- This was printed in March of 2014 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 45th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.
That was my official time for Sunday’s Modesto Marathon — a full 5 minutes and 24
seconds faster than my Boston Qualifying cutoff. I did it!
And so did Madera runner Audrey Crow. She beat her BQ time by nearly two minutes in
Modesto, with an official time of 3:53:02.
Some of the visions I had during my long training runs were nearly spot-on. I really did
breeze past the finish line, hands victoriously stretched above my head.
I had known by Mile 22 that I was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon unless
something went terribly wrong. I slowed down drastically during the last 6 miles of the
race, but I found it in me to sprint the last .2. My running buddy Roberto, who had
finished the half marathon that day, was running alongside me but outside of the finishing
chute yelling, “Look at the clock! You can beat 3:30!” I was satisfied with my
forthcoming BQ, but thought, ‘what the heck, might as well go for it.’ I glided in as the
race clock read 3:29:57.
Another vision proved to be true, too. I completed the race with a BQ and then searched
frantically for Audrey, who had been looking strong and was sticking with the 3:45 pacer
when I saw her after the turnaround near Mile 15. I had no way of knowing what
happened to her during the last 11 miles of the race.
I squatted down on the ground, stretching my tight hamstrings and groin and praying out
loud — something I never do, especially in public — for her come around the corner to
the finishing stretch.
And then there she was. Our coach, Brad, was right next to her on his bike, peddling
away and yelling words of encouragement. I looked at the official race clock, which had
just turned to 3:53:00.
“Run Audrey! You got this Audrey! We’re going to Boston!” I screamed at the top of my
lungs, tears and desperation in my voice.
You want to feel on top of the world? Qualify for the Boston Marathon — and then watch
your best friend do it too.
Achieving something you’ve talked about for months brings an onslaught of emotions. I
was laughing and crying simultaneously. It wasn’t disbelief — I had known all along in
my heart that we were both going to come out victorious that day — it was more like
I had told anyone who would listen that I was going to qualify for Boston in Modesto. I
trained for it, I mentally prepared for it, I rested for it and carbo-loaded for it. That BQ
was going to be mine, and I wasn’t afraid to say it.
In a toast after the marathon our coach pointed that out: “Most people won’t let others
know they’re trying to qualify for Boston in case they fail. But you two said you were
going to do it and you did it.”
It’s important to say your goals out loud, write them down and tell someone else about
them. If you fail, like I did in November’s Two Cities Marathon, no one — at least no
decent person — will beat you up about it. If you’re anything like me, your harshest critic
I couldn’t fail this time.
It was perfect marathon weather, about 50 degrees at the 7 a.m. start time. I donned a
running skirt, compression sleeves for my calves, a tank top and my Nike Free Flyknit
shoes. I wore a thrift store-bought jacket that I planned to chuck at Mile 2, when I
assumed I’d be warmed up. I carried two Clif Shots and one salted caramel Gu along
with eight salt capsules. I was ready.
My race plan was to run with Phil Gonzalez, a buddy who ran Boston last year and is
already qualified for this year’s race and next. His job was to slow me down during the
first few miles, as I have a tendency to go out too fast. As long as someone paced me for
those first few miles, I’d be able to pace myself for the rest of the race, I thought.
I thought wrong.
I’m so thankful that Philly stayed with me for nearly the entire race because I might’ve
quit without his encouraging words.
We started the race faster than I had anticipated, falling in behind the 3 hour and 25
minute pacer and about half a dozen runners who aimed to run the marathon in that time.
But my legs were also stronger than I had anticipated. The sub-8 minute pace was
comfortable. I actually felt great through Mile 9. I had taken my Gu around Mile 7 and I
could feel its carbohydrates and caffeine taking effect.
Then Mile 10 came and I started to feel a twinge in my right hamstring — I was about to
cramp. No way! No way a cramp is going to ruin my perfect race.
I immediately reached for two salt capsules and swallowed them down with water at the
next aid station. I thought of them as my Cramp Stopper Pills. They didn’t eliminate the
twinge, but they at least kept the cramp at bay.
Near Mile 12 our 3:25 pace group cheered for Fresnan Jesus Campos, who was in the
lead and had already made the U-turn just after Mile 14. He looked relaxed and smiled.
The next person to cross our path was Anna Bretan, a 30-year-old mom of three who
went on to win the marathon in 2 hours 41 minutes and 52 seconds. She, like Campos,
was relaxed, smiling and inspiring as she effortlessly dashed past, long curly hair flowing
untamed behind her.
I couldn’t help but count the women that passed us after that. Including Bretan, there
were four. I was in fifth out of the females!
After the U-turn I kept my eyes on the opposite side of the road, looking for Audrey.
Would she be alone? Had she fallen in with a pace group? The last time I had seen her
was around Mile 1 when she’d said, “this is too fast.” I had turned to yell back over my
shoulder, “Go your own pace. Do what your heart tells you,” but when I looked back she
I saw the 3:45 pacer approaching, and right behind him a strong and determined looking
Audrey. “Stay with that pacer Audrey! Stick with him!” I managed to yell as we took off
in different directions.
Please let her stay with them, I thought. We’re both in pace groups 10 minutes ahead of
our qualifying times. Perfect, just please let her stay with them.
Audrey’s family was there to cheer for us at Mile 16.5; it was much appreciated during
those lonely miles on those long, straight and flat country roads. “Pace yourself, m’ija,” I
heard. And I was.
I fell into autopilot mode around Mile 17. I don’t know what I was thinking about, but I
knew my legs were moving and that the pacer was one yard in front of me. I drank water
and Gu Brew at the aid stations to chase down a salt capsule every other mile.
At Mile 19 I lost my pacer. I had slowed to a walk to thirstily drink the entire contents of
a water-filled Dixie cup. When I sprinted to catch up to the man holding the little sign on
a stick declaring “3:25” I couldn’t reach him. Keep him in your sights, I thought.
And that I did, for another two miles or so. The 3:25 on that little sign kept getting
smaller and smaller as he pulled away from me. A glance at my watch revealed that my
pace had slowed to an 8-something mile. Miles 1 through 19 had all been under 8
minutes. Uh-oh. Was I in trouble? Pick it up, Farin. Don’t let the 3:30 pacer catch you.
Philly was still with me, but I could tell he’d noticed that I was slowing down. His face in
my peripheral vision was looking at me with an “are you okay?” look. But he didn’t ask.
Instead he prayed.
After doing some mental math I realized that I’d have to get really, really slow to miss
my BQ. An 8-something pace would be ok, I just couldn’t slip into the 9s without really
The overpass — Mount Modesto, as the race officials call their only hill on the course —
was just the thing my legs didn’t need at Mile 24. I train on hills. I love hills. I’m great at
running hills. But after running 24 miles at a sub-BQ pace, my legs said ‘Nope.’ So I let
my arms do the work.
A runner’s legs follow the cadence of their arms. Want your legs to move faster? Swing
your arms faster. Trust me, it works. I swung my arms, concentrated on my form and the
next thing I knew, I had crested Mount Modesto and was about to enjoy the long way
Turns out, a huge hill at Mile 24 was exactly what my legs needed. The up and downhill
had worked different muscles and I no longer felt so fatigued.
Two more miles, that’s it. I looked at my watch, realized I had plenty of time to cross the
line and still qualify, and decided to relax a little bit. That’s when I got passed by two
Oh well. Seventh place out of all of the females in the race is not bad. I had no desire to
catch up to them.
Those last two miles seemed to stretch on forever, but the final left turn to the finishing
stretch was finally right in front of me. I could hear my Wicked Fast Wascally Wunnahs
cheering my name. “You’re going to BQ, Farin!” “Go Gazelle!”
A little taunting by a fellow Wunnah led me to not only BQ, but also break 3:30 in the
marathon — a goal I hadn’t even thought of until Mile 26.1 of that race.
I was on Cloud 9 as I got my medals — a finisher’s medal and a third place age-group
medal — and my license plate frame declaring “I BQ’d at the Modesto Marathon” and
then found my friends and family. Then I was on Cloud 10.
“Mommy, you ran fast!” my 4-year-old daughter said. Then I picked up my 17-month-old
son, whose arms were outstretched. “Momma go go go?” he asked.
Yup, Momma did it!