The Best Race of My Life
Contributed by Jenni Dubman, a 2018 Ambassador for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon.
It was a day just like any other… just kidding. My alarm went off in the dead of night at 3:30am. This was no ordinary day. And I didn’t know it yet, but on that day I was about to have the best race of my life.
Everything I’d done for the past 18 weeks fell together like the last piece of the puzzle perfectly falling into place. After 7 years of running marathons, I finally qualified for the Boston Marathon with a 03:30:05 finish time.
This did not happen overnight, and if you asked me, I did not expect this to happen on the day and the course that it did. However, if you were to ask some of my coaches and training partners, they knew. They saw what I failed to notice during this training cycle. I was strong and my training was exactly where it needed to be in prepping for my fastest marathon to date.
Coming off of a disappointing fall marathon at Chicago in 2017, I was struggling to believe that I had it in me to qualify for Boston, but I didn’t let it prevent me from trying. In the beginning of the year I focused my training in the trails. I knew that this would help me prepare the hills of The Biofreeze SF Marathon course. Not only that, but I found so much joy on the trails. I kind of fell in love with running all over again. They were challenging, demanding grit and heart, but the reward was the view at the top and knowing you climbed for miles and earned every horizon you could see. Or if it was foggy, cold and wet, it was the smiles and the labored breath you could hear from your friends knowing you all did it together. There was nothing like it.
The other aspect that I never skipped out on, or took lightly, was my speed training. I am confident that these structured workouts at the track primed me for the pace I needed to qualify. I followed the RUN365 training schedule and participated in their weekly long runs, running with the 8:30-9:00 pace group (a group of amazing and inspiring runners). We chatted, we complained, and learned so much about each other. The best part was, we all supported and cheered each other on through hundreds of training miles and long runs, and they were vital when the tough miles felt impossible.
On race day, my alarm went off at 3:30am and I worked through my routine of coffee, breakfast, bathroom, took stock of all my race kit, and double checked that I hadn’t forgotten anything in my bag before getting a car to the start line. I met up with some of my RUN365 training buddies and race ambassadors in the VIP area. Around 5:15am, we stripped off our warm layers and headed to the corrals. I found Corral B and the 3:30 pacers (even though I was unsure if this was something I wanted to commit to even seconds before the start). I quietly separated from my friends and found a spot for myself where I could focus on my race, and before I knew it, I was crossing the start line for the best race of my life.
I am so thankful the 3:30 pacers kept me at an honest pace at the start. I tend to go out too fast because of all the excitement, but I made SURE to not pass the pacers. I knew it wasn’t necessary and I needed that energy for later. Around mile 4 or 5, after the first of many hills, I took notice of how everything was feeling: my heart rate and breathing were comfortable, and everything felt amazing and the pace felt easy. It was right then I decided then that today was my day. This was going to happen. I was going to qualify for Boston. Miles 1-16 were amazing – even though they were during the hardest part of the course, I was trained for it and knew exactly what was coming.
Hitting the Wall
At mile 17-18, I hit the first wall. The park’s non-stop rolling hills got to my head and they seemed to never end. I tried to remind myself that after every uphill there was a downhill on the other side, and to stay positive. It was so hard. There were 3 pacers for the 3:30 group; 2 were ahead of the pace by about a minute and I fell behind them. The other one caught up to me out of the park and I knew I could not lose him. We were coming up on some major downhills and boy, did I need them. I was hanging on to the pace by threads and needed some recovery and faster miles to make sure I stayed on pace. Jeff, the 3:30 pacer, who also ran and paced with RUN365, was my saving grace. He coached me through those tough and final miles and made sure I stayed positive. When I say I couldn’t have done it without him, I mean it. He was so supportive and such an amazing teammate for me that day.
Crossing the Finish Line
The last 4 miles were a blur. I knew how close I was, but my mind was giving out on me, and my legs were slowing down. I knew I had friends cheering for me in the last 2 miles, so I focused on getting to each of them. Even when I saw the finish line and Jeff was telling me to take it home, I couldn’t get my legs to move faster; my feet felt like bricks and I was completely drained. Somehow, though, through the all the discomfort, self-doubt, and pain, I did it. My hard work did it. My dedicated training did it. I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes and pride in my heart that no one could ever take away. I finished with 4 minutes and 55 seconds below my Boston Qualification time which will hopefully be enough to toe the start line April 15, 2019.
Dreams don’t just happen; they happen with hard work, focus, patience, persistence, love, and gratitude.
Don’t miss the opportunity to make your own dreams come true at The 2019 Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon! Register today!