What's next in my running career?
By Doug Schunk, Hyland's Powered Ambassador
In 2017, I ran my current personal record of 3:07:22 at the Pittsburgh Marathon. After only four marathons, I had qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon. I spent the summer looking at hotels, activities for my family, and transportation to and from the marathon. But I wanted to wait until I was officially in just in case I missed the cutoff time. Sure enough, in the middle of the school day, I got the email saying I had missed the cutoff time by 45 seconds. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.
Luckily, I applied and was selected to be a part of the 2018 Boston Marathon Hyland’s Teacher Team. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In spite of the weather, I will never forget every moment of that weekend and the friendships I made.
In the midst of all of the excitement of the Boston Marathon, I had moments of Imposter Syndrome throughout the weekend. I especially felt it in the starting corral. All of these runners around me had qualified under the buffer, while I was there because an amazing company picked me to represent them. I mentioned having Imposter Syndrome to a few friends and they assured me that I deserved to be there, but I still couldn’t shake it.
In 2019, I was given another opportunity to represent Hyland’s at the Big Cottonwood Marathon. I love downhill running, so I thought this race would be perfect for me. Low humidity, running down a mountain – I thought for sure I’d qualify for Boston and run a personal best. For the first 20 miles I was cruising. But during the 5 mile out-and-back section, the world started to get crooked. I don’t know if it was a lack of calories, the elevation, or lack of rest, but the final 6.2 miles was a struggle as I kept leaning to the left. I was forced to run/walk to the end. Even though my time was ok considering the ending of it, it wasn’t good enough to qualify for Boston again. And with that, the Imposter Syndrome grew larger.
Looking back, it was probably a blessing in disguise that I didn’t qualify at Big Cottonwood, because of Boston 2020 being cancelled due to the pandemic. I went on to run a few ultramarathons, including the C&O Canal 100 miler in April. While I’ve enjoyed the differences in ultramarathons compared to marathons, I can’t shake the Imposter Syndrome around qualifying for Boston.
I am going to spend the next three months preparing to qualify for the 2023 Boston Marathon at the Revel Big Bear Marathon. I’ve run other races for good causes, but this one is for me. It is to prove to myself that I have earned the right to be on the starting line in Hopkinton. It is to give my family another chance to enjoy the excitement of marathon weekend in Boston. It is a chance to squash that Imposter Syndrome voice like an annoying mosquito.
A week after writing this I got an email from the Boston Athletic Association saying that they were opening a very limited number of entries for the in-person 125th Boston Marathon. They were making these entries available to qualified U.S. entrants of the Virtual race and to athletes who narrowly missed this year’s qualifying cut-off time. I will be running the 125th Boston Marathon!
For a brief back story, I ran a 3:08 marathon in New Jersey in April 2019. At that time, it was not fast enough to be a Boston Qualifier. Fast forward to 2021 and the Boston Marathon qualification window is huge (all the way back to early 2019) and the race itself was moved to October. For these reasons, and because I am turning the big 4-0 a week before it, I was able to qualify for the Boston Marathon this year. So for a second time, I missed the original cutoff time but am still running the in-person Boston Marathon. So, thanks COVID and Father Time?