How Colfax Helped Me Qualify for Boston

I really do love to run. However, it does not come naturally. Even now that I run all the time, I kind of hate the beginning of every run. I mean, who wouldn’t rather just sit on the couch and eat Cheez-Its?

But then I remember how good it feels once you get going—being outdoors, working up a sweat, time to think on my own, listening to music, chatting with a running buddy, and of course that feeling of accomplishment after the run.

As I said, however, it does not come naturally to me. It takes some (a lot) of energy for me to get moving each day—some days more than others. When I started running, about 10 years ago, I could run about a block if I really put in maximum effort. I stuck with it, however, and then a block turned into a mile, and a mile turned into 5K and so on.

I never thought I could run a 10K, but then I did. I never thought I could run a marathon, but then I did. It wasn’t fast or pretty, but I did it. I would have never thought I could run a marathon. Never. But I did.

So, when I thought of trying to run the Boston Marathon, my hometown race, it just seemed out of my reach. The first time I ran it was with a charity, and that was great, but the BQ, the Boston Qualifier, that was something to strive for.

You have to be able to run a marathon in a certain amount of time to qualify to get into Boston—that’s called a “BQ,” Boston Qualifier. Like a dog sniffing out a bone, I started to research it.

What would my qualifying time be? It’s based on age and gender (the older you are, the slower you can be), so how old did I have to be for my most recent marathon time to qualify?

80 years old…ok, back to the drawing board.

I met with a guy who was a running coach, and told him of my dream to run a Boston Qualifying time. This is a common running dream so he kind of nodded his head, like, “I’ve heard this before.”

I said I wanted to run it in the Colfax Marathon, our Denver marathon. He told me “that is not a BQ course.” He said, “its hilly.” He said a few other valid reasons it was not a BQ course. What he really meant was it was not a BQ course FOR ME.

He saw my previous times and he just couldn’t see it, he just could not see me running that kind of race. So, I couldn’t see it either. But I still wanted to qualify for Boston, so I found a downhill marathon (a popular qualifying trick).

I read everything I could about qualifying and this coach’s tips did get me to a BQ on the downhill course.

I was ecstatic and Boston was terrific (that is an understatement!). I ran it the year after the bombings and the energy and love in the air all around the city was palpable. But something was nagging at me.

Wasn’t a downhill course kind of a short cut? Did I really deserve that run around Boston? Sure, I did technically. Ugh, I wanted that BQ for my old hometown race to be run on the streets of my new hometown, Denver, with the hills and altitude and all. If I could gradually work up from running one block to running 26 miles, couldn’t I train up my speed too?

I talked to a different coach and instead of saying Colfax “is not a BQ course,” he looked at my times and basically said, “you need to get to work.”

Ok, so it was going to be hard, but he could SEE it, and so now I could see it too. I could literally see it my mind.

I worked hard, and kept plugging away and my coach kept gently pushing me in the right direction. If he doubted my ability to get a BQ in the Colfax Marathon (and how could he not?), he didn’t say it.

Well Colfax is kind of a hard race, and it is hilly, but it’s also beautiful and has a warm, friendly, hometown crowd cheering you on. So, with all the positivity in the world behind my run, I did it.

It turns out Colfax IS a “BQ” course, even for me!

Now I get to go back to Boston, and I learned something very important along the way. I learned that I don’t really need people to tell me what I can’t do, that is just not helpful. What I really need—what we all need—is someone to share our vision, to believe in the possibilities.

So, tell me, what do you believe is possible?


— Joyce Gottesfeld, MD, is an OB/GYN and has been practicing with Kaiser Permanente Colorado for 21 years. She’s a wife, proud mother of three girls, and an avid runner. When she is not doing the work that she loves – delivering babies, performing surgery, and helping women in the most personal area of their lives – she is making her way through the crazy chaos of a full life.