Qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon Wasn't Optional, It Was a Must
Leading up to the 2014 Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, Fitbie will be highlighting runners from years past as well as women looking forward to taking on the course in 2014. After running her last marathon in 2004, Denise Pantatson thought she was done with the 26.2-mile distance forever. Then the 2013 Boston Marathon attacks happened, and she knew what she had to do: Lace up, qualify for the elite running event, and show her support.
It's been 14 years since I last ran the Boston Marathon in 2000. I thought that my last marathon, in 2004, was my last. After finishing the Mystic Marathon in 3:30 and again qualifying for Boston-- I thought to myself, I'm getting older and will never be able to run that fast again. Maybe it's time to stop. Not so surprisingly, with age comes chronic injuries. For my health, I decided not to risk being out of commission for a long periods of time. For my health, I focused on running shorter distances.
But after the bombings last year, my focus changed. I was so upset about it on so many levels. I was shocked at what took place that day and how it had affected so many people. My first thought, like that of so many others, was for the victims and their families.
Then, of course, my thoughts turned to the runners. My thoughts turned to one of my patients. I work as a physical therapy assistant in Connecticut, and I’d been treating a patient that was training for Boston, his first marathon, and was raising money for charity. I spoke with him after the race, and he was devastated. Forced to stop at mile 25, he was unable to finish. There aren’t enough words that I could string together to portray home much my heart ached for him; how much my heart ached for all the others that were unable to finish the race that day. I knew how very hard it was to get to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Many of those runners had trained for years. They’d run countless marathons in order to finally qualify. And then not to be able to finish? That hard work. That dedication. A sense of incompleteness that nothing could be done to change.
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It felt natural: I had to do something to show my support for the running community. After a few weeks of going back and forth, I decided to try and qualify for the 2014 Boston marathon. Finding a marathon I could actually train for and run before the registration opening of September 9, 2013, was anything but easy. I trained through the heat of last summer, I dripped sweat and gave it my all, and with the right motivation I qualified running the Via marathon in Bethlehem, Penn.
Thrilled was an understatement. I felt like I had done my duty. And although training through this winter has been tougher than in the summer heat, I can’t help but continue to think about the victims of the bombings last year. When I’m frustrated with the weather or my body aches and pains, again -- my thoughts immediately go to the victims.
Some of these people will never be able to run again. Never be able to experience the joy that I find in my stride every day. I continually tell myself how lucky I am that I can still do what I love to do.
My plan for race day is to go out and enjoy it. I want to high five the spectators. I want to thank them for coming out. With all the increased security, I am not afraid. I am happy and proud to be able to be there and be a part of this historic event. I am proud to be a runner.
— Written by Denise Pantatson, guest Fitbie contributor