All great relationships take work. I’d like to recall one of mine. We were always doing things together—usually in groups and even sometimes we would go to the park or the beach. At this point in time, we saw each other everyday, but quite honestly, never really discussed our true feelings. As we got older, we started hanging out just with one another, no one else. There seemed to be an underlying emotion of anger though, as we typically saw one another when things weren’t going our way and we wanted to avoid others. While we really connected in high school, the relationship seemed to come unhealthy in our young adult lives. So, we ended things for a while. Enter the chapter in life when you start your professional career—we found our way back to one another. The relationship was used as an escape at this point, though. However, after getting into our careers, something clicked. We weren’t seeing one another to run away from problems, but rather, we were running towards something. Yes, running is the relationship in which I’ve had so many trials and tribulations, but it’s the relationship that has made me who I am. Let me bring you up to speed:

In 2010, I set out a goal to run a marathon and to ultimately qualify for the Boston Marathon. I flew from Seattle, Washington to Eugene, Oregon. I wanted to run my first marathon in my home state of Oregon. I finished the Eugene Marathon, but unfortunately did not make the qualifying time for Boston. Nonetheless, the experience of running was enjoyable and the start of a solid foundation. I kept running, more so recreationally after that race.

Enter 2013, and a close friend of mind was affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. His family hails from Boston and is part of the law enforcement there. So, the incident hit close to home. I wanted to go to the event because it mattered to me, not just as an avid runner, but as a friend. I took another shot of qualifying for Boston at the 2013 Foot Traffic Marathon in Oregon. Long story short, I wasn’t ready. I needed more mental and physical training to accomplish what I was setting out to do.

In May of 2015, I got a call from a friend who had hopes of running a marathon. I still wanted to qualify for Boston, so I decided to sign us both up for a race. We were running the Mountain to Beach Marathon in California. The time I needed to qualify for Boston was 3:05:00. With about 3 miles to go in that race, I was on pace and could sense the finish line. However, close doesn’t cut it and I ran out of gas. Finishing the race off pace was heartbreaking because I was within in minutes of qualifying. I learned something critical: as much as I train and prep prior to the race, I need to fuel during these races.

Later that year, in July, I went to Oregon to attempt the Foot Traffic race again, and queue another disaster. It was like a basketball game that’s in garbage time with 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter and no starters are on the court. At mile 20, I shut it down and stumbled to a finish of just under 4 hours. Previous to this race, I talked to my running coach a couple days leading up to the race. I told him that I really wanted to qualify and had a backup plan if this race did not go well. There was a race two weeks later in Washington. Recognizing, that I needed to save my training, I started preparing and thinking of my training plan during that long, difficult 6.2-mile home stretch to the finish line at Foot Traffic. If anything, it served as higher motivation for the next race.

The day of my next hope occurred on an overcast day in North Bend, Washington, and I was lucky enough to have my running coach and friend from Boston drive me to the race. I started out with the front-most group that was aiming for the sub 3:05:00 time. We were all staying together pretty well for most of the way. At about the halfway point of the race, that group gradually got ahead of me, but I started to catch back up—the first sign that this race might be different than the others for me. By mile 20 (I’m trying to discipline myself not to think about Mile 20 in the previous race), the cluster seemed to break and we all started to separate again. I was on pace to make my qualifying time. I started feeling some fatigue around mile 22, but it’s an awesome feeling in a marathon to look up and see your supporters and friends at a mile marker. It just so happened I saw them at a crucial moment in the race when I could either collapse or buckle down and finish strong. Reenergized, I surged to maintain pace and crossed the finishing line. I found my team and waited to see the final results before any of us really said anything. It was official: I had qualified for the Boston Marathon.

I ran and finished the Boston Marathon in April of 2016. The experience was breathtaking.