The Many Phases of Boston

It’s officially Boston Marathon weekend! For about 30,000 runners and their friends/family that means making the trek to Beantown to dive into the madness that is marathon weekend. The banners, the expo, the photo ops, the shakeout runs, the schmoozing, and of course one of the most epic races on Earth.

For many this is the highlight of their running career. Other runners have barely heard of it. Over the years I’ve experienced marathon weekend in many different ways, from “what marathon?” to PR’ing on the tough Boston course. Each time, embracing the life phase I was in allowed me to enjoy Marathon Monday as much as possible. 

1987-2010: Boston Marathon? What’s that?

It’s hard to believe, but there was a time that I really didn’t even know about the Boston Marathon. Even with a few extended family members as runners it really wasn’t on my radar. Many Marathon Mondays were spent as regular ole’ Mondays in April, probably walking the dogs and enjoying the weather or nursing an Easter candy hangover. 

2011: Down The Boston Rabbit hole.

Once I knew about the Boston Marathon, I wanted to know even MORE. Here is where I went down the black hole that is google, Wikipedia, Salty Running & Runner’s World. Boston. Marathon. Runners. Who is Meb? How far is a marathon? Can women run without their uterus falling out? Do people really poop while they run? This was more than enough to keep me occupied to pass the time on Marathon Monday and detract from any real work I should have been doing. Pro tip: Keep your phone charger handy.

2012: I think I want to run the Boston Marathon. 

I secretly ctrl-tabbed my way through the work day on Marathon Monday, following the coverage between emails and coffee breaks. I squiggled little notes in my planner, created some post-its with mantras, went down the Boston google rabbit hole again and proceeded to look up every training plan possible. Should I use Hansons? Pftiz? I need to do more Yasso’s. Then came the spreadsheet of which races I should try to qualify at.

2013: I SHOULD BE THERE. 

After 4 marathons, I finally qualified for Boston. It was epic, amazing, and overwhelming….and then came the “hurry up and wait” part of Boston registration. I qualified in November of 2012, which meant that I wouldn’t be able to run until 2014 based on the registration window. So when 2013 Boston rolled around, I was eager to follow coverage but also felt a twinge of frustration. I wanted to be there. If I had qualified sooner I would have been, if I had worked harder, if I had run faster.

My ego took a little hit every time someone texted me or posted good luck to me because naturally most people don’t know how registration and Boston actually works (there was a time I definitely didn’t). But I got my head in the right place. Instead of acting like it was a BAA conspiracy, instead of turning the race coverage into a drinking game (though that’s always a valid option) I soaked it all in and allowed myself to get excited thinking about how I’d get to run it next year.

Then it happened: the unfathomable devastation of the bombing at the finish line. I was already inspired and motivated for Boston 2014. But like the rest of the running community, there are no words to describe how much April 15, 2013 stoked a fire in me that was already burning hot.

2014: My First Boston.

I opted to take my first Boston as an easier run and really embrace everything I could about the weekend. I lingered at the expo, saw all my favorite brands, and ogled the pro runners. I stayed out super late meeting up with friends, I walked a lot more than normal, I took advantage of every photo op and in general just did everything I could…because I could. I spent race morning laughing and chatting with friends and wasn’t stressing as we gossiped across our towel on the ground in Hopkinton and shared a stick of body glide. I laughed at the guys peeing ¼ mile into the race, kissed a girl in Wellesley, sang danced and laughed with random fellow runners. I strongly considered a beer around Boston college but really just wanted to get to the finish. I crossed the finish line feeling like I ran a marathon, but so overwhelmingly happy to have a banana, some chocolate milk and the medal that took a whole lot of work to earn. 

2015: PR’ing at Boston

If, like 2015 Me, you want to make Boston a goal race, PR, or run it as a hard effort, you can still enjoy the weekend. We hit the expo but kept it quick; the crowds, time on feet and sensory overload tire you out more than you think. Instead of walking around a lot, I went to a dailymile meetup and later sat outside a Starbucks with my Mom and my friend Carrie just talking about life and unwinding. I did my shakeout near the Charles without a ton of people around and did what I needed to do – zoned out and focused on MY race. On race day I still met with friends on the bus and hung out in Hopkinton, but kept things more quiet and chill (literally with the wind and rainy chill). I started slow, eased in, counted the hills to keep myself focused. I negative split, destroying the back half of the course to finish with a (small) PR in non-ideal conditions in one of my best-executed races.

2016: Pregnant and running Boston.

Boston 2016 was certainly a whirlwind. I was in the best shape of my life, ready to rip and hopefully build upon my big 2015 marathoning year (PR in Boston followed by Sub-3 in the fall). Then, a few days before the race, I found out I was pregnant. After talking with my doctors we agreed running was fine and that I would just play it by ear. Brian and I enjoyed the weekend together, going to Red Sox game, sightseeing, meeting up with friends. Pressure was most certainly off for the race. I secretly envied the women boasting their “Running for Two” shirts, sporting bumps along the course, but I was still harboring the secret. I walked a fair amount and used on course fuel, port-o-potties and aid stations like never before, making sure I was fueled and hydrated and staying in tune with my limits. I finished with my second best Boston time, and with a happy heart.

Regardless of our loss 2 months later (which had nothing to do with running), I still had no regrets about my Boston experience. Brian and I had such a great weekend together.

Pro Tip: Postpartum mamas, running Boston while breastfeeding also requires a little extra planning but is doable!

2017: Skipping Boston because you’re pregnant.

Because the world works in mysterious ways, in 2017 I again found myself pregnant for Boston. Though this time I was in my third trimester and sporting my baby bump bursting at the seams while I shimmied into one of my Boston shirts. I was home from work and soaking in the experience in an entirely new way. Bowl of ice cream resting on my belly, yelling at the TV because the coverage was too focused on the men as the women were battling towards the finish. I was taking my rage out on my phone because of course the tracking app was not working properly. I laughed, I cried, I cheered and then cried some more.

I felt a whole realm of emotions thinking about running Boston, racing Boston, and of course the still raw emotions from the race the year prior. I didn’t run much during pregnancy and didn’t really want to, but that day I wished I was running…until I fell asleep in my 25 year old La-z-boy recliner hours before the coverage was officially over.

2018: Cheering at Boston!

This is the route I’m choosing to take this year and I’m crazy excited! I’ve never actually cheered at the race before! Baby Barley will be in tow, I’m training for my first postpartum marathon and looking for all the motivation I can get and 100% looking forward to being able to eat and drink whatever I please….no baby in my belly and no race to run (it’s like a free for all!). No doubt I’ll still be yelling at my phone app, staring at a race map, singing, dancing, and crying as well.

Hit me up with Boston Marathon spectating tips, especially for those with experience bringing little ones!

A new mom and Upstate, NY resident who loves the marathon, a good beer, and all of the numbers/nerdy things. I write about my journey to a sub-3:00 marathon, training tweaks for improvement, and finding that "running/life balance" unicorn. On tap Next: Maneuvering through motherhood and postpartum running!

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