“I’m a Type B. Not a real ‘driven’ kind of person,” explained Barb Downey, wife, mother, and recent Boston Marathon finisher. Not driven? This is a woman who, after reaching age 40 (once considered “over-the-hill”) lost 130 lbs. (over half her weight), ran a marathon (her first organized race) and one-year later qualified for the Boston Marathon (by running 26.2 miles in under four hours – a pace of under 9:00/mile – in the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, Kansas).
[Above: Barb and her husband Joe head out to Ruth's Chris for a celebratory steak after the race. "I had an obnoxiously huge and delicious bone-in ribeye," said Barb. "Yes I wore the medal and yes, every other runner in the place had their's on!"]
And oh, by the way, when she’s not raising her children or training for the Boston Marathon she can be found preg-checking heifers, calving or control-burning pasture.
Barb is a 4th generation Kansas rancher. Her family settled in Wyoming in the 1800s and raised cattle but Barb didn’t grow up ranching but went to Kansas State University got a degree in Animal Science and started Downey Ranch with her dad in 1986.
[Above: Barb and her family visit the BEEF booth at the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo the day before the marathon].
I caught up with Barb this week to get a first-hand account of the Boston Marathon experience. Boston is, after all, the world’s most prestigious marathon. Thousands of runners come from all over the world – and Wabaunsee, Kansas – to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Boston.
“The day didn’t start off great,” said Barb. “My cab driver made me pour out the cup of coffee I had made in my hotel room. But when we arrived at the Athletes’ Village, thankfully they had coffee!”
Runners were transported to the Athlete’s Village in a caravan of school buses from Boston Commons.
“It was a festival atmosphere. A DJ was playing music and announcing the start of each wave (group of runners). There was an F15 flyover. It was total pandemonium, very cool.”
I signed up to follow Barb’s race via text messages, as did many friends and family members. The AT&T Athlete Alert was supposed to text updates at the 10K, half marathon and 30K marks but malfunctioned and didn’t send any updates until after the runner’s crossed the finish line.
When I got Barb’s time I immediately noticed something peculiar. After 10K (6.2 miles) she was averaging 9:55/mile. At the halfway mark (13.1 miles) she had picked up the pace and was averaging 9:41/mile. At 30K (18.6 miles) she was at 9:48/mile. But by the time she crossed the finish line her average had dropped to an average of 10:10/mile!
I’ve never run a full marathon but have heard about the infamous “wall” that many runners hit around mile 18. I asked Barb if this is what hit her.
“Actually my first mile was around 10:30. Slower than I had planned on starting but I was very conscious of not going out too fast. But then I settled into a steady pace. I really wasn’t paying too much attention to my time.”
[At left: Barb has a smile on her face...must have been early in the race!]
“This was working fine until mile 18 when we came to a short, steep hill. Suddenly I felt both of my quads start to cramp up. At that point I said a prayer and called on my supporters to give me strength.”
Barb’s best friends Debbie and Mary Anne had signed the inside of her Team ZIP (Zinc, Iron and Protein) jersey before the race. “You’re my hero,” wrote Debbie, a fellow rancher in the Kansas Flint Hills.
“After I got to the top of the hill – which was much worse than Heartbreak Hill in my opinion – I tried a job and felt OK so I settled back into a steady, but slower, pace.”
Barb finished in 4:26:45 (10:10/mile) – a time many runners would be more than happy with, especially in their THIRD marathon! Heck, I’d be happy to finish a marathon, which is a goal I have yet to achieve.
I know Barb’s goal was to finish in under four hours. Was she disappointed? I asked.
[At left: Barb crosses the finish line!]
“I cried for the second time ever…well, for the second time in my running career. It was joy. It was pride. It was a sense of accomplishment. It was the culmination of a four-year journey. The first time I cried was the first time I ran 10 miles. That’s when I knew I had changed the rest of my life.”
Disappointed? Of course not.
“I did something I never thought I would do, even when I was in great shape in high school, as a 46-year-old woman.”
Driven? You decide.
“But now I have to do it again and do it BETTER! My qualifier was a sub-4 which would be a nice Boston time. That means two more marathons (at least). Another qualifier and another Boston! Man, I'm going to need A LOT of BEEF!”
I’m a lot like Barb. I’m a Type B. My older brother is the Type A. Major success in business. Senior Partner at Deloitte. Best big brother a guy could ever hope for. But that’s not me. I was the kid called “lazy.” Every parent-teacher conference ended with “if only Daren would apply himself, work harder, he could be a straight A student.”
So what drives me and Barb and other “Type B” weekend warriors to set goals like riding to the top of the highest paved road in North America, running marathons, and tackling triathlons? Where was this motivation when we were the “underachievers” in our younger days? What can we do to motivate you to join us on this journey?
These are the questions I will attempt to answer in hopes of motivating you to join us in living a healthy, active lifestyle fueled by a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low and non-fat dairy products and lean protein (like BEEF!).