Dorothy Beal: The Hardest Race of my Life

Dorothy Beal and her mom at the 2012 Boston Marathon expo.

Marathons are hard, that’s a fact.

As I enter any marathon, I try to minimize the amount of things that could go wrong on race day. I do this because I usually am aiming for a goal time and want to eliminate mistakes or the like that could cost me time on the clock. I also selfishly do this because my mind knows how hard marathons are. I want to avoid at all costs making them harder than they have to be.

2009 was the first year I ran Boston. My mom, who had qualified with a slower time than me, also ran.

As the clock inched closer to the time the gun would go off, I started to get nervous. Shouldn’t we go get in our coral? Oh, we have plenty of time. As the Athletes’ Village started to clear out, I was worried and said, “Can we please go now? No one is here.”

“Sure, but that would mean as would be to our coral with plenty of time and it would be more comfortable laying around in the village than freezing at the start,” my mom replied.

I told her I had to pee, so off we went to find a port-o-potty and make our way to the corrals.

The BAA sets up what feels like hundreds of port-o-pottys, but I couldn’t find a line that had less than 20 people in it. If this was any other marathon I would have taken no issue with the lack of privacy and found a bush or a tree to take care of business (doing your business in the woods grossed me out when I first started running but 11 years and 28 marathons later, if I have to go—I have to go). But this was Hopkinton—this was the Boston Marathon.

There was no way I was going to break any rules when it came to this little town that hosts the start of the marathon. I got in line and whined to my mom about not having enough time. She again assured me I was fine. Minutes before the gun went off, I decided to ditch the line and run to my corral. My worst nightmare was coming true—I was running the Boston Marathon and I was going to miss the start.

I’m a bit of a rule follower so it never occurred to me that I could jump into a later coral, that the chip on my shoe would get my time no matter when I started. I felt like I HAD to be in that coral. The gun went off, I ran to my coral and started running immediately. I was mad. Mad at my mom, mad at myself, mad that on what I had imagined to be one of the most special days in my life, I wasn’t in my coral when the gun went off.

I still had that problem of having to pee and eventually forced myself to pee on myself. It was MUCH harder than I thought it would be, and it threw me off. I spent the next 20-something miles thinking about the start, thinking about the dried pee on my shorts. When I got to those last hard miles, I hit the wall and hit it hard. My mind wouldn’t let me think positive, all I could think about was how mad I was. When I made the turn onto Boylston, I didn’t cry like I had envisioned. I literally thought get me to that [insert expletive] finish line now.

My mom didn’t encounter the same issues I did. Once the runners cleared out from the first corrals, she used the bathroom with no wait, and walked over to her coral with plenty of time.

In hindsight, it’s all stupid. I should have moved back, ran with her and enjoyed the day. I let my time goal make me crazy. I ended up re-qualifying for Boston by seconds. It’s the only fond memory I have of the whole day.

Five years later, I can say I’m not mad at my mom. I’m mad at myself for letting something so silly get in the way of one of the most amazing marathons there is. When I returned in 2012 I vowed to never be so wrapped in a goal time that I would let it ruin a race for me.

I now run the day when it comes to marathon. I give what I have and celebrate all finish lines. The time on the clock does not define me.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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