Still, in this massive failure at a Boston qualifying time, I learned a lot. First, it's not easy qualifying for Boston. Second, road marathons are not my cup of tea. Third, I now know who I am. I (re)learned many lessons while running for 3 hours and 42 minutes. Actually, I didn't run the whole course. I walked for about 1/2 mile around mile 21. I knew Boston was out of reach, my legs hurt, and I was cold. I gave up. It felt good to walk. I immediately started cheering on all the runners that passed me. I chatted with spectators. It felt right. In fact, it sorta felt like I was in an ultra. I just maintained forward progress and enjoyed the journey. Eventually I picked it back up and persevered to the end...even when police said the "race was cancelled."
Boston is not an easy destination. If you run there, you've earned it (unless you were a charity runner). There are clear standards, and if you meet them, you can register and run the race. Simple and transparent. It ain't easy, but anything worth achieving takes effort. The reward comes after you put in the hard work. I respect Boston runners. It's a bucket-list race. A destination. The mecca of running. Someday, I hope to be toeing the starting line in Hopkinton.
Road marathons don't make me feel good. I don't like anything about them. Roads are boring. They don't have rocks and roots to step around, tree branches to duck under, logs to jump, or creeks to cross. Plus, they are hard on your body. I'll take soft and winding trails any day. Roads, like tracks, do serve a purpose if you want to test yourself against a distance. How fast can you run 5K, 10K, 21K, or 42K? The answer probably lies on the roads. But, I'm a trail nerd. Short or long, I prefer trails for both training and racing. The extra challenge and unpredictability are enticing. I'm pretty sure what my next romp down Main Street will involve, but I'm never sure what the local trail will bring.
Ultras are my forte. I enjoy them. They test me mentally and physically. From 50K to 100+ miles, I feel proud completing them. Sure, I also compete with other runners, but the real thrill is just finishing the darn things. They are tough. Any runner can finish a marathon, it takes a special kind of (idiot) runner to finish an ultramarathon! Those are my peers, comrades, and friends. You hear a lot about how great the "community of runners" is...that's true. The community of ULTRA runners is even more special and connected. There's no substitute for the shared experience of ULTRA pain and ULTRA fatigue that binds people together. We become family. We support each other and want each other to succeed.
The Illinois Marathon taught me a few things. Most importantly, I now know who I am. I'm a trail ultra guy. And I am satisfied with that moniker. I'll run when I can, and walk when I have to. It's all about relentless foward progress. Don't give up, just keep moving and enjoying the journey. That's what ultras are about...and life too.