Persistence is something I admire. It's a trait I admire and want to have. What's great about it is it's equal parts obstinance and hope. That's how I think of running. It's such a long-term thing. In 2003, I was still pretty new to running. I'd been at it for three years and kept improving. I qualified for Boston after doing a 3:02 in Chicago in the fall. I was running so much that I even did a 50k in February of 2003, coming in eight place with a time of about 4:05. I was running 60 miles a week. I felt so ready for Boston and going under three hours. It felt inevitable to me.
It didn't happen. Instead I had the worst day of running in my life. Boston chewed me up and spit me out. Before this year's race, I went back and pieced together my memories of that race. I remember sitting next to a guy from LA on the bus out to Hopkinton. I told him about running under three. I remember realizing I couldn't keep pace with my friend Barney in the early miles. I remember dreading the last 18 miles. I remember seeing people writhe on the ground in pain on Heartbreak Hill. I remember knowing friends were on the left side of the road at Cleveland Circle but going to the right side to avoid them. Finally I remember sitting on a curb after it was over and feeling for the first time really acutely upset by running. I said that day that I'd come back the next year and fix what went wrong.
It didn't happen. I got sidetracked and didn't run that great. Then I ran some mediocre marathons. The years went by. I registered to run one year but got hurt in training and didn't make it. Finally on Monday, seven years later, I went back to Boston, older and heavier but also smarter. My goal was not just to beat the 3:32 I did that day in Boston in 2003 but run the race on my terms. I felt like in 2003 the course ran me. The hills crushed me. This time I didn't flinch when the hills came. One thought kept coming back to me, "This is what I do and why I ran all those miles." I kept powering up them with consistency. I rarely thought about 2003 when I was on the course. The only time I did was at the top of Heartbreak Hill. There was a group of school kids at that op holding signs that said "The end of Heartbreak." I admit, for a moment, I got emotional. It was a moment I realized I'd run a good Boston. I thought back to all that shit from 2003, how physically and emotionally beat up I felt sitting on the curb after the race. The last six miles, while painful, were more of a celebration. I haven't felt that way in many marathons. And so I came away with a great thing: a memory of a certain time on a hill that I won't forget. That kind of thing means more to me than some medal or a number on my watch.