Looking back

As I was doing some cleaning today, I came across this “finisher’s certificate” from the Wineglass Marathon that had been sitting in my stack of mail, waiting to be filed or trashed:

It’s just a junky postcard; kind of a cheap excuse for a real certificate.  You can even see the ink smears on it!

But although I didn’t give it a second thought when I first got it in the mail, I just never brought myself to throw it out.  And when it turned up today, it really hit me how huge an accomplishment qualifying for Boston was, so I decided to frame it and put it on my desk so I can always look down and realize what I’m capable of.

I love that right on there, in big bold writing, it shows that I beat 3:10 by one second.  One second.

It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds, since 3:10:59 would have gotten me into Boston, but it’s still so cool to me.  Especially because I sprinted so hard at the end to try to get into the single digits.

For those seven years I carried this Boston-qualifying goal around with me, 3:10 was the time in my head that I had to beat.  And I really did it.

By one damn second.

I wish I could go back into the past and show this postcard to the Matt of about five years ago, a guy who was really down on running, dealing with injuries and wondering if his body, kind of bow-legged and with fragile shins, just wasn’t made to run marathons, let alone a 3:10 marathon.

There’s no way he’d believe he’d do it, especially not by one second.  It was just too impossible a goal, and one second would have been cutting it way too close.

But it’s real, and I’m so glad today that I didn’t throw that stupid postcard away.  As I set my sights on a sub-three-hour marathon, I’m sure it will come in handy.

But I’m still not sure about three hours.  It’s not that I don’t think I can eventually do it; I just remember how awful I felt during miles 18-22 of Wineglass, when I believed at the deepest level that I didn’t have it in me that day.  More than how hard I had worked, I thought about how many people were rooting for me to qualify, and how much I dreaded having to tell everyone that I had failed.

In the end, I think that pain of letting you all down is what motivated me to find a second wind (the understatement of my lifetime) to make it happen.  And that’s something I didn’t realize back then in the moment.  I hope those of you who are still reading today will accept my very late “Thank you.”  But I worry about having that feeling again, shooting for three hours, and not being able to make it happen like I did last time.

This post is part of 10-part series on qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  Check out the rest!



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  1. Wow, I didn’t realized you had only made it by one second. That is truly amazing. Just think of how much you would be kicking yourself if you missed it by a second! 🙂

  2. about a month ago, i wrote you an e-mail asking for ITB pain relief advice. that was in december, knowing my first half marathon was lurking january 31. your encouragement and advice helped me suck it up and push through. i ran that half marathon and felt like a champ. so, thanks. i’m glad i found this blog for inspiration for many many more runs in the future.

    • Caroline, it’s so great to hear that! As I’ve said before, the very best thing about doing this blog is when it actually helps people get inspired or informed enough to do awesome things. So glad I could help, and keep me posted on your future runs. Congrats on your half marathon!

  3. I’m running my first marathon this Sunday! Thanks for this inspiring – and timely! – post!
    .-= chrissy´s last blog ..links! for clicking! =-.

  4. Actually, you made your BQ by a minute, not by 1 second. Boston gives you the extra 59 second grace period. Not that you needed it, congrats!

  5. Hi! I found your blog few months ago.Here is my question. Don’t you find that vegetarian diet tends to be too high in carbs? I am a runner too, not as fast and not as young as you are though. I gave up meat a couple of years ago, but I cannot say I noticed any improvement in energy level or running performance. I think the opposite was true, I struggled with my weight possibly because the carb intake was too high. The fiber interfered with my long runs quite a bit. I contemplating cutting back on meat again but I have 2 marathons scheduled for this year and I’d like to avoid complications. Maybe my body just does not agree with this diet who knows …I read Brendan’s books too, tried his recipes. Raw food is definetely out for me, I had too much trouble with it. Thanks, Mona

    • Hi Mona, thanks for commenting. I agree that a vegetarian diet is higher in carbohydrates, at least relatively speaking. I think I eat slightly fewer calories than I did before I was vegetarian, so that offsets it a little bit, but definitely the ratio of carbs to protein I eat has increased, with fat remaining about the same or being slightly lower.

      But I don’t think it’s “too high” in carbs, at least it hasn’t been for me. Most endurance diets are higher in carbs, so I think it’s a really good fit. Like you, I’m not a big fan of the raw food; I do it in smoothies and snacks but generally not for lunch and dinner. But even without that, there’s lots you can take from the Brendan Brazier books. For example, eating quinoa and other seeds rather than grains; that would be a shift from carbs to protein. Or pastas made from higher-protein flours than wheat.

      Obviously everybody is different, so maybe a vegetarian diet isn’t right for your body. But I think with some effort you could replace some of your vegetarian carbs with vegetarian protein, and see if that works better for you.

      Thanks for reading my blog for the past few months 🙂

  6. WOW! Ya’ll are really getting hammered with snow! Stay safe and warm up there- I hope the power stays on. I am so glad you are keeping that certificate! Would be a shame to throw away. National lampoons rock

  7. Tyler Yell says:

    Imagine yourself one year from now showing yourself today a picture of you finishing a marathon in 2:58. After reading your posts since last year I know you’re capable of a great deal more than you give yourself credit.

    Great post and enjoy the snow days / Clark getting pissed at Eddie for screwing up his life in someway.

  8. I would think all this snow is fun, if the mid-east would stop hogging it from the northeast 😛
    .-= Evan Thomas´s last blog ..My, Oh, Brownie =-.

  9. Oh I’m so glad that you DID frame it and decided not to throw it in the trash or anything- those things are so POWERFUL! That’s such an amazing accomplishment; it’s nice to have something tangible to look at every day to realize just how awesome you are.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Grocery Shopping, “Living Healthy in the Real World” Style =-.

  10. Hey there…love your blog! I’ve been getting a lot of great recipe ideas, and when the roads and sidewalks are clear in NoVa, I’ll surely venture to the grocery store to try some of them out. As a runner who’s very interested in food ethics, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

    How cool to be reminded of your accomplishment, and to remember how far you’ve come; my finisher’s medals do the same for me. It can be hard to see your progress when you’re focused on the day’s workout or race, but thinking back to yourself in 2005 is always effective!
    .-= Maddie´s last blog ..buffaloed by bon appétit =-.

  11. Thanks for the link to your article on the run/walk method. I wish more people were aware that it is ok to walk! I was able to complete my first marathon in Nov. 2009 using the Galloway method, and I’m currently training for my second marathon in May, 2010. I would never have been able to do it without the run/walk, but I read lots of comments from “real” runners who look at us with scorn because they think we haven’t trained. It took me a whole year to train for my first marathon – I’m 42 and have never been athletic at all and hated running. I worked hard to complete that marathon, and no matter how fast I eventually become as a runner, walking will always be a part of my marathon experience.

  12. I’m glad you framed the Wineglass postcard. It is like Wineglass in my mind – or even, closer to home, the professional golf tournament held in Endicott, NY (use to be called the BC Open but is now the Dick’s Sporting Goods Champion Tour something or other). Wineglass seems to be low budget and concentrates on the runners and on doing good in the community.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Dear Father =-.

  13. I would have totally framed the postcard too (ink smudges and all). It is a great accomplishment!

    And I’m totally digging the new store!

  14. Matt –

    You’ll be able to run a sub-3.

    It took me 3 tries to BQ, and 6 tries to go sub-3.

    I bet you do it faster.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Should Runners Feel Entitled? =-.

  15. Glad you kept it as a reminder, you have much to be proud of. Someday baby fraz may like to have some of dad’s memorabilia.
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Butternut Kale Risotto =-.

  16. Matt, thanks for this motivating post. Sometimes I get down about my running but having something to work towards and also having an accomplishment to look back on really helps.

    I think your junky postcard looks great framed up! Nice work beating your goal!
    .-= Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather´s last blog ..Hike: John MacDonald Tolt River =-.

  17. This snow is absolutely crazy-I agree. But I’m loving working from home. I’m getting kind of spoiled. As the dedicated runner that you are, I am sure all this snow is killing you. I am on crutches so it’s hard for me to even go outside. It’s a mess, but none this less I loved this motivating post.
    .-= Lauren @ Eat, Drink, and Be Hopeful´s last blog ..Health and Nutrition Editors Showcase =-.

  18. Love the postcard:) Maybe you and Erin can use all of your running memorabilia/accomplishments to decorate the basement?!

    I know I have told you this in person but I am super proud of the BQ qualification and am super proud of the blog!! A sub-3 is definitely within your grasp. I can’t wait to celebrate one year of NMA!!!

  19. About the run/walk post – it is definitely looked down upon by the runners I know. I never condemned it, but I never did it during a race. I might use that strategy during my next 5K. (The longest distance I’ve raced.) For me, I think the benefit of walking is not as much physical as mental – a chance to refresh your mental focus and drive.
    .-= Alisha N´s last blog ..Family Birthdays: Ray turns 5! =-.

  20. I love that you did this 🙂
    .-= Morgan @ Life After Bagels´s last blog ..Too Many Dates =-.

  21. Hey Matt, just found your blog today and must say it is quite intriguing as I am both a competitive distance runner and have also recently started experimenting with a vegan diet, so I look forward to reading your experiences as a vegetarian athlete.

    Congrats on the BQ! I ran Boston several years ago in 2:48 and let me say, once you make that last turn onto Boylston street, there is nothing quite like it in the world. I’ll keep an eye out for you from the sidelines.

    Oh yea, if you have the chance to run/train in snowy and even blizzard conditions I would do it, you never know what the race day weather in Boston is going to be like and that includes blizzards, seriously, be prepared for the extremes by training in the extremes. That has always been my policy anyways 🙂
    .-= Matt Savage´s last blog ..Vegetarian Singles vs. BBQ Singles =-.

  22. Great story Matt. I just found your site today through the wonders of twitter and really like it. As a fellow vegetarian runner I’m always happy to find more of my kind.

    I’m definitely adding this site to my blog reader. Good luck with your future running!
    .-= Brett´s last blog ..Post-Run Recovery – The R.I.C.E. Method =-.

    • Hi Brett, glad you found me. Always good to have more veg. athlete readers. Not to mention males. (If you look at the comments, you’ll see that so much of the audience is women!)

      Hope to hear more from you!

  23. So, all things considered, How many calories would you consume per day when you’re booking 30-35 miles a week?

    • Alex, I really don’t have a good guess. I don’t count calories or even carbs/protein. I’d say 2500-4000 calories per day. I realize that range is so big it’s unhelpful, but it’s the best I can do.

  24. Great job on qualifying for Boston! Great Blog!
    I have been running for 31 years even ran 60 miles on the track and completed an Ironman in 2003, but have never qualified for Boston… yet. I have not heard if Core Performance Endurance by Mark Verstegen or Run Less, run Faster either but will be purchasing them as I have heard of the techniques and believe in quality over quantity. I ran 3:39 (my best) on 25-30 miles a week.

    My issue is that I had Open Heart surgery Dec. 23, 2009 to repair a complex genetic heart valve defect that was leaking 40% of my blood backwards. It went undetected my entire life until Oct. 22, 2009. They also found I have a Ventricular Arrhythmia which I take a beta blocker to control.

    But now I feel the best in my life and now I have a Boston Qualifier in me. This Saturday 7/24/2010 I will race my road bike to the top of Mt. Evans which is 14, 200 ft in the Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hill Climb here in Colorado.

    I am a Heart Survivor, but still am a runner.

    Wish you continued running success.

    • Bob, great story. Funny how big an accomplishment qualifying was for me, and I didn’t have to overcome any sort of health problems to do it. People like you who attempt it after stuff like what you’ve been through are truly inspiring.

      What was your 60-mile track race? Did you go crazy?

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