NJ Marathon Recap – My 5th BQ – A Dream Come True

“All dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” “Walt Disney.
One of my favorite quotes & I couldn’t think of a better was to start this blog. Last Sunday, I ran my 12th marathon – getting there wasn’t an easy journey but with persistence, determination and dedication I made it happen & I got much more than I hoped for!
After running the Philadelphia Marathon in November with a BQ in 3:39:01 (BQ by 59 seconds); I knew I’d have to run another marathon & work hard to secure my spot for Boston 2018!

Running Boston in 2013′ – for years I’ve been “Chasing the Unicorn” in hopes of being there again.

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I decided I would run the Shamrock Marathon in VA. Last March; I ran it through wind & rain in the midst of a storm finishing in 3:48:49. Running Shamrock Marathon (a March Marathon) meant I’d have to start training again 6 – 8 weeks post marathon. I was determined! Training was going well; I ran one of my fastest 16 milers (8:05/mile) – smooth sailing right!? Wrong! A few days later I started feeling tightness down my right leg (through the knee). I stretched, tried running = pain. I decided to see my chiropractor – it was better but not great. I saw the podiatrist wondering if it was my orthotics – still pain. It was mind boggling – what could this be? I knew for a fact my calves were tight, I knew I had very weak hips/glutes – could that be it? I decided to try a few things on my own & go from there. I couldn’t continue training through the pain so I decided to take 2 weeks off from running! In that time; I incorporated lots of hip/glute exercises 3 – 4x a week (exercises I will share in a separate blog). I focused on extra stretching, yoga & foam rolling. I also received a pair of insoles from Enertor – they worked wonders. Within 2 weeks I was back to running & even better running with minimal pain. I kept the mileage lower for a week or two to be cautious; I continued my hip/glute strengthening and continued to run pain free. At this point; I had missed 3 long runs & decided it would be best to defer my marathon. My heart was set on going for a BQ & with the training runs I missed – I didn’t want to risk it.
I decided to continue training & if all went well – register for NJ Marathon which is where I ran my PR (3:33:34) in 2012′! The race that earned me a spot at the Boston Marathon in 2012′.
I continued training, my speed workouts were going well, I had no pain on long runs, I continued strengthening my hips & glutes – I was feeling great!! 4 weeks prior, I finally registered for NJ Marathon!!
I decided again on a 2 week taper doing my final of 3 20 milers just 15 days out from race day! My body responds best to a shorter taper, anyone else?
Race week, I focused on extra sleep, less stress (basically planning meals prior, getting work done ahead of time at work, keeping myself from anything that could cause me stress including the weather – which I refused to look at). I planned my meals the week prior – focusing on extra carbs – lots of carbs. I planned to leave work early the Friday prior to the race, visit the expo & pack my bag that night so Saturday would be strictly for a shakeout run followed by relaxation. Friday I visited the expo, picked up my race bib then headed home to relax on the couch before getting 12 hours of sleep.

Saturday with temps nearing 85 degrees – I headed out for a 2 mile shakeout run. I was ready!! My legs wanted to fly but I resisted the urge! I stretched and spent the rest of the day relaxing; imagining myself crossing the finish line with a BQ! I wasn’t nervous this time, but instead felt confident; knowing that I put everything I had into this training!
Sunday Runday had finally arrived!!!! I was so excited!!! We arrived about 90 minutes before the start.

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I decided that my goal was a BQ more than anything so I chose not to risk a PR (after chatting with a friend). My BQ time is 3:40 so I decided to stick with the 3:35 pacer & if I felt good in the later miles go for it. I quickly found the 3:35 pacer & we were off.

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I felt really good! It was cloudy, 58 degrees and humid. I thought to myself, “should IΒ  speed up? Go for a PR? I quickly reminded myself – “this is a marathon & anything can happen in 26.2 miles!” I am definitely no stranger to this. In 2013′ in Boston I cramped up so bad I had to stop at a medical tent, in NYC 2014, I took a huge fall at mile 18 & was brought into a medical tent, at NJ Marathon 2015′ – the heat got to me and I dehydrated. On that note, I decided to continue on with the pacer! We crossed the 10k with an 8:12/mile pacer. I was feeling great, giving high fives, cheering. Paying close attention to fueling & hydrating as I ran. At mile 11, I saw my friend Martina!! She ran out on the course with an ice cold water bottle for me! I sipped some & poured it on my head to cool off!! Martina ran with me for 1 1/2 miles; at that point we were a bit ahead of the pacer & she reminded me to pace myself & stay with the group! She reassured me by saying “you’ve got this girl!” By mile 13.1 I was right on pace crossing the 13.1 mark in 1:47:40 (8:14/mile). Still feeling great, but in the back of my mind not forgetting that I was only halfway there. I continued to pace myself, staying right beside the pacers. We headed south toward Asbury Park – I knew just a few miles up we’d be greeted by large crowds & the adrenaline kicked in!! So many people cheering for us through Asbury Park then Ocean Grove as we looped around and headed onto the boardwalk! I looked down at my watch at mile 19 & my pace was 7:46 (my fastest mile yet). As we ran through Asbury Park – the pacer picked up the pace a bit. I crossed the 20 mile mark at (8:13/mile). I was feeling good but worried if I pushed too hard I may pay for it later so I continued on at the same pace. Running North back to Long Branch, I was feeling good!! I was right on pace but didn’t for one minute lose focus! The race wasn’t over until I crossed that finish! The pacer was a bit ahead of me & noticed them picking up the pace. I decided to pace myself – my goal was a BQ – my A goal a sub 3:36! I knew if I could hold the pace I had for the next 5 miles – I had it!! I stayed focus paying close attention to signs from my body. I hydrated, took my gels and took salt. At mile 24 my legs felt a little heavy but I focused on just keeping myself relaxed and focused! As we came up to mile 25; we approached the boardwalk. I knew I’d again see Martina; there she was! My legs were burning but I felt so determined. I yelled “Martina – I need ya!” She dropped everything & ran out onto the course yelling “Meredith, you’ve got this!” “You’re so strong!” “Follow the unicorn!’ as she pointed to the unicorn on her Boston jacket! πŸ’™πŸ’›

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She yelled “pump your arms!” At that moment , it was all mental for me – mind over body!!! I wanted this more than anything!! She ran off to the side and said “Girl, this is your moment – go get that BQ!”

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She ran down the sidelines watching as I left it all out on the course, sprinting through the finish!! I then heard my hubby yelling “Go Mer, go!!!”

At that moment my dream became a reality – at that moment I became a Boston Marathon Qualifier for the 5th time (2nd time on this course) finishing in what my Garmin said was 26.69 miles in 3:35:32 (official time – 3:35:38 – 8:13/mile – a BQ by 4 minutes 22 seconds)!!

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I crossed the finish line 2 thumbs up – filled with so much joy!! I did it!! I accomplished my A goal; running my fastest marathon in 5 years! It was truly incredible; I wish I could take that moment & just hold on to that feeling forever. πŸ’–

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I know my sister was running beside me that day, there is no other way to describe the strength, determination & power I felt that day! It was my strongest race to date & I know she played every part in making that day as magical as it was.Β  Here I am 8 days later still on cloud 9!

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After the race I was greeted by my hubby, who was so proud!! I then immediately saw Martina!! She was so happy! I thanked her for all her support! She is the best & truly such an inspiration to me!

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I then met my sweet, inspiring friend Michelle who’s hubby was running his 1st full marathon! He finished in 4:19!! So awesome!!

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Damian and I then headed over to our favorite little beach bar that we go to every time I run a race there!

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We met up with friends; including my awesome & inspiring friend Mary who I met 5 years ago at our local gym. She ran the half marathon & will be going for her 2nd BQ this September; I know she will do it!!

I spent the day just riding that runners high & believe it or not – I am still on cloud 9 today!

After the marathon I took 5 full days off; something I’ve never done before but I knew my body needed it. I am back to running; just easy miles for right now.

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So what’s next? Hmm. In November I will run my 4th NYC Marathon (13th Marathon). I have one goal for NYC – to have fun (no time goals)! For now its just recovery & shorter distances as I set new goals for myself!Β  I can’t wait to see what’s next!
The road isn’t always easy & doesn’t always go as planned. Dream big, never lose sight of your dreams & never give up because “dreams do come true if you have the courage to pursue them!” I know mine did!

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Boston 2018′ here I come!!

Questions about my training etc? Comments? Please share!

Thank you as always for following my journey!!Β  @meretherunner14

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4 thoughts on “NJ Marathon Recap – My 5th BQ – A Dream Come True

  1. cat h bradley says:

    Whoa, this was such a great read. Not sure I’ve ever read a marathon recap where the runner sounded so strong throughout the entire race. I’ll see you in NYC in November (my first!!). Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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