Boston 2013…

Have you ever wanted something so bad, but you didn’t get it? Well, that is the how I feel about the Boston Marathon. I want to win this race so bad, but it hasn’t happened yet, and unfortunately it won’t happen this year. Today, it was announced that I will be withdrawing from the Boston Marathon due to an injury.

Thanks to John Hancock, this would have been my third opportunity to run the prestigious Boston Marathon. Last year, the BAA gave me the great honor of being the Grand Marshal for the race. My two racing experiences, in 2006 and 2010 have been very memorable.

The 2006 Boston Marathon was the 7th marathon of my career. There weren’t as many elite half marathons at that time (or maybe I just wasn’t as aware of them), so I still hadn’t run a half marathon. I came into the 2006 Boston Marathon with great fitness and confidence. At this point I had an Olympic Silver Medal, 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the New York City Marathon under my belt. My competitiveness got the best of me, as I chased Kenyan runner John Yuda and ran on a (then) world record pace, not because I wanted to set a world record, but because I wanted to win the race. Our split for the 1st half of the marathon was 1:02:44. Little did I know at that time that John Yuda was assigned by his training group as a sacrificial lamb…he burned me out and dropped out of the race. Unfortunately I hit the wall and finished 3rd.  Robert Cheruiyot won in a then course record time of 2:07:14. Benjamin Maiyo finished second in 2:08:21 and I finished third in 2:09:56, still within 3 seconds off my personal best. I later realized that if I ran the race more conservatively, I would have run a better time, most likely sub 2:09. Running sub 2:09 on the Boston Marathon gives you a great chance to win…MOST of the time. Since that day in 2006, I believed I could very realistically win the prestigious Boston Marathon. (interestingly there were 5 Americans in the top 10 that year: http://tinyurl.com/botp49h).

I am grateful to John Hancock for another opportunity to race the Boston Marathon in 2010 after my big win in the 2009 New York City Marathon. That year, I was motivated to win two major US marathons back to back . However, due to a non-running injury while in Mammoth, where I slipped on black ice and got swollen knees. I was not able to run the type of performance I wanted to run. That year, I did miss some critical weeks of training,, but I managed to get to the starting line in one piece and ran a personal best for the Boston course . On top of it all, I sustained what I later found out to be a longitudinal tear in my quad pushing hard up the Newton Hills. When I crossed the finish line, I learned that a new course record was set by another and younger Robert Cheruiyot (in an incredible 2:05:52).

Well, I was hoping that 2013 would be the special year, because sometimes, the third time is the charm. In fact, I had set three goals for this year’s Boston Marathon:

1. Get to the starting line healthy
2. Run a PR
3. Win it

if I ran a PR and didn’t win, I would still have been happy. Trust me, I would have been jumping up and down with joy, especially if I finally broke 2:09. Unfortunately, I am not going to experience the accomplishment of any of these goals this year. I missed too much time of training due to injury.

You might wonder what kind of injury? Well, it all started on Wednesday, February 13, during my 18 mile semi-long run. I vividly remember how training for the NYC Half Marathon and the Boston Marathon was coming along so well up to that point. With only 3 miles left in my run, a leashed dog lunged towards me. I was startled when the dog sprinted towards me. I was caught off guard and tweaked my foot when I moved to avoid him. Coach Larsen was riding his bike behind me and asked if I got bitten. I said no, but I could not stop screaming and yelling at the dog owner.

I jogged it off and didn’t think the incident caused a serious or lasting injury. I did my regular recovery routine, ice bath, and regular massage at the Olympic Training Center. I was able to continue running regularly, but five days later, I started to feel a pain and tightness in my calf area. At that time, I decided to take a day off from training and focus on getting my calf better. Well a day turned to two, which turned to three and four. I resumed running, but it was hard to get the consecutive days of training I needed before the calf tightness flared up again. Sometimes I would feel the pain in my Achilles, which is a very vulnerable area for me. So there you have it, two months of great training, followed by a month of on and off training sparked by an incident with a dog. Those that know me, know I have had my share of incidents with dogs, and it always seems to happen before important races. I’ve had encounters with dogs in Central Park, in my neighborhood when I lived in San Diego, in Crete 10 days before the Athens marathon, and now the issue in February. Can someone please invent a portable invisible fence so these dogs keep their distance when I’m running?

All race withdrawals hurt, but this one REALLY hurts. I know the number of marathons I will race before I decide to retire are winding down, so I put all of my eggs in the 2013 Boston Marathon. Knowing I had this race made the hit of the NYC Marathon cancellation a little softer. I skipped a lot of races and appearances to make the Boston Marathon my priority and focus. Most times these sacrifices pay off, but an important life lesson is: not always, and usually not immediately. So what now? Well, now its time to reset the goals, and execute them. I have the NYC Marathon this fall, and I’ll line up some road races for this spring and summer. Cross training is a regular part of my training, but I took it up a notch during my injury. Using my ElliptiGo, I have been able to maintain my fitness and I look forward to some great results in my next races. For now, a I would like to say good luck to everyone who is running the Boston Marathon. I will be in Boston to make appearances for John Hancock and other sponsors, so stay tuned to twitter and facebook for details. Thank you for your support!

Run To Win,
Meb