Culture on the Run

How to Qualify for the Boston Marathon

  1. Go to Boston for the first time ever as a reporter covering the marathon bombings. Be so moved by the tenacity of the city that you vow you’ll be back the next year to cheer. Vow, above that, you’ll be back to run it yourself.
  2. Realize how far-fetched and absolutely ludicrous this idea is. Remember that you were never a runner at school, that you’re not really “good” at running.
  3. Realize how far-fetched and absolutely ludicrous it was to move to NYC from South Africa with a suitcase and a dream to interview Meryl Streep over lunch.
  4. Start to imagine what it would mean to qualify to run the world’s greatest marathon. Start to think about ways to knock time off your previous marathon, your second ever.
  5. Commit to it half-heartedly; tell people half-heartedly. Sort of aim for it at the Chicago Marathon. Miss it by just over 2 mins. Get bummed, but still celebrate, because it’s your 3rd marathon, and hey, a 15 min PR is nothing to be bummed about. Randomly bump into one of Nelson Mandela’s grandsons at the afterparty.
  6. Decide a few weeks later this is something you really want and so commit 100% to it. Sign up for the Paris Marathon, thinking it’s one of the Big 6. It’s not. (Unlike Tokyo, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Berlin & London.)
  7. Train harder than you ever have before – in between film festivals, interviews with Mark Wahlberg & Denzel Washington, 1-night trips to LA and late-paid invoices.
  8. Travel to Paris. Have a huge fight with one of the girls you’re staying with. Get over-emotional about her getting over-emotional. Find yourself crying in a Parisian coffee shop at 5pm, the day before the race. Think about all the things you failed at in life. Mull over all the ways you don’t deserve to be here. Feel like the loneliest girl in all of Paris. Marvel at how romantic the situation would be if it weren’t so sad.
  9. Make up with the friend, all go out and eat pasta. Try to sleep. Fail at that too.
  10. With renewed spirits, hit the streets of Paris, but at Mile 18, feel the lack of Gatorade and water and abundance of dried fruit and sun knock you down with each compounding mile. Reach the finish line and collapse into the arms of a person who takes you to the medic tent. Be pumped with glucose and reply to questions of “what day is it?” and “what is your name?” with “what was my time?” and “do I still get a medal?”
  11. Sit outside the apartment you are staying at, waiting for the others to finish and come back with the only key, crying over the 39 seconds that stood between you and a qualifying time. Cry a lot. Feel, again, like the loneliest girl in Paris – this time, covered in a heat sheet. Feel pathetic. Feel silly. Eat more than your bodyweight in French pastries.
  12. Go home on a super cheap but super long flight back to NYC via St Petersburg. Take a few weeks to re-think it all, and come to realize what Boston really means – and requires of you. Re-think everything you thought you knew about running a marathon. Re-think everything you thought you knew about physical strength. Re-think everything you thought you knew about mental fortitude.
  13. Come to a weird kind of understanding about the limits that we put ourselves and how they’re only as limiting as we, ourselves, make them to be. Feel more emboldened than ever.
  14. Commit to qualifying before your 35th birthday, after which the qualifying time lowers. Tell yourself you committed to a 3:30 time, and by darn it, a 3:30 is what you’re going for.
  15. Look for a marathon that fits in with your work travels and the cut-off month. Settle on the New Jersey Marathon. Train harder than you ever have before – in between film festivals, interviews with Mark Wahlberg & Will Ferrell, 1-night trips to LA and late-paid invoices.
  16. Be excited that you get sent to London to interview Meryl Streep for her movie Florence Foster Jenkins. Be bummed it’s at the same time as the NJ Marathon. Drop out of NJ. Email the London Marathon organizers begging for a highly-improbable-but-have-to-try-anyway entry. Feel them laugh at you through the polite email of ‘no’ they send back.
  17. Put Boston aside for a few weeks as you carry on life as a Professional Namedropper (entertainment journalist), while still maintaining the fitness you’ve gained.
  18. Open an email, on a day when you’re feeling particularly low, that has a link to a marathon that won’t cost you hundreds of dollars to enter or to get to, happening in a month.
  19. Tell no-one else about it, except two of your friends, who, on the day, drive with you at 5am to a very dark and deserted parking lot in Upstate New York to support you.
  20. Run 9 laps of Rocklands State Park. Wonder if the nuns playing tambourines as they cheer you on are real or figments of a tired mind. Win your first ever trophy for running by coming 3rd out of the oh-so-big field of 40 women.
  21. Feel euphoric for a week. Get incredibly drunk for a week.
  22. Send in your entry and pray you make the cut off for number of places they have in your age group. When you do, high-five yourself, and get ready to train harder than you ever have before – in between film festivals, interviews with Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman, 1-night-trips to LA and late-paid invoices.


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