The fear of missing out was real this weekend. Nochella, no Easter brunch with my family — and no Boston Marathon. The 121st Boston Marathon took place yesterday, and any dreams I had of making it to the premiere long-distance running event before college graduation were dashed.
For the non-runners among us, let me explain. The Boston Marathon is like the Super Bowl — except imagine that any team (professional or not) could play in the championship if they qualify. In this highly anticipated race, amateurs run right alongside some of the most elite runners in the world. Unlike other races, runners can only register for the Boston Marathon if they have met a certain qualifying time in the last year. The qualifying times for the Boston Marathon, or BQs, are fast, and they’ve only gotten faster over the years.
Out of curiosity after having just improved my half-marathon time, I looked up how fast the BQ was this year. For women ages 18 to 34, the BQ is three hours and 35 minutes. That’s a whopping hour-and-then-some faster than my first marathon. I’d have to run eight-minute miles for 26.2 miles, instead of the 11-minute miles I was averaging during the 2015 L.A. Marathon.
My immediate reaction was, “No way.” I would never be able to qualify for Boston. Sure, I could probably shave half-an-hour off my marathon time with the right kind of training, but an hour-and-a-half was unthinkable. I’d have to literally fly. It’s not possible.
But then again, running is a sport of impossibility. It’s not as flashy as a basket on the buzzer or a last-minute field goal, but it is the ultimate race against time. Humans have pushed their limits to run sub four-minute miles. In just over two weeks, Nike will attempt to break the two-hour mark for a marathon with a trio of elite runners who have been specially trained for the project. The current world record is 2:02:57.
The Boston Marathon itself is a race that defies the odds. It’s the oldest annual marathon still in existence. What started as 15 participants in 1897 developed into an event with over 27,000 competitors battling it out over “Heartbreak Hill” in 2017. The first woman to finish a major marathon did so in Boston 50 years ago, and the race organizer literally tried to chase her off the course. Katherine Switzer took part in the race again this year at the age of 70.
Everyone talks about being a part of history whenever they win some big championship, like the Super Bowl or the World Series or the Olympics. Running is one of the few sports that’s so accessible that even recreational runners can become a part of that history. They will literally run the same route as thousands of elite athletes before them. They will run in memory of the people who died in the Boston Marathon bombing four years ago. They will be what makes this race so special every single year.
I’m no record breaker, and there’s certainly nothing special about my running, but I am ambitious and competitive. One of the most satisfying things in life for me is finding out that the top of my game is much higher than anyone, including myself expected. Every single day I convince myself to go for a run, I already feel like I’m halfway to impossible.
It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever be able to run a 3:35:00 marathon, but I have high hopes that I’ll continue to be active for my entire life. Maybe I’ll qualify for Boston when I’m 60 and the time standard is only 4:25:00. Barring any injuries, I’ll just keep running, and I’m sure I’ll get there someday. With a goal and plan for the Boston Marathon, the FOMO seems to melt into the concrete sidewalk. Boston, see you sometime!
Meghan Coyle is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. She is also the online managing editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Chasing Pavements,” runs Tuesdays.