The most fulfilling parts of my life have been when things are better than I could have ever dreamed. People always say to chase your dreams, but you can’t chase something you have never imagined coming true.
The times in life that have been least fulfilling have been when I’m chasing other people’s dreams for me — becoming a lawyer, designer, varsity volleyball player, a nice sweet girl.
The best times in life have been when I’m trying out “unpopular” things — and end up having fun with them: cross country, musical theater, ballroom dancing, marathon running, library science, user experience research, etc.
I’m not a mainstream kind of girl — I know that from being Annie in the musical Annie when I was 8 years old. I really didn’t like being the center of attention, being the lead role, being what ever girl “thinks” they want to be. I just wanted to be Tessie, or Molly. One of the smaller roles, and kick ass at it.
I can’t tell myself to dream big… I’d rather be open minded… try things I’ve never done before… try things most people don’t do… and seeing what comes my way. Instead of dreaming big, I tell myself to “try big.” Because if you never try you’ll never know…
Do you chase dreams? Do you let dreams chase you? Tell me what you think in the comments!
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started the Boston Marathon. I knew I trained harder than I had ever trained before, tapered, and carbo-loaded better than before, and hydrated well (drank my traditional gallon of water the day before the race). I packed warm running clothes, chemical hand warmers, thought I was prepared. I figured that anything I did wrong would be made up by the fact that I’d have thousands of fans there to pump me up, and my adrenaline would kick in. I planned to start out slow, running about 8:00–8:30 pace in the first few miles, then slowly bring it down to 7:50… then race the last 5 miles as fast as I could. Little did I know what the next 26.2 miles had in store for me…
The Race Begins in Hopkinton
We woke up at 4am to get to the race. It was quite an adventure just getting to the start line, getting to the buses downtown Boston, riding for an hour to Hopkinton, and waiting in Athlete’s Village until the race started.
Waiting for the Boston Marathon to start in Athlete’s Village, Hopkinton
My race started at 10:20am, as I was in the second wave of runners. Everyone was lined up by what ever time they had qualified with — I was runner #12321. I kept my sweats, long sleeved shirts, and jacket on because I was afraid of shivering my energy away. (Our coach had warned us to stay as warm as possible). The starting corrals were sort of crazy, with so many crazy runners packed in, and frantically trying to find their spot in the correct corral. Finally the race started.
Start of the Boston Marathon (picture from Endurance Sports http://endurancesportsnw.com/blog/2011/05/jeff-martins-boston-marathon-race-report/)
Sure enough, the ENTIRECITY came out to cheer us on. Thousands of Bostonians lined down the marathon course, 3–4 people deep in some paces. It looked like they were all there to watch the Rose Parade. I couldn’t help but start to cry, because they looked so proud. It was such an honor to make these spectators happy, and be part of their tradition. But they weren’t just watching… they were going nuts!!
Even with all the adrenaline, about half way I was winded, and my legs started to hurt. I started thinking I wanted it to be over. I couldn’t settle into a good pace — as soon as I’d pick up my speed, I’d nearly run into someone. (Learning to dodge people during a race is something I need to work on!) But I said to myself, you gotta see Rusty (my coach), make him proud. Be strong. I passed Weslley, and all the girls cheering, and that was uplifting.
I wore my name tag on my shirt, and tons of people yelling “Go Jill!” However, I felt the most encouraged when I saw people I knew. We were so fortunate to stay with family, David and Barbara Spinner, and they came out to cheer us on, and I saw them just when I needed to: right before Heartbreak Hill. They were holding a helium balloon so I could spot them as I came down the road. It was hot. I totally missed my coach Rusty, and my pace dropped from the 7:50s to 8:20s… I was thinking just get through the hills and then bring it home.
The Last 5 Miles
After the top of Heartbreak, I started flying down past Boston College, and was feeling like a rock star! I was running a 7:05 pace!! I thought, only 5 miles to go, I totally got this, and thought I’d fly home. But just about 4 miles to go, my quads felt totally thrashed, and each step was extremely painful! I started checking my breathing to see if I was winded, and I was feeling weak, I was losing gas, and was scared I wouldn’t have enough to finish. I saw my running friend Jay at mile 24, and yelled, but he didn’t hear me. The streets were packed with runners, and the crowds were going nuts!! The T train was pacing with me for a while, then passed me.
Even with all the support I just wanted it to be all over. And I wanted to finish strong. I looked down at my watch ad could calculate that I wasn’t going to PR, but at that point I didn’t care, I just wanted it to be all over! I just wanted to finish strong, I knew I could pull out a sub 8:00 mile for the last mile. I wanted my last mile to be sub 7:00, but it wasn’t easy. I remember going downhill and picking up some speed, and then I lost it coming back up. I made a right then the final left onto Boylston, and gave it all I had. I had I keep looking at my watch, to hold myself accountable. Sometimes the watch said sub 6 minute miles, and sometimes it said sub 7 or 8. It was excruciating, but it was almost over. I finally saw the clock, it was 3:59:42, so I sprinted to the end, so my picture would look like I broke 4 hours! (Even though this clock was from the start of wave one, and I was in wave two).
I finished in 3:36:28 and stumbled through the finishing area. I wanted so badly to sit down, but I knew it would be hard to get back up again to find my husband. I was very lightheaded, and really exhausted. I got my bag, and wandered around for nearly an hour looking for my husband who had started before me in wave 1. I went to the hospital tent to find him, thinking, “If I’m feeling this bad, Doug MUST be in the medical tent.” The medical personnel looked up his race number, but he wasn’t there. When I finally made my way through the crowds, and back to the family areas, getting lost multiple times, I finally found Doug.
I hugged him, thinking he probably had run just as bad of a race as I had — I thought — my misery had finally found company. Then he told me his time: 2:58 — I WASSHOCKED! This was the time he was shooting for, to break 3 hours! I was so surprised and happy for him!
Then he asked me how I did, and I burst into tears, so ashamed of myself and not getting a PR like he did. He was so sweet to hold me there, shivering in the wind, until I could pull myself together. I guess I was feeling pretty bad, even though those last few miles I didn’t care about anything but just that it would be over soon!
It was his day. And I am so proud of him. I remember thinking wow, I don’t want to run his course again, I’m not happy. Then when I finished my husband said “I want to do this course again. The water stations every mile really helped.”
Doug and Jill after finishing the Boston Marathon
The Play by Play: Average Minutes/Mile
Mile 1. 8:44 — starting out in Hopkinton, downhill
Mile 2. 8:33 — still downhill, trying to hold back and save my quads for later
I built this race up so much in my mind, thinking I would be on a magical cloud 9 during the race. However, I had no idea how grueling the course would feel on my body! Those downhills tore my quads to shreds, making the last 10k of the race extremely painful! I was happy to walk away with negative splits, but sorely disappointed not to get a PR…Seems like the road to getting PR in the marathon is long, especially when it takes multiple marathons.
Now that I’ve completed 3 marathons, I want to cut back and focus on my goals in the 5k, mile, and half marathons. I’m feeling inspired to chase my dreams of breaking my PRs in the shorter distances. I always wanted to break 20 minutes in the 5k, and 6 minutes in the mile. Looking forward to getting some speed in my legs, and bringing this speed into the marathon, and hopefully getting my PR in the 26.2!
Many of us want to be more efficient with our work. We want to cover more ground in less time, use less energy, etc. Runners seem to have this down to a science. They aim to accomplish more in less time, cover more ground, and use less energy. They prepare well, and push themselves beyond their limits.
What’s even more special is:
“After completing the training and the marathon, many runners break through mental confidence barriers and go on to accomplishing things they never thought possible before their finish.” — Jeff Galloway’s Blog
“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.”~Juma Ikangaa, NYC Marathon Champion
Marathon Runners learn to be efficient. They try to cover more ground in less time. When they can’t shave off time, they try to cover more ground, with less energy. It is all about becoming more and more efficient, and the runner who runs most efficiently wins.
What is interesting to me is the techniques and strategies runners choose to use to prepare to win. Speed workouts, rest, long runs, recovery, and cross training all go into that preparation, and in the long run, it helps them get to the finish line in few steps than before. Metaphorically speaking, can the same techniques be applied to cover more ground with the work we do?
As User Experience professionals, we need to make the experiences we create more efficient. The experience using our designs needs to be faster, so that the user doesn’t have to take as many steps. Our goal should be to help users accomplish their goals in less time, using our system. In order to do this, we need to constantly be testing our experiences, and seeing how fast they are — how quickly do they allow users to use them? As NYC Marathon Champion Jumaa Ikanga said, our “will to win means nothing with out the will to prepare.” If we want to build great experiences, we need to train our systems to be efficient — through constant “speed workouts” with users.