Monday, January 26, 2009

To Boston or Not to Boston

As many of you know, for the past several months I have been on a vision quest or sorts to qualify and run the Boston Marathon. If you've been around these pages long enough, you know I've failed in that quest. A bit of a bummer, but I'm over it.

And yet today, out of nowhere, an opportunity to run Boston has presented itself and I am not sure what to do.

My buddy Jeff emailed me today and said that the good folks at Livestrong.com had a few spots available for individuals who were willing to do fundraising. I emailed them with a quick synopsis of my story and within minutes they returned my note saying that a spot was mine. The catch? It comes with an obligation to raise at least $2,500 for Livestrong.com.

My dilemna isn't really in regards to the dollar amount, which is navigable (after I hit up my father and father in law, that is) though I never have liked soliciting friends and family for causes (actually, it's something I have never before done). My issue is that I feel like it's cheating a bit; I feel the "right" way to run Boston is by qualifying. And that I shouldn't do the race unless I have "earned" it. On the other hand, running as a cancer survivor -- and on behalf of others -- feels like it is a calling from above. I'm talking out loud now, but I also think that given my running resume and my battle with cancer, I don't really have anything to prove to anyone. I could step up to the starting line at Boston and look anyone in the eye and say I deserve to belong there.

So -- what to do? Of course there's the not-so-little matter of putting my body through the paces of doing my third marathon inside of of six months. I could probably deal with that too as I most definitely would not run this Boston for time.

Anyway, as a big believer in wisdom of the crowds, I am soliciting your respective thoughts. Please leave a comment with your thoughts and please hold no punches.

16 comments:

Nicholas said...

Do not run Boston like this under any circumstances. Seriously, I totally agree with almost everything you wrote in the post, but you don't really believe that you can run that race with a good feeling after all the effort you put in to qualify, do you? Seriously, don't do it.

I know that I would feel like crap every time someone asked me what marathon I qualified in or what my time was or whatever, and frankly, running Boston is a right you earn. Someone who has dedicated so much time, money and bodily destruction to earning that very thing surely can agree with me.

Howard, you are my best sounding board for running and fitness questions and you have helped me immensely over the past few years (and in years past) both personally and professionally and I really think this is a bad idea.

Hmm, after re-reading my comment, I have, in fact, held no punches.

Good luck deciding.
nicholas

Crazymamaof6 said...

i say go with your heart. IF you wanted to run boston as a cancer survivor do it. but if you have never before considered it? why short change yourself? just because it's an in?

although you rock as a rep for cancer survivors.

i think you would be unsatisfied to say that's how you got in to run it.

you'd be way more stoked to run it when you earned it someday. if you haven't run it before.

and your running resume?
says what? ultra athlete
not fundraiser athlete. right? if you'd never considered it before as a spokesperson ,i say don't do it.

df said...

I don't have cancer and I can't run 1 mile, so I'm absolutely unqualified to offer an opinion. That being said, run the race you moron. You can still try and qualify another time, but they gave Livestrong spots for a reason and you represent that reason perfectly. If anyone asks you what your time was for qualifying, why don't you tell them "Oh, about a year battling cancer and undergoing radiation, etc. I'm raising money for Livestrong." Would you think less of someone if they said that to you had you qualified?

Anonymous said...

why not just run to boston and skip the race. seriously, i think you should run it but only if you plan to do it as you ran other marathons ; not just to finish and say you ran it.gs

gailaj said...

I am not always a fan of charity teams -- not the charity-raising part but the fact that sometimes undertrained runners are given valuable race spots in crowded marathons. However, Livestrong is the charity I would make an exception for -- their mission, their attitude, what they do to help people. And you, Howard, are certainly trained for a marathon -- so why not do the race and a "mitzvah" at the same time? You can always try to qualify by time in the future. After I went through thyroid cancer myself, I worried less about competition or pride (which has been both a good and a bad thing, I guess....), but at this point in our lives I think we need not worry what other people will think.

Nicholas said...

Great points:

Mama:
and your running resume says what? ultra athlete, not fundraiser athlete.

DF:
If anyone asks you what your time was for qualifying, why don't you tell them "Oh, about a year battling cancer and undergoing radiation, etc. I'm raising money for Livestrong."

The venerable Mr. S.:
i think you should run it but only if you plan to do it as you ran other marathons ; not just to finish and say you ran it

Gail:
And you, Howard, are certainly trained for a marathon -- so why not do the race and a "mitzvah" at the same time?

This one is a real pickle.

After one night to think and after reading the other good comments, I say skip the race and donate $2,500 directly to liveStrong.

nq

neil s. said...

Stop the debating and sign up with Livestrong before you lost this spot. Immediately. Take it - and feel no guilt whatsoever. You've always wanted to do this race and here is a legitimate way for you to get in. Don't be a schmuck with this decision.

Carrie's dude said...

Run it!

If you're stuck on qualifying for something, make it a goal to use Boston to qualify (2:55) for New York in November.

Crazymamaof6 said...

i'm retracting my previous comment.

like DF, i can't run a mile, nor would i want to.

but as a thyroid cancer survivor. you'd be my pick to represent thyroid cancer. and you're big on livestrong.

so do it if you want it.

life is too short for regrets. if you would at all regret not taking the opportunity DO IT!

now you take whichever comment you like best and ignore the other one.

(i am totally fickle in my opinions at least i admit it.)

MuddyPuddle said...

26.2 miles. That's what a marathon is. It is not the place you run, the course, your time. It is 26.2 miles. The race does not care if you cover the distance in 2:06 or 4:06, if you went out too fast or ran the perfect race. In other words, you run because you can. Not because you obtained a subjective standard, but for you and your reasons. The Boston Marathon has this lore about it. Not quite sure why. Other than being the oldest marathon on US soil, not sure what all the hype is about. It's 26.2 miles - whether that be in Sacramento, Alaska, Paris, the trails of Tam or the god forsaken town of Boston. Run YOUR race and you'll be fine.

Jeff said...

I would be lying if I said that I wouldn't have the same concerns about whether I have really earned it by going and not qualifying. Those concerns lasted about 23 seconds. With due respect to the no votes who raise valid points, I think you should not let that stand in your way.

Howard, you are an Ironman, ultra marathoner, and multiple marathon finisher (with darn respectable times). You have pushed through on numerous death-marches when your body said to quit and others around you were dropping. Oh, yeah... had to fight cancer too and support family that had to fight cancer as well. As far as I am concerned you have as much right to front up at the start line of Boston as anyone there. Period.

As for fundraising. Let me tell you this. I have raised thousands by racing the MS150 three times and it was a thrill. When I was out there biking, I was very proud to have made the event about more than me and it helped me push harder. In fact, I feel guilty that I didn't raise money for a cause when I raced Arizona last year. I mean, what the heck, I am not going pro and I know that my racing has inspired others, so why not inspire them to give to a good cause at the same time?

I am not going to do Boston because of other family commitments. But, I will do other fundraisers this year (LAF Challenge and MS rides are on my radar). It's a lot of fun and very satisfying. Trust me, you'll feel great about it, not guilty.

But, I do agree with the comments about how to treat the race. I can assure you that you WILL feel guilty and rotten if you do all this training, raise all this money, and then go out and not take it seriously. There's a time for training and having fun runs, but when you put on a number and step up to a start line, you are RACING. And, RACING isn't about your time or place, it's about knowing that you put it all out there and then pushed harder. For many people, especially those struggling with cancer and other diseases, that means a win by just making it to the start or finish lines (I know you've been there before). But by goodness, if you are blessed with your health and strength when so many others are not, then you gotta put it all out there as long as you can. Anything less and you'll have to live with it for a lot longer time than the pain.

So, if I were you, I would set a goal to blow away the 2500 and I would plan to race my best race ever (regardless of time). And, have a TON of fun every step of the way (literally).

P.S. You'll get a donation from me for sure!

michael said...

you think you'll ever qualify? if so, don't run it until you do. you think you should take advantage of this opportunity while it's there, for fear you might not have another one (after all, you're almost fifty how, serious)? then run it.

either way, don't listen to nick. dude's never even been to boston.

Nana said...

I have read all the comments and I agree with some and then I think about your last race in Phoenix and I sort of remember how you felt healthwise after. Howard it is really up to you and I hope you know how your body will take another marathon. Your health is our main concern for you and how much your trainer thinks you can do. Please check with him first and see if he thinks you should go and then you have our blessing. We will certainly be at the finish line waiting for you no matter what your final decision will be. You are a winner in our book with nothing to prove.

Nana said...

I have read all the comments and I agree with some and then I think about your last race in Phoenix and I sort of remember how you felt healthwise after. Howard it is really up to you and I hope you know how your body will take another marathon. Your health is our main concern for you and how much your trainer thinks you can do. Please check with him first and see if he thinks you should go and then you have our blessing. We will certainly be at the finish line waiting for you no matter what your final decision will be. You are a winner in our book with nothing to prove.

wiley said...

Your competitive spirit and the sense of accomplishment is what has driven you to want to run Boston. While I totally respect the need for charities to raise money, in this case you might as well just give them $2500 and NOT run the race. It is a lame loophole for non-competitive runners.

Let's focus on doing something epic instead.

WAZ said...

As a very casual runner, this entire debate seems ridiculous. But as a lawyer, I can't resist a good philisophical debate.

While I respect and admire competitive runners, and understand the arguments against Howard entering the race under a "loophole," df has it right: Howard IS a cancer survivor. He just happens to also be a great athlete. Not only does he have a right to compete, I'd go so far as to say that he has an obligation to his fellow survivors to run if he feels he is physically able.

Imagine if Howard could not run as a result of his cancer, and some other survivor had the opportunity to run (or walk) with the team. You think Howard would discourage him or her? Not a chance. And none of you should be concerned that HS will not treat the race with utmost seriousness.

Go for it.