Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My Boston Marathon Application

So this is the story of my Boston Marathon application. I went from no way to ever get in, to one waiver bib, to TWO waiver bibs, to no waiver bib, and back. It’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard. I went through two months of anxiety, wondering whether I was really going to get an application or not. On one hand there was the birth of my wonderful grandson Leo and on the other was this nagging worrying rollercoaster. I went from gratitude, to sadness, to anger, to acceptance, to hope and then joy. If anyone in the BAA Registration office reads this please don’t get mad. I was a bit emotionally deranged at times during this process. Here we go!

You may remember that last summer I ran into a Boston Marathon Bombing survivor while we were staying at Constitution Marina. We kind of hit it off. He gets two free bibs for life and he said he would give me one of them. I didn’t know if he really meant it or not; it seemed too good to be true. But I followed his instructions and sent him a reminder email in September. He told me then that the waiver bibs wouldn’t be out until after thanksgiving and to just hang tight.

In Sept I found out that the running club I belong to, New England Runners 65+, also gets waiver bibs for Boston. I decided to hedge my bets and apply for one of theirs as well. I didn’t know what to expect from either Rob or the running club, but I figured two applications would be better than one.

In early December I found out that NE 65+ had decided to award me one of their bibs. They have around 800 members and only receive 7 bibs, so I was pretty amazed. I decided to accept their bib, and gratefully told Rob that he could give his extra bib to someone else. 

I received my application from NE 65+ on the 21st of December. We were in the process of going to Minny for Christmas and to hopefully meet Leo as well so I took my application with me. I filled it out carefully and put it in the mail from the Saint Louis Park Post Office on December 23rd. I decided to use priority 2 day because I was a bit anxious about it. They told me that it would get to Hopkinton on the 26th. By the 26th when I went on line to track it it said “enroute to Hopkinton.” And that’s all it has ever said. The application disappeared into thin air.

I called both the Saint Louis Park Post Office and the one in Hopkinton, as well as the B.A.A.  At first everyone said just to be patient. With the holidays mail was delayed. But by the first week in January it was pretty clear that something was very wrong.

Some people at the B.A.A. tried to reassure me that something would be done to issue me another application, but I had no official reassurance and I realized that they were under no obligation to me. They said to wait until the end of the second week in January and then they would do “something.“ It really seemed ironic if after all of this I ended up with no entry into the marathon after all!

At this point in the process I was writing the following:

“I hope hope hope that by the time you read this all is well and I have a new application, but if I don’t....I will just have to assume that the karma gods really dont want me to run the Boston marathon!”

And the Post Office was trying too. The Postmaster in Hopkinton actually went to the BAA Office to talk to them about my application. He was sweet; if I do get into Boston I’m supposed to stop into the P.O. in Hopkinton and say hi! Apparently it’s right on the route.

The Postal Inspector opened a case and has kept it open. I think a machine ate it, or it fell out of a truck, or a postal worker’s bag, but who knows. Maybe someday years from now they’ll find my application in the basement of some disgruntled postal worker’s house, along with thousands of other pieces of undelivered mail!

On Friday January 12th I received official word from the BAA. Without the number that was on the application I was issued they would not issue me a replacement. There were seven bibs given to NE 65+ this year. They know the number range, 1403-1409, but they don’t know which number was given to which person. Did I make a copy of my application before I sent it? No. Am I kicking myself? Yes. All I can do at this point is wait for the other NE 65+ recipients to send in their applications and then MAYBE by a process of elimination they can figure out which number was mine.

When I received the official word I was very sad. Part of me was trying to talk myself down, after all its just a race, I’m not even a very good runner, its disappointing but not the end of the world. The other part of me was full of woe. By the next morning I gradually got more and more pissed off. Its so unfair and arbitrary. Why they couldn’t just give me another number is beyond me. I do think deep down the BAA would like to get rid of waiver bibs but they can’t since they are an old old tradition for Boston, as a reward to local running clubs and towns along the marathon route. But this is one way to get rid of one runner they don’t really want.

Ever since I started dreaming of running Boston I’ve had to contend with the feeling that I didn’t really belong there. The vast majority of people that run Boston get there by qualifying; running another marathon in the previous year with a time that is better than the qualifying standard for their age group. For female runners 65-69 years old that is currently 4 hours and 40 minutes. My best marathon time is 5 hours and 32 minutes so I’m not even close. I’m okay with that, I really am. I am who I am as a runner. I work hard at it, I enjoy it, I like the perks of getting older, I like working on the puzzle that is running a marathon the right way. Runners as a whole are a friendly welcoming group that don’t care how fast or how slow an individual runner might be.

But now I just feel like giving the BAA I big F YOU. Why get my hopes up like this only to have them crushed? Why not do the kind thing instead of following the rules to the penny? How many times does a bib application get lost like this???

Okay okay, I do understand. And I will get past this and go on to enjoy other races, other marathons. I’ll even keep training for Boston for a few more weeks anyway, until I know for sure that they won’t issue me another application. And then what? Well I’ll worry about that later.

Note: you can see the madness coursing through my veins at this point, can’t you?

And in mid January I wrote this:

“Today I did a 13 mile run, part of it at marathon pace, in crazy weather conditions. During the 2 hours and 45 minutes that the run took the temperature went from 56F at the start to 32F at the end. I dressed for temps in the 40s and I brought along a hat and gloves (and I’m very glad I did!) so even when a cold rain started falling mid run I was still pretty ok. And the marathon pace portions went fine, considering the weather, my lingering cold and where I am in the training cycle.”

And there was this musing, as well:

“The thing is, I really do enjoy marathon training, so if Boston is not to be then what am I training for?

Boston used to allow “bandits”, runners that don’t have bibs and run the marathon at the back of the pack. I briefly considered doing this, but it sounds like they really strongly discourage doing this, especially since the bombing. I have no desire to be dragged off the course a la Katherine Switzer, so I dropped that idea.

I’m not yet so evolved that I can train for a marathon without actually running one in the end. So I guess I’ll be looking for a spring marathon if I can’t run Boston.”

I still hadn’t completely given up hope, and I knew they were still trying to determine my control number, so on Monday January 22nd I called the BAA registration office again, and someone actually answered their phone. Oh yes, the girl that answered languidly replied, we mailed you a new application um Thursday, you should get it any day. WHAT??? So....I call Lee at home because I’ve had gone to Minny to meet Leo. He walked  out to the mailbox but  there was no application yet. He was coming to Minny the next day so we wouldn’t know until Friday when we got home if I really had a new application, or not.

When we get home, around 7 pm on Friday, yes, there’s a new marathon application in our mailbox. FedEx is open until 9 pm so I fill out the new application,TAKE A PHOTO OF IT, and drive to FedEx. They tell me it will be in Hopkinton by 3 pm on Monday. I wonder...FedEx doesn’t normally lose things but at this point I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

The application is delivered Monday morning January 29th and someone at the BAA even signs for it. So now I wait, and see just how long it takes before I show up in their system.

And the answer is, it takes a week. On Friday evening February 2nd, I get an email, official notice of entry into the 2018 Boston Marathon! My credit card is charged the entry fee, but strangely enough I’m not yet in their database. 

On Monday February 5th, I’m STILL not in the BAA database! What else could possibly go wrong??? If I still don’t show up tomorrow I’ll contact them. You’d think they’d FIRST enter me in the database, THEN charge my credit card, and THEN send me the official email, but at this point nothing surprises me in the endless application saga.

Tuesday morning I send the registration office an email and get a prompt reply. She says it takes one-three business days to show up in the database. I will be patient now, I promise! 

And finally, Tuesday evening, I’m in the database!! Yay!!

It’s February 13th now as I put the finishing touches on this blog post. I’ve had a week to get used to the idea that I’m really going to be running Boston this year after all. The whole story is starting to seem like a bad dream. I’m really registered now, and all I have to do is keep training, take care of myself, avoid injury and hope the weather gods send me cool temps, and if they don’t, hope that I have the sense to slow way down from the start and run even a warm marathon smartly.

I’m really looking forward to this race. When you read about Boston most people say to treat it as a celebration. However you did it you are darn lucky to be in this race, so savor it, every mile. In the meantime I’ll keep training in humid, hot Florida which is excellent preparation for whatever Boston decides to throw at me!


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