By Kimberly Richards

If you were to ask me 4 years ago if I thought I would ever run the Boston Marathon, I would have said there is no way and then I would have laughed. At that point, I had already run 9 marathons, with the most recent being Chicago Marathon in 2015 with a time of 4:07:38 (9:27 pace). For my age group, I needed to run an 8:23 mile pace. That wasn’t something that I thought was possible.

It wasn’t until I moved to Dallas and started surrounding myself with like minded individuals that my mindset started to change. I started attending Thursday night run group, Pint Striders. Through that group, I met some folks who ran in the morning, from the local Starbucks, who called themselves Dallas Running Project (DRP). I was completely intimidated. They kept inviting me to come out and run with them, and I would see them on the trail in the morning. They met really early and to me, they ran much faster than I did. However, the more time I spent with these “really fast” runners casually and listening to them encourage and support each other for all distance races and training runs, I decided that I wanted to be a part of that. I started showing up for the “easy” runs of 8 miles, of which I could only do about 5, and they lost me in the first mile. I would meet back at the Starbuck’s, defeated, for coffee, and even though I only did a portion of what everyone else did, they were so accepting and encouraging, that I wanted to come back and be better.

I was initially embarrassed to talk about my running history that included 9 marathons in as many states, but none that were run in a time that I felt was “respectable”. I didn’t even have a Garmin watch that uploaded to GarminConnect automatically. I didn’t even have Strava! This was a relief for me, though, so no one could see how my training runs were going or not going! I kept showing up though, and I was determined to fake it until I make it. I started seeing improvements in my run, comparing and analyzing everything on my excel spreadsheet. This lit the fire that I needed to be completely committed to the idea that I could actually, one day, run THE Boston Marathon!

I received an 8 week half marathon training plan from one of the runners in the DRP. As I looked at it, I see track workouts on Tuesdays. I didn’t even know how many meters one loop around the track was. I was intimidated once again, so I went to a track where no one was to either succeed or fail in peace.  I followed these 8 weeks of workouts to the T! I didn’t know what half of it meant, and I googled a lot! Tempo, steady state, track, mile repeats, I did it all and mostly by myself. The Austin 3M Half Marathon was my debut race since starting to run with the DRP. I honestly felt like a brand new runner, with zero expectations on what I was going to do or what I was even capable of. I had put in some significant work and I was ready to see where I would end up. I completed this race with a Personal Record of over 20 minutes! I still look back on this race as a pivotal moment in my running history, the moment that I knew that I had never really tried. I was ready to really try and I was going to run The Boston Marathon!

The Monday after this race, I got the coach that a lot of the “really fast” runners used and I told him I wanted to qualify for Boston. I gave him my excel spreadsheet and anxiously awaited a training plan. I didn’t tell anyone about my new running coach, or my desire to qualify and run Boston. Even though I was ready to take on this challenge, I was still scared that I wouldn’t be able to get the job done. I had one good half marathon, and needed to take 27 minutes, minimum, off my best marathon time. I am a numbers person and the odds were not in my favor.

Over the course of the next 4 months, I completed every workout that was on my schedule. I started going to bed at 8PM, because these 4:30AM wake up calls were really taking it out of me! I was eating everything in sight, not a bad problem because I love food! I dropped weight, that I didn’t even know I needed to drop; also not upset about that. I was able to keep up on the 8 mile runs from the starbucks and I was feeling really excited about my marathon, Mountains to Beach, in Southern California. There was a small group of us going and we all had Boston Qualifying goals.

Mountains to Beach was a marathon that was a net downhill course, and was known to have a lot of Boston qualifiers. I got my race plan from my coach, laid out my outfit for race day, ate my plate of pasta and drank my thousand glasses of water and tried to relax for a night of restless sleep. I never sleep well before a race, but this wasn’t just any race. This was THE race.

Standing in the starting coral, with my fellow runners, it was hard not to get too excited about the race, my performance, the after party or ringing the BQ bell! The weather was perfect, the scenery was good… HERE WE GO! My execution on this race didn’t go exactly as I had planned or how my coach and I had discussed. I took off too fast in the first downhill portion and overanalyzed the elevation map that I had seen and it threw me off. Doing math during a marathon is difficult and I was trying to determine where I was and if I was going to make it. As I hit mile 20, I see one of the guys from my running group, Eric, and I try to ask him if he was alright since he was just standing there. He told me he wasn’t going to be able to do what he came out here for so he was going to keep me company to the finish. I was so thankful for him, because I was just starting to struggle! I have said that a marathon is just a 20 mile run and then the hardest 10k of your life. I was on the hardest 10k of your life part of this journey and misery loves company, so buckle up!

As I made the final turn to the finishing chute, I can see the time on the clock. I am almost too excited to even continue, Eric is just a few steps ahead of me and looking back and yelling at me “COME ON!” (I forgive you, Eric, for yelling at me). I cross the finish line at 3:30:15; a 37 minute Personal Record and my very first Boston Qualifier! I could barely stand up. I wanted to cry. I was shocked, but not shocked. I put in 6 months of solid work!

I rang that damn bell! Boston 2017, I am coming for you!

Five months later, I ran the Chicago Marathon and executed my race plan perfectly while taking another 7 minutes off my personal record and finishing in 3:23:12; securing a spot in my second Boston Marathon for 2018. I was going to run the Boston Marathon, twice!

The trip to Boston for the marathon was surreal. Boarding the plane with all the other obvious runners, wearing previous Boston jackets and other running jackets. I felt part of something way bigger than myself. I was going to be running the streets that so many running icons have run and I worked my butt off to get here! It is hard to think that I deserved to be there. This was going to be my victory lap! I wanted to run this marathon for fun and take it all in.

This journey to Boston has included ups and downs, sacrifices, new friendships and blessings. I am thankful for every person who encouraged me, ran with me, cried with me, celebrated successes with me and just shared in this experience with me. I am not done with Boston though, I have my sights set on Boston 2020! I will be back!