Dear Younger Jill,
As I await the starting call of the 2018 Boston Marathon, I wanted to write you to share insight, and to impart things I’ve learned along the miles. You’re probably reading this after you’ve finished your first marathon, the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon, and are making plans to run the 2011 Chicago Marathon, your first of the six World Marathon Majors, thereafter becoming hooked, and on a mission to run them all. As you’ll soon discover, your main goal and dream race will be the Boston Marathon. It will seem like an impossible feat, and in some regards it is. To run Boston is both an honor and a privilege. Your road to Hopkinton will be long and demanding, and you’ll become discouraged along the way but don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Here’s my first bit of insight … you WILL make it!
Additionally, here are 26.2 pieces of advice I think you should know before you embark on your journey to Hopkinton. Keep them in mind and reflect upon them often.
1. REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED. It’s easy to get caught up in everything. Always remember the reason why you started. Only you will know the answer.
2. PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU’RE CRAZY. Set your goals anyway. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.
3. RUNNERS ARE INHERENTLY CRAZY. Embrace it. Own it. You are crazy. That’s fine, so is everyone else in their own way. Setting unattainable goals is worth it.
4. DON’T LOSE TOUCH WITH YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS OR GOD. Skip a Saturday long run and spend time with your family. You don’t have to run every weekend. If you’re doing a weekend long run, run on Saturday and go to church on Sunday. God plays an important part in your story.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Don’t run if you’re injured. Give your body time to heal. Give yourself space between races.
6. DON’T SPEND TOO MUCH MONEY ON RUNNING GEAR. (Don’t tell your significant other I said that).
7. WEAR BRIGHT COLORS AND SHOES. Stand out. Be bold. Wear colorful, patterned SPI belts and add a pop of color to your race outfits and have fun. It makes running more exciting. The brighter the shoe, the faster the runner ;)
8. RUN WITH OTHERS. Try not to do this alone. Find someone who shares a similar goal and will be there to help you and, in turn, you’ll help them reach theirs. There will be certain groups and individuals you’ll come in contact with, they’re in your path for a reason. Run together.
9. CROSSTRAIN. Yes, I know, you don’t like anything else other than running. But it’s important to find another activity you like or can at least tolerate on your non-running days. Like yoga, cycling or swimming. P.S. Aqua jogging actually works. Do it!
10. REST. Take time and seasons off. If you’re not feeling it, don’t run back-to-back marathons and further cause injury. Despite what I say, you don’t HAVE to run both a spring and fall marathon in one year, but you always will.
11. IF YOU’RE TRAVELING FOR A RACE, ENJOY THE JOURNEY. One day, you will run the Tokyo Marathon but don’t race it, stop and smell the sakura. Take pictures along the way. Make friends with other runners. Interact with the crowds. Take candy from the adorable kids who are holding out a tray of gummy bears for you, and high-five them. You’ll make their day. Don’t worry about your pace and time. Simply relax. Make sure you finish with a smile. You will leave the country more enriched than whence you came.
12. FALL SEVEN TIMES, STAND UP EIGHT. There will be long car rides home with tears streaming down your face. You’ll feel defeated after having trained so hard and missed your goal by mere minutes. You’ll want to quit. Don’t. The number of race defeats will outnumber your victories. That’s okay. Remember your husband, who is an amputee, runs vicariously through you (yes, he will eventually tell you that). Get up after you fall down, dust yourself off and keep going. Fight one more round.
13. TRUST YOUR TRAINING AND THE TAPER. You won’t accomplish or miraculously get faster in the two weeks before your race. Just take it easy.
14. BE GOOD TO YOUR BODY. Get regular massages. Do physical therapy. Get a gait analysis by a professional.
15. RUNNING IS A GIFT. Not everyone is as fortunate as you, to have been given this gift. Be thankful, appreciate it and enjoy!
16. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. This is half your battle. Once you believe, the impossible will happen. It will be hard to convince yourself that you can do it, but once you do, watch out!
17. LAUGH AT YOURSELF. Laugh at old race photos and your painful facial expressions in them. Laugh at yourself for forgetting to wear body glide, and laugh at the way you walk down stairs after a marathon. Oh, and laugh inside at the spectator who tells you “you’re almost there” at mile 24 of a marathon. Laugh freely and often!
18. RUN FOR A CAUSE OR SOMEONE ELSE. Running for charity is admirable. It will make your running all the more worth it. There will be one special girl, Corey, an athlete living with a disability, who you will eventually meet. She will turn your world around. Run with her. Push her. She needs you, but you need her more. Trust me, she will make running worth it. Oh, and buy that Disney Marathon mug at the race expo because you will finish, even though you don’t think you will. You ladies will finish and you will regret not getting that mug.
19. PAY ATTENTION TO THE PEOPLE WHO CHEER FOR AND SUPPORT YOU. Run with those people. Support their goals too. We rise by lifting each other up.
20. HATERS GONNNA HATE. Pay no mind to those who are jealous of you and your success. They will always be there. Unfriend them on social media. They’ll talk about you behind your back, judging your training and goals. They have no place in your life. Shake ‘em off.
21. DON’T ALWAYS WEAR YOUR WATCH. Turn off the beeps or alarms on your watch. It’s not helping you. You will run your fastest two marathons without the help of your watch. Work with a pace group or pacer instead.
22. SMILE AND SAY CHEESE! Smile for the cameras along race routes. Buy race photos every once in a while, especially from the bigger races.
23. IF YOU WANT TO GO FAST, GO ALONE. IF YOU WANT TO GO FAR, GO TOGETHER. Ultramarathons. You’ll possibly love them more than marathons. Tread lightly. Once you run ultras, you’ll be hooked. Trail and ultra runners are a welcoming community filled with friendly, loving and accepting people. You’ll learn your heart will be on the trails … don’t say I didn’t warn you.
24. BEWARE OF SABOTEURS. There will be people who will try to destroy the very essence of the marathon and running community by causing death and destruction at the finish line of a very important race. Regardless, continue to show up for races and keep running. Don’t let it deter you or your family and friends. Run in spite of it. Run for the fallen. Stand together as a community and don’t let them win. Be strong and don’t ever let anyone destroy your spirit.
25. DON’T FORGET WHO YOU ARE. You are not an elite runner. This is not your profession. You like to run, okay maybe you love to run, but it’s not what defines who you are. Should it ever be taken away from you, that’s okay, too. Always find other things to love and do as well. Don’t allow running to be your sole identity.
26. HEAD UP AND WINGS OUT. Fly. You’re probably wondering what I mean. You will soon learn the significance of that phrase.
26.2 YOU WILL MAKE IT. This is the most important piece of advice from Boston, as I’m about to start the marathon: "There is no secret, keep going." Hang in there and don’t give up.
And trust me, it will all be worth it. The blood, sweat and tears will eventually pay off. It might not be as soon as you would like it to be, but with patience and perseverance, I promise, it will all work out. You’ll eventually pin on your unicorn bib, toe the blue and yellow painted start line with people from all over the world, all sharing a common goal … becoming a Boston Marathon finisher. Enjoy the journey, Jill. I am immensely proud of you.
Love from Hopkinton,
Older and Wiser Jill
Image source for cover photo from the Boston Marathon Instagram page.
Special thanks to Robin Ward for her edits!