Last year -- when I was running with injuries for several months -- I was often asked why I didn’t just take a break so I could heal. I probably would have, if I didn’t already have so many races booked. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to wait until the last minute to book a race.
I live in a region where most of the races are clustered around a few weekends in late spring and early autumn. If I’m willing to drive for eight hours, I can get to races in neighboring states, but their race calendars aren’t much better. There are very few races in the summer months, but almost none from November until late April. For more than half of the year, racing means flying somewhere. That, in turn, means booking at least six weeks in advance to get reasonable airfares.
Some races fill several months in advance. The Boston Marathon, for example, fills in September. In other cases, getting into the race isn’t tough, but hotels rooms fill several months in advance. There just aren’t many cases where I can wait until the last minute to decide if I’m going to do a race.
This year, I’m trying hard to avoid committing to races until I’m completely healthy. I’m finally healthy enough to begin running, but I have to exercise some caution. I’m not completely healthy yet. I’m planning my training one week at a time, after consulting with my physical therapist.
I just committed to two more races. Booking races when I’m still working to get back in shape obviously isn’t ideal. Each one was a special situation.
Yesterday, I entered the Prague Marathon, which is just three weeks after Boston. I was reminded last week by Delta Airlines that I have a certificate that can be used for a first class upgrade on an international flight. That’s a big deal when it’s an overnight flight. There’s just one catch. I have to use it by May 26th. The Prague Marathon is just two weeks before my certificate expires. This is a race that’s been on my bucket list. If I do it this year, I can fly first class. If I wait, I waste that opportunity. It’s use it or lose it.
Today, I entered the Chicago Marathon. I need to do Chicago again, so I can complete all of the World Marathon Majors. I ran Chicago in 1999, but that was before the World Marathon Majors were established. I’ve run Boston, New York City, London and Tokyo. I’m signed up for Berlin in September, so after that, I just need to repeat Chicago.
It used to be easy to get into the Chicago Marathon, but now they use a lottery. You can get automatic entry by running a qualifying time. The qualifying time for my age group is 3:15. I don’t know if I’ll ever run that fast again, but the qualifying period for this year’s race goes back to the beginning of 2014. I had a qualifying time in 2014. This was another case where I have an opportunity this year that won’t be there in future years.
Today, coincidentally, was the day the New York City held their lottery. Some of my friends got in. Others didn’t. At least one friend was rejected for the fifth straight year. I don’t want to have to depend on getting into the Chicago Marathon through their lottery, so I’m taking the opportunity to get automatic entry. Again, it’s use it or lose it.
I’m not too nervous about booking Chicago. That’s not until October. Prague makes me more nervous. I already have an uphill battle to get ready for Boston. Ideally, I would have waited until after Boston before booking my next race. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting that long.