Athlinks Ignited‘s Marissa DeMercurio embarks on her journey to participate in the historic Boston Marathon on 4/16/2018. Take a look into what she’s done to get there and what she’s looking forward to.
My name is Marissa DeMercurio and I live in Arvada, CO where I am a member of several different (awesome) running communities. I have been running since I was a little kid. Both of my parents were marathon runners throughout my youth and they had us running local 5k and 10k races throughout Colorado. When I turned 20, I decided to train for my first half marathon, the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon, and I have been hooked as an endurance runner ever since. If you look at my Athlinks profile, you’ll see that to be true! I have claimed 109 races total and within that have run many half marathons, marathons, two 50ks, and one 50-miler.
This will be my first time running the Boston Marathon. In order to have the opportunity to run at Boston, you either need to run a qualifying time or raise a significant amount of money for charity. Until last year, I was nowhere fast enough to have a chance at qualifying. I had spent several years dealing with injuries off and on. In fact, I had three stress fractures (2 in my foot and 1 in my shin) in just two years. The persistent injuries didn’t allow me to train consistently enough to work on endurance and speed. But after slowly working my way back to health and finishing my first 50-mile race injury-free at the end of 2016, I set my sights on training to qualify for Boston.
Boston had always been a pie-in-the-sky dream for me that didn’t seem realistic for my abilities. I would need to take 53 minutes off my marathon PR to qualify. But after the bombings in 2013, where my husband had crossed the finish line less than 20 minutes earlier, I had a renewed interest in getting myself to the start line. I wanted to prove that no attempt at causing panic and fear would break our community, and I needed to support the idea that every single one of us is Boston Strong.
So I began an official training cycle in January of 2017 with a goal of running the Revel Rockies Marathon in June of the same year. I would need a 3:35 or faster just to qualify, but not everyone who qualifies actually gets in (due to the number of applications) so I decided my goal would be to run a 3:30, which should have given me a safe time-buffer to get in. I have never worked so hard in my life at training for a race, and my training indicated that I would have to have a nearly-perfect day to even have a shot. Luckily, I had a nearly-perfect day! I crossed the finish line in a 3:31:32, and crushed my earlier season marathon time by 43 minutes. I was never so happy to claim a race result on Athlinks as I was for this one! I didn’t know it at the time, but if I had run 6 seconds slower than I did, I would not be running Boston this year. The cutoff for applicants for 2018 was 3 minutes and 22 seconds faster than the qualifying time. I got in by a hair, and I was not going to take this chance to run Boston for granted.
After running my qualifier in June, I took a few weeks off to rest and recover. When two weeks turned into two months, it became clear I needed to recruit some outside help to get me back on track. This is when I made one of the greatest decisions in my running career: I hired a coach. We started to focus not on training for Boston, but on taking a 3-5 year view at transforming my running from a long-term perspective. Boston is one stop along the journey to realizing my greatest potential as a runner. If I have a tough day or week, we take a step back and adjust the entire approach with longevity at the heart of every decision. No longer am I training with a time goal or pace goal in mind. Instead, I try to embody (in training, in racing, and in life) my 2-year-old niece’s approach: Have fun. Be nice. Try hard. Have fun. (Double the fun. Always.) This has made training so much more enjoyable– we train by effort level and not by pace. We take joy in making adjustments that reduce the amount of unnecessary suffering. My coach cheers me on instead of making me feel bad if I struggle. And one of the best parts of all? We celebrate that running isn’t life, it is a part of it. So I eat what I want. I celebrate Burger Sunday every week. I enjoy indulgences. And I don’t end up resenting my training. By enjoying every run, I have managed to run the most consistent and highest mileage of my life. And I am super stoked to line up in Hopkinton!
The race is on Monday, April 16th. Monday may seem like an odd day for a marathon but in Boston, it is Patriot’s Day, a city holiday, so the entire community gets to come out and cheer on the sidelines. My husband’s family is from the Boston area so we will fly out the Thursday before the race and spend a few days taking in all that the Boston Athletic Association has to offer. The expo opens on Friday morning and stays open through Sunday evening. I plan to head there first thing Friday, as I want to ensure the greatest pick of sizes and race swag!
I’m sure when I pick up my bib, the pre-race nerve and jitters will start. Excitement, anxiety, fear. Did I pack the right clothes? Am I ready for this? What have I forgotten? What if I oversleep!? But I try to remember that this nervous energy is a good thing. And hopefully, my husband can be my secondary alarm clock that keeps me from oversleeping on race morning. I know that some people like to arrive at the last possible second, but I like to be really early. Inevitably the bathroom lines are long and the nervous energy has me standing in that line over and over again. It’s good to have extra time to sip water, stretch out, and converse with other runners. This year we have several local running friends sharing a charter bus (with a bathroom!) to the start, so I will be in good company.
Once the start gun goes off, my goal is to take in every single moment. This race is special. And it is one we won’t get to do every year– so I don’t want to miss or take a second of it for granted. There is so much history and so much camaraderie. I am blessed to be able to be a part of it. This is probably the hardest I have ever worked for anything in my life, and I might be the fittest I have ever been. But in the end, the time on the clock makes no difference to me. I am just thrilled to have the opportunity to say that I ran the Boston Marathon, and to carry on the spirit of the running community, embodying what it means to be Boston Strong.”