, I dove in this year. So Boston is on my list because I love a challenge, and I'm well on my way to being a race collector. Antarctica is also on my list. One day :)

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  27. I'd have to do it in 3:35:59. That means I'd have to do it 3 freaking hours faster than I did my first marathon. So, no, I do not have any dreams of BQing. I know my limits and that is simply not a reasonable goal for me.

    Is Boston really the toughest marathon? If so, why?

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  28. I love reading what you wrote about that transition from "just happy to be here" to the all-out insanity that comes with training obsession. So true.

    Me? I'm still just happy to be here ;-) but who knows how much longer.

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  29. well. this April will be my 6th Boston and to tell you the truth, it's not my favorite or the end all for me. ..

    Mardi Gras marathon in New Orleans is! :D

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  30. I needed 3:40 or under.... Got it twice. Ran Boston in '08.... best experience ever. Can't wait to run it again. Hopefully sooner then later. Congrats to you and your BQ.

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  31. Since it's pretty easy for me to BQ now, I don't really care. But, I was thrilled when I got it the first time, with less than 1 min to spare!

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  32. I have two good running friends who qualified for and ran Boston in 2009. They told me that the Boston marathon was fantastic. I didn’t think that I would be able to qualify but after noting a net improvement in a 30k race because of cross training I started to think in terms of trying to qualify. A seasoned runner made a training schedule for me and I worked hard at it from May to Sept 2009 and was thrilled when I achieved a qualifying time in the Toronto Scotia marathon. I registered for the 2010 Boston that afternoon and it sold out three weeks later. Running Boston was a superb experience because of the involvement of the city’s population. I have never experienced so much spectator support and I particularly remember students calling out my name (written on my chest in duct tape thanks to my friend Kim’s suggestion) and encouraging me in the Boston College area. The excitement was unlike any other that I had experienced before. In October of this year I spent three hours on line before managing to register and I know that the effort was worth it. Boston Marathon you say? Been there, done that, doing it again.

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  33. I don't really care about the whole BQ thing either, but I do understand why others can get a little obsessed about it! I think it's awesome when someone qualifies and I get all excited for them (as I did for you), but it's just something that I never had as a goal. I'm not sure why, but it just isn't.

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  34. When I started I didn't care about Boston. It wasn't in my vocabulary and to be honest I didn't even care earlier this year. Then through my training for the HIM I found I was going faster and faster and thought to myself I could do this. I can achieve what many in the running world believe is difficult. It then became a bucket list marathon. I want to run Boston, New York, London, Berlin....I want to see the world through running and experiece everything on my feet and not in a car. The views of the world are different that way. I've been to Boston a number of times but going to Boston as a qualifier would change how I see Boston.

    And damn it I am going to get there and say that I am a Big Queef!!!!!

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  35. I think I was like you.....my first marathon ( 6years ago) my plan was to not walk, to finish and do it under 4 hours. ( the under 4 hours was something I kept secret!). I accomplished all the goals finishing in 3:44:something.
    Years later for my second marathon (5 years later) I heard the BQ talk....my qulifyihg time was 3:40. I never told anyone that I was trying to qualify becuase what if I didn't? Well, I did- 3:34:44 ( or something). The thing is, I knew I could not afford to go...and I didn't. I think they should pay for me dammit! I am still ok with the face that I am not actually running Boston ( not really. It sux big time actualy), but I know I qualified and for now, that has to be good enough!

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  36. I'd love to run Boston but I'll need to be 80 years old to qualify. LOL.

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  37. Great blog entry! I ran my first marathon in May and missed a BQ by just over 2 minutes. It wasn't until I was that close that I even thought of trying to qualify.... I think the closer you are to achieving it, the more of a goal it becomes.

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  38. My life just works better when I'm working on a goal. As a runner, it's a great goal (for me). Part of me is dreading the day I do BQ (which will be on 2/6/11 btw) cuz there's something scary about a dream coming true.

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  39. Excellent post. Laughed all the way to Boston.
    I probably will not be able to BQ unless I turn 70 or 80 years old.

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  40. Big Queef. Ha!
    I don't want to qualify for Boston and I do not want to run an entire marathon. I will stick with triathlons!
    But I am impressed with anyone who does qualify (or even runs a marathon for that matter.)

    Good for you. I can imagine how it would be an exciting and emotional goal to reach.

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  41. I am not in the marathon league yet but I get it
    it is the history behind Boston I think..to be a part of it is special

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  42. I have to be honest. I don't care. When I signed up for my first race, a half-marathon, my Team in Training coach asked me what held me back from the full marathon. Ambition, I told him. A few halves later and the ambition had gotten to me. So I ran a full. And another one, and got 27 minutes faster. And am still not close to a BQ. I accept that I'm just not fast enough. I have goals--pretty specific, pace-oriented goals. But I know that Boston isn't realistic for me.

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  43. Ok, so, never thought about Boston (and like you, BQ baffled me...I had to Google it!) but this fall talked to a few people who were trying to BQ around the time I ran my third marathon. I ran my first, non-seriously, last Feb; my second was to visit my old hometown and site-see and it was a just-for-fun run, too. So Boston wasn't even a thought. Then at my third marathon I qualified but I didn't even realize it until someone else told me! I'm kind of a running amateur goof-off, and I ran two BQ marathons in a space of 13 days, so this leads me to believe that yes, it's possible that the qualifying times are too slow for ladies.

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  44. If I was fast enough to be a prize money contender I would be all over it, but I'm not.

    The messy logistics of just getting to the race start does not appeal to me in any way - I'll stick to smaller, less congested races!

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  45. WTF? I couldn't care less about Boston. Overpriced, overhyped, overdone. Bleh.

    Of course, if I ever had even a glimmer of hope of being able to qualify (fat chance with my 5:20 pr) I'm sure I would be all over it like white on rice, yelling it from the rooftops and obsessing like Rain Man. Instead, I'm like a fart stuck sideways, the only BQ I'll ever have is the Big Queef, and thank you SUAR for allowing me that small mercy.

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  46. Great post, and some great points.
    Boston is on my bucket list because of the experience. Because of the challenge, and the prestige the event holds. Having a time to gun for so that you pay even more money for your next marathon and suffer even more ... that sounds great to me!

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  47. The challenge of getting there and the prestige is what drives me. I ran a 3:22 this year and am hoping for a 3:10-3:15 in 2011 so I can get my BQ.

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  48. I didn't care about running a BQ. It kind of fell into my lap, like you, at my second marathon. I always considered Boston far out of my reach so when the BQ came, it WAS all that. Because the years of my life leading up to it had been sheer hell and I'll always see it as my defining moment when I realized i'd been setting the bar too low for myself. For me, Boston will always be ALL THAT. And I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

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  49. Well, it's something I never really think about as there isn't a cat in hell's chance of me ever qualifying before I reach 90 anyway.

    (Had to look up queef in urban dictionary - I am so out of touch!)

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  50. I was a college athlete, for many many years sports defined me I had goals I met them and I felt great. I got lost in baby making, chips and ice cream... I lost me and became a Mom, a FAT Mom. When I started running it was for health, I could barely run a 5K without stopping.. As I dropped the weight I found the muscles hiding under the fat...

    I realized there was room in my Mom life for something more. A Finish line? My Finish Line?? Yes please!! I race me, but the 8:23 pace felt good so why not try to qualify?? It was something I knew I could do and I wanted to for me.. For the me that was FAT and the me that loves to be an athlete..

    I ran, and I BQ'd...I may never win a marathon but that Boston Finish line will be a great Mom vacation..

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  51. I care about getting a BQ... but i'm not sure i have that drive to get it. I raced my heart out in high school & right now, i'm happy crusing along having fun! Sure a bq & PR's are nice, but i like just going out for a stroll! :)

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  52. Congrats to making it! As a new runner it just hasn't even been on my radar. I mean, I have heard of it but I haven't even fathomed a marathon yet, nevermind qualifying for anything. Maybe if I continue training and learning it will become important to me. But I've never been athletic and any marathon finish would be an amazing accomplishment for me.

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  53. Just like you, I had no clue what the Boston Marathon was, other than just a marathon. I didn't know you could have a GPS on your watch or that there is a magazine just for runners called Runner's World. We have a whole world? I also didn't know pace was something people paid attention to. I thought tempo runs had something to do with running to music.

    My, how things DO change in a few years time. I was exposed to some long-time runners and learned all about that stuff. I have definitely become faster and better and I would LOVE To qualify for Boston.

    I feel I have the potential, so why not strive for it? It's a fun goal to set for myself.

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  54. For me, it's all about the challenge to achieve a goal that may be just beyond reach! Along the way, I discovered that I really enjoy training for marathons and that there was room for improvement, ie I got faster. So, why not? And, yes, a BQ is all that to me! Does there have to be a reason?!

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  55. I'm proud of you for qualifying. It's not something I have even considered. Have a blast!!

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  56. I'm just trying to get up the nerve to train for a full marathon (have done 2 half marathons and getting ready to train for my 3rd...).
    I admire you for setting those goals and hanging tough even through your injury!!

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  57. Boston is not a current goal for me, but I'm still a very new runner. I'm in the stage where just finishing a marathon would be my first goal.

    I do understand it though.

    Some people just run because they like to run. Entering any race seems silly to them. Some of us always want to run better then we have before, and having goals to get there pushes us along. For you Boston is one of those goals.

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  58. I've done Boston and thought the rain and the industrial gray parking lot scenery were depressing (I also got hit by a bicycle at 17 miles; they had no crowd control then). Still, I get people wanting to do it: there's a history bordering on legend; people have heard of it, even if they don't follow any sports; you get to run with some of the best runners in the world.

    btw, they always say there's 4 hills after 16 miles, culminating in Heartbreak. I counted 7.

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  59. 16 years ago when I qualified for Boston for the first time, there were no catchy acronyms like "BQ", blogs, timing chips, Garmins-and it cost $50 dollars to enter the race! We wanted Boston because to qualify meant you could race a marathon, you were a RUNNER, and you could partake in a legendary race-the history of the Boston Marathon is one that anyone who calls themselves a "marathoner" should look up--THIS is where the pride in running the race and QUALIFYING FOR BOSTON comes from--especially for us girls--we really had to fight the male chauvenist BAA to run--the first two to do it are really inspiring! Do some research and you'll probably get pumped to run it too!

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  60. I like what MM/Karyn had to say. For her, it was super easy to qualify, so it didn't seem like a big deal, not a challenge. For me, the opposite... it seems impossible, so it's not even on my radar of interest. But I think there's that sweet spot of runners where they are within arm's reach of qualifying. And I'd say for the most part, those are the people that really set their sites on it. And why not? Whatever motivates and challenges you... then go for it!!!

    And you can bet I'll be following along with all the bloggers as you all attempt Boston!

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  61. I don't care about a BQ (but only because I'm 99.99% sure there is no way on EARTH I could ever run fast enough for that long :D )

    I hope you are starting to recover from your injury, I know you are looking forward to Boston. I'm sure you will be healthy and Faaaaast!

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  62. I totally care, I care big time. I'd do unspeakable things (giving up booze anyone?) if it meant that I would nearly certainly get in. I think that it all comes down to two things.....

    1. It is the people's Olympics. It is the closest thing to running at an eliete level that I will EVER get.
    2. It helps me answer the question that I get 1/2 the time when people ask about my running. "so, have you ran the boston marathon yeT?"

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  63. I think I want to qualify because it's the one marathon that you have to qualify to run. I want to prove that I am capable... to myself and to others.

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  64. I guess I'm "Angie come lately" with this comment.

    A BQ is not even on my radar and I don't think it ever will be. I don't want to sacrifice the time that I spend with my family to train and increase my speed to qualify for Boston. I'm happy doing the races that I'm doing.

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