In the fall of 2012, I realized that I would turn 40 about three weeks before the 2014 Boston Marathon and I thought… “how cool would it be to have Boston as my first master’s race?” I hadn’t ran the Boston Marathon since 2009, and I hadn’t focused on the marathon distance since New York, 2010. My BQs had run out for 2013, so I had to run a marathon and qualify in order to run in 2014. (I also had the advantage of 5 additional minutes since I would age up before the 2014 race). My main goal in 2013 was to race Ironman Florida in November, so I sought out a marathon scheduled for early spring when I could still recover and have ample time to train for IMFL. The Eugene Marathon in April seemed to fit perfect with my schedule, and I had always wanted to visit ‘Tracktown, USA”, so that was my target BQ race.
Fast forward to Spring, 2013… My training for Eugene didn’t go very well, and I started to develop a stress reaction in my right metatarsals as a result of some bummy shoes. I had to forgo one long run and about three weeks of training. But, the tragic bombing at the 2013 made me more determined to give it my best and get a BQ. Even though I felt great and had no foot pain, my race took an unexpected turn for the worst when, at halfway, I fell after another runner tripped my foot and my shoe flung off. I went down on my left hip, but carefully got back up to be able to run to mile 21 before being forced to a 5 mile walk/jog. Nonetheless, I still managed a 3:37 BQ, and was able to punch my ticket to Boston, 2014.
It had been over three years since I was excited to train for a marathon. Turning 40 and being a part of this year’s marathon motivated me to train hard and visualize a great race. My training went very well, and I was able to hit almost 60+ mpw consecutively, and I didn’t feel too fatigued. (I attribute that to IM training). I met up with some new people for long runs and enjoyed them. I hit my interval times. I rested when I needed to. I was feeling fairly confident about the race. My husband was running as well, and we planned to make a long weekend out of it.
The entire weekend seemed to go perfectly, with an arrival on Saturday afternoon, several trips to the expo, and meeting up with faraway friends before the race. We did an easy shakeout run on Sunday morning by the St. Charles River, complete with some strides. We went down to the memorials at the finish line to pay our respects. We had dinner with my parents, who made the trek to Boston from Florida to spend time in New England and watch the race. We took naps and rested and also seemed to handle the time difference just fine. It seemed like everything would be great, and it was…. except for my race.
I was assigned in Wave 3, which started at 11:00, Eastern, which was perfect for me since my body clock would still think it was only 9:00. I met up with my dear friend, Brenda from Columbus, who was also in Wave 3. We rode the bus together and discussed how sexy we looked in all of our layers of throw-away clothes. Since we weren’t allowed to bring bags to the waiting area we were bundled up in layers of old race shirts and sweats. I even wore on old pair of Newtons and switched out of them before the race. Thankfully, many people in need received much needed clothing and shoes that day since all items left behind were collected by volunteers and donated to the needy.
I wasn’t sure what to wear, since the temperature was only supposed to be in the mid 50s, so I opted for my bright pink Newton tech tee, which I could toss if I needed. But, as I waited for the start gun, I realized it was much warmer than forecasted, so I quickly took off my shirt, and stuffed it in the back of my shorts. I thought I could put it on if I needed it. The gun sounded, I crossed the line about 2 minutes after, and my race was underway!
My goal time for this race was between 3:10-3:15 (7:15-7:30 pace), and my plan was to start conservatively since the start is downhill, AND I was at sea level. Knowing how long a marathon really is, and knowing the hills that lingered starting at mile 16, I was perfectly happy with mile 1 at 7:48. I felt like I was walking, and my lungs felt amazing. I started to chip away at the pace over the next few miles, and by mile 6, I was running 7:30 very comfortably. I decided to hang there until mile 10-12, then I would decide if I could push it more.
The crowds along the course were just as I pictured: yelling, screaming, holding signs and just happy that we were all moving forward. Security was much more noticeable this year with several members of our National Guard stationed along the course. The energy was electric, and I was enjoying myself. Around mile 7, I started to feel noticeably flat, but my pace didn’t suffer. Mile 8 came by, and the thought of dropping my pace closer to 7:15–even though not until mile 12–seemed impossible. My cadence felt off, and I just didn’t feel that great. I didn’t feel overheated, just off. Some runners were already walking– likely due to the unexpected heat. I decided to keep going and see how I felt at the half. I was still able to keep 7:30 pace through the half, but that strange flat feeling continued. By mile 15, I lost it mentally and decided to shut of my watch and jog it in. As much as I wanted to drop (and I would have if it was any other race in any other year), but my heart wouldn’t let me. Seeing some of the survivors with prosthetics out there cheering and even participating really affected me. Plus, I couldn’t stop thinking about the little boy that was killed and his family who suffered many injuries due to the bombing.
It was a tough 10 miles to go. My comfortable jogging pace felt much quicker than usual. My quads were stiff. My shoulders and upper arms felt weak. I never felt depleted from dehydration or calories, I just felt off. I kept visualizing how it would feel to cross the finish line this year. I continued jogging past mile 16, past mile 17 and the Newton crew who cheered runners. I almost stopped, but I kept going. I entered the hills, which helped the stiffness in my legs, but only for a short time before the impact of the downhills right after. Around mile 18, I was next to a runner, and his friend jumped in and started shouting “an American won.” I turned and asked, “who?” He didn’t know. For the next 2 miles I kept wondering who won? I had no idea if it was a male or female. I got through Heartbreak Hill and past Boston College. The energy was even greater as I got closer to the finish line. Around mile 23, I overheard someone say he couldn’t believe an American won the men’s race. I tapped him to ask who it was, and he replied–”I can’t pronounce his name.” For the next 2 miles, the suspense was killing me. Who won? And whose name is tough to pronounce? Not Ryan Hall, not Jason Hartmann. Both Abdi and Meb possibly, but I knew their PRs coming into the race were slower than others. Finally, I made it to Boylston. I literally grabbed the first volunteer I saw and asked who won the men’s race. He started screaming that Meb won! All I could respond with was “Holy Shit.” I couldn’t wait to see the highlights.
My second half was roughly 20+ minutes slower than my first half. After I crossed the finish line, I was pleased, but also confused as to what happened. I felt great during training. I rested when I needed to. Easy runs were easy and workouts were harder. I even nailed my key workouts of 5-6 miles at race pace, fast finishes during long runs and a 5K time trial. Heck, I even planned one of my 21 milers to cover uphills right around 17 and 19 miles to simulate the course. The only explanation that I could figure out was that it just wasn’t my day.
Several of my friends and even my husband were way off from their goal times. We even know of an elite runner that was shooting for 2:20 and finished an hour slower. In most races, we would have been disappointed, dropped early and complained, but this race was different. I think all of us realized that being in Boston this year meant much more than PRs and goal times. Boston Strong forever!