It’s hard to put the experiences of the weekend into words. No really, I’ve rewritten this introduction three times already. If I had to sum it up, I’d say this: I laughed, I cried, I never looked at my watch, and I’ll never forget a single mile.
But let’s start at the beginning. I ran the race with my best friend, Maria, who moved to California a few years ago. She is in the middle of ultra training, and while she’s a stronger marathoner than I am, she was un-tapered for this race, using it as a training run. I wanted to enjoy the Boston experience and didn’t really care about my time, so our goal was simply to finish happy.
Since the stakes were low, we lived it up in Boston in the days before the race, checking out the Freedom Trail, eating delicious food, and going to a Red Sox game. The weather was, as usual, the topic of discussion among the runners, with the heat being a major concern. Being from Texas, I rolled my eyes at those who were worried about 60-70 degrees, but it turned out that their concerns were warranted.
Arriving at Athlete’s Village, I immediately shed my sweatshirt. The sun was already beating down and I could feel my shoulders getting tan. I was also hungry, probably because I had no pre-race jitters, other than a few worries about the heat wrecking havoc on my gastrointestinal system. To play it safe, I ate one plain bagel.
After a few quick trips to the porta potties, our corral was called to the start. The walk to Hopkinton felt exciting and important. Right before we started, a man in my corral turned to the people around him, shook their hands, and said “good luck to you.” This made my eyes fill with tears. It really hit me. This was the Boston Marathon. This was the dream.
I told Maria that I wasn’t even going to look at my watch and would let her dictate the paces for the day. I’m usually a compulsive Garmin-checker, so this was a big deal for me. Immediately, the blazing sun started freaking me out. By the time I hit the first mile marker, I was already sweating.
At the first water station at mile two, I started grabbing three cups of water — two to drink and one to pour on my head. I did this all day. Even so, I felt thirsty soon after drinking every time. We ran along, mostly downhill with no shade, all while running through picturesque Massachusetts towns. I didn’t feel as relaxed as I wanted to at that stage in the race. We stopped to pee at mile seven. (Another thing I never do during a race! I have no shame about peeing in my shorts.) I felt a little better after that.
My family was waiting to cheer at mile 12.5, so I was excited to get to there. First though, came Wellesley, a huge energy boost. I promised Maria that I would kiss a Wellesley girl, so we stopped for a bit so I could kiss one and Maria could snap a picture!
I saw my husband and kids about a mile later. They were having a blast, and before sending us back out, my husband yelled “Desi was 4th!” I left them feeling much more energized, although sad for Desi.
I was looking forward to the Newton hills in a strange way, I wanted to feel like the course was changing a bit, and knowing there would be less than 10 miles to go at that point gave me excitement.
I knew from Maria that there were four hills to tackle, and the second was the steepest. I did not know, however, how far apart each hill was, but I guessed that I’d have a little bit of time to recover between each one.
Thanks to my hilly running routes, and the fact that I was running about a minute per mile slower than my long runs, I felt fine going up the Newton hills. The crowds were strong, and every time someone around me walked uphill, the crowds would yell at them until they started running again.
Heartbreak was tough, but not as bad as I had imagined it would be. I was glad to be at the top of it, however, and I knew that it was literally all downhill to the finish.
Miles 22 – Finish
No matter how slow you’re going, a marathon is still a long time to run, particularly in the heat. I commented to Maria that my quads felt like someone had smacked them with a hammer, and Maria said that her hamstrings and feet were sore. Then I started thinking about how sore my feet were and freaked out a little, so I decided to think about what didn’t hurt at that point, which was basically just my hands and fingers.
The excitement from the crowds grew as we got closer to the finish, and I looked at them and read signs to distract myself. Around mile 24 we passed Jose Sanchez, a San Antonio amputee who ran holding an American flag. The crowd loved him and it was impossible to not get caught up in that excitement.
I could see the Citgo sign looming in the distance, but it seemed like it wasn’t getting any closer! Finally, finally, we hit the “1 mile to go” sign. We weren’t talking much by that point, and even if we would have wanted to, the crowds were so loud we couldn’t hear each other.
We went under the underpass, up a small hill, and then right on Hereford. And, my goodness, there’s nothing in the world quite like that left on Boylston. Too tired and dehydrated to cry, I just gazed in awe around me. We clasped hands and crossed the finish. Done.
After the Race
As soon as I stopped running, my legs cramped up. This is not unusual for me after a marathon, so I tried to keep shuffling forward and get my medal. After we got medals and water, I got really dizzy and was afraid I would pass out, so I sat on the curb while Maria went to get me Gatorade.
The medical staff was not happy letting me lay on the sidewalk, so they put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me into a very busy medical tent. They put me in a chair there to rest, and I stubbornly immediately got back up to go find Maria again.
Obviously this was an unsuccessful mission, as I was still really dizzy, so I eventually ended up back in the med tent on a stretcher. A bottle of Gatorade later, I was good to go, and eventually stumbled out to find Maria and my family.
We were all sad to fly back home on Tuesday morning. Boston is a great city and treated runners and families like royalty. I would love to go back and properly race the course, but given that I missed requalifying by 15 minutes, it won’t be any time soon. All in all, I wouldn’t change a thing about my race.
Until next time, Boston.
Have you ever raced Boston? Did you chase a goal time or savor the experience?