I just read a terrible story about a woman who’s been banned from running the Boston Marathon. I say it’s a terrible story because she’s a good runner with some great times and she’s a mom and she’s never gotten her day in Bean Town. It’s really, really difficult to be both a great runner and a mom; the time and energy commitment to either is more than some of us can deliver. I may never BQ, I am well aware of this, but this momma has had a bib TWICE, yet life events have prevented her from running both times. Now she’s never allowed to run it.
I say this is a terrible story because this woman did a stupid, stupid thing. She cheated. Sure, she ran legitimate qualifying times in the past, but she lied about her most “recent” qualifying time, and that’s what got her the boot. She wasn’t able to run the race last year, so she let a friend have her bib. That’s a big no-no in Boston. You do not transfer bibs! I know it seems innocuous and innocent enough, but it’s a pretty clear & simple rule. And hey, there honestly aren’t that many rules in this sport, so follow ’em! Wearing someone else’s bib and running as a bandit are not legitimate ways to run. It abuses the whole racing community. But she went beyond passing out bibs. She used her friend’s finishing time as her own to qualify for this year’s Boston Marathon, even though she hadn’t run the distance in at least a year. She broke the rules, and then she flat out lied.
This is a terrible story because amateur runners struggle for their sport. We have families and jobs that vie for our time. We have to make tough decisions about training vs everything else. When someone cheats, we all look bad. Or, at least we feel bad. And as a mom, I can’t bear the idea of losing everything I’d worked for, all the time I gave up with my kids to train, simply because I was caught being dishonest in something as silly as a race! But that’s the decision I have to make, and why I am where I am. Am I a runner first, or a mom first? Yes, I can certainly do both, but one identity will have to take a back seat to the other, and I will have to live with that decision.
I get why she did what she did. I want to run Boston too. I’ve yet to make it there due to pregnancy (followed by injury, followed by more pregnancy!) but the integrity of the sport needs to be upheld. There is always next year! There will always be another opportunity to run, to try again, to plan it out, to get it right. All runners, no matter their ability, need to understand that planning IS key. And while unfortunate things happen and change our plans sometimes, we need to plan to roll with the punches, not force an outcome. Whether you are running to Boston or running your first 5K, following a plan (and the rules) really are the best way to succeed. There simply are no short cuts to greatness.
This is a terrible story because she could have made it to Boston next year and had a great story to tell her kids about achieving her goals. Instead, she’ll stay home. She’ll tell her kids something else.