When I tell people I've run a marathon, they ask me if it was in Boston. As flattering as that is, I'm forced to say no. I'm simply not fast enough.
Their question makes sense, of course. Boston's the one everyone knows. But what most people don't know is you need to qualify to take part. You need to be fast. Of all the runners out there who finish marathons, only the top 12% make the cut.
Qualifying times fall into brackets based on one's age. A thirty-year-old needs to finish in three hours, five minutes; a thirty-nine-year-old in three hours, ten. The latter's how old I was when I ran it. My time? Three hours, forty-two.
I tell myself if I keep training, year after year, I might make it. When I hit forty-five, I'd qualify with a time of three hours and twenty-five minutes! I mean, that's plausible, right? Shaving seventeen minutes off my personal record?
Probably not. No matter how much I train, I tend to get slower with age. My qualifying time appears forever out of reach. I am, to coin an embarrassingly appropriate phrase, chasing a carrot on a stick.
But chasing the carrot is what gets me back out there. It's what feeds my ambition. It would almost be a shame if I caught it. After all, a carrot's a pretty big let down, even as far as root vegetables go. It's bright and orange enticing, but when you actually bite into one, you realize you're essentially eating a moist and tasteless stick.
I'm better off chasing Boston. If I keep training, year after year, I might make it. So I'll do that. I'll keep training.
Year after year.