Have patience and read the fine print

  • This was printed in November of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 26th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Patience is something I obviously lack.

Everyone keeps telling me it takes runners YEARS to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

But I was also told, “marathons are for people who’ve been running for years,” and I’ve

completed two since I started running last November. So a lot of what people tell me

about patience and what’s “supposed to” happen goes in one ear and out the other.

I keep thinking, ‘I’m different! That doesn’t apply to me!’

I’ll be the first to admit that my attitude is … overconfident. (That’s putting it nicely.)

But I’ll also be the first to admit that the marathon has a way of humbling a person.

“Respect the distance,” is something I’ve heard repeatedly from more experienced

runners. I respect it, there’s no doubt about that. Twenty-six miles and 385 yards is

nothing to look down on. But I’m impatient and I want to BQ as soon as possible.

Famed marathoner John Bingham said, “Marathons are about tenacity as much as talent.”

I’m working on the talent part. I put in the work, I train, I cross train, I eat healthy and

stay hydrated. I run hills, I run fast, I run slow, I run on roads, dirt, grass, gravel, and

sometimes horse poop. I’m becoming leaner, faster and stronger. But I feel like I can only

develop my talent so much — what it will come down to is my tenacity. If I’m tenacious

enough, I’ll BQ.

“I’ve probably done about 40 marathons,” my coach told me. “So don’t whine and

complain because you haven’t qualified in two tries. Boston has a way of humbling those

who are impatient.”

Well, coach, Boston also has a way of making people wish they had read the fine print.

My coach told me a pretty funny story the day I finished my second marathon and missed

my goal of a BQ by 18 minutes.

“I qualified for Boston the first year I started running, but I didn’t know it,” Brad told me.

“It took me 17 years to qualify again.”

At the time, when he was 39 years old, Brad had to run a certified marathon in 3 hours

and 20 minutes to qualify for Boston. He came in at 3:20:05 and thought he had just

missed it — and missed out on the 100th Anniversary of the Boston Marathon.

But back then, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) had a “59-second grace period,”

which made the actual qualifying cutoff 3:20:59 for his age group.

He didn’t realize his mistake until registered for the 2012 Boston Marathon.

Brad had BQ’d again — 17 years later — by running a 3:37 marathon, three minutes

under his 3:40 qualifying cutoff.

He was reading the registration guidelines and found “Unlike previous years, an

additional 59 seconds will NOT be accepted for each age group time standard.”

“I thought, ‘What is that?’ I looked it up and realized I had qualified 17 years ago,’” Brad

said. “Then my son goes, ‘So instead of running hundreds and hundreds of miles trying to

qualify, all you had to do was take five minutes to read the official qualifying rules.’”

I found the perfect quote for that. American folk singer Pete Seeger said: “Do you know

the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine

print; experience is what you get when you don’t.”

My coach got 40 marathons worth of experience for not reading the fine print.

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