Ask any marathoner "why" they are running tomorrow, you will not only get an answer based on athleticism, but also a story rooted in inspiration. Yes, it takes a lot to run a marathon … training, patience, discipline, perseverance.
But what inspires us to take up this quest is what in many cases keeps us going. While it’s perfectly clear as to "what" we all will be doing tomorrow, "why" we all are doing this is not a question that is so easily answered. While the sources of inspiration are often very personal and differ for many, the passion it ignites within each of us is a common thread that ultimately joins all marathoners.
For me, inspiration has come from many areas and sources over time. There have been elements of inspirational consistency throughout my marathon career, but each year has also brought unique circumstances.
For starters there has been the notion of challenging myself. Before running a marathon I had run a few races here and there, but I had never undertook an athletic endeavor that required so much time, training, and both physical and mental endurance. Simply hearing stories of friends who had run and completed marathons inspired me and I wanted to join the club. Sure I had expectations around how I'd like to finish, but my goal was to just simply complete what I started and do so in a manner that I was proud of. This meant moving from the rank of "runner" to "marathoner." To all my friends who ran marathons before me, thank you for your inspiration.
Qualifying for Boston is something that has been a continual source of inspiration. While each marathon I have run has been an incredible experience in itself, Boston has always stood apart from the rest. I can't tell you how many times I've mentioned running marathons to others, only to be asked if I've ever run Boston. While Boston's qualifying standards are not easily met, and are only getting tougher, the fact that participation requires more than just signing up and/or winning a lottery is a source of inspiration. Unlike most marathons, where the primary goal is to just cross the finish line, those running Boston have two goals: Crossing the finish line and making it to the starting line. This has not only inspired me when I'm running in Boston, but all other marathons.
Without qualifying standards, I can only wonder what the race would be like or what kind of marathoner I'd be. However, having to qualify has provided a continual source of inspiration as it has always pushed me to test my limits in over a decade of marathon running.
Some look at marathon running as a selfish activity. Yes, it's not a traditional team sport like baseball, basketball, or hockey, but ask people why they are running and the perception of marathon running as a selfish activity will change.
Just ask Dick Hoyt. Does he run for himself? No he runs for his son. Just ask someone who has lost a loved one. Do they run for themselves? No, they run in memory of someone else. Just ask anyone who's running for a charity. Are they running for themselves? No, they are running to raise research funds for and awareness of causes, issues, and disease that impact so many aspects of society. As for me, I'm running for my kids and family. While my kids are too young to fully understand what I will be doing tomorrow (my son is 2 ½ and my daughter is a mere six days old), I can only hope that one day my marathon running will serve as a source of inspiration as their lives unfold.
When the gun goes off tomorrow, we'll all be partaking in something amazing. It will be an experience that we will all take with us forever. During the race there will certainly be a lot of challenges. You will hurt. You will experience discomfort. This is all because of "what" you are doing. However, in these moments don’t think about the "what." Think about the "why." It's in these moments that you’ll grasp the true spirit of the marathon. It's what has gotten you this far and what will carry you across the finish line.
- Matt Pepin, Boston.com sports editor
- Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
- Ty Velde is a 15-time Boston qualifier who's completed 11 consecutive Boston Marathons and 23 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 12th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
- Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes