I want to start out by thanking all of the AMAZING volunteers, medics, organizers and runners of the 117th Boston Marathon. Your efforts are so greatly appreciated. I also must thank all of my supporters–all of you who tracked me, sent me text messages, called me and wrote me Facebook posts. You are the ones who kept me going. I am not sure if I could have made it without you. And I would especially like to thank the WONDERFUL Ellie and Kim who flew with me to be my personal cheering squad. I’m not sure they understand how much their support means to me. They are truly amazing friends.
I don’t know if I can quite express how affected I am by the tragic events of yesterday. Never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that someone could do something like this. My thoughts and prayers are continually with those who are impacted. I can only hope that we come to the bottom of this, because I know that Boston and the nation can overcome such horrific events. There will be another Boston Marathon. Runners give it there all and are not easily dissuaded. We will show whoever is behind this that we will run this race again without fear.
The Boston Marathon was the most unbelievable race I have run in. It was definitely not my best race, but the experience is definitely an unforgettable one. If given the opportunity, I would never turn down the chance to be part of such a magnificent event again.
There are soo many stories from this weekend which will take several posts. So, for this post I will talk about the actual race itself. I barely slept the night before. I tossed and turned–my nerves were all over the place. I finally decided to get out of bed at 3:30am. I had gotten up at 1:45 and 3:15, and then just decided it was time to get ready. I woke Ellie and Kim around 4:45, and they sent me off with hugs and luck promising to see me at miles 17 and 25.
I took a cab to Katie’s hotel (another Madisonian running the race), and from there we walked to Copley Square where the buses were going to take us to Hopkinton. I have never seen so many lines of runners in my entire life. All holding their yellow bags to be checked. We waited in line for quite some time before finally boarding the bus at 7:10am.
A little over an hour later we arrived at Athlete’s Village. Again people were swarming everywhere. The number of porter potties was impressive! Music was playing and our nerves were going haywire.
We tried to keep ourselves distracted from the fact that we were about to run THE Boston Marathon in two hours. We waited in line for the porter potties. We went to the medical tent to put sunscreen on our faces. We went to find our bag drop offs. We ate the last of our breakfast and put on our running belts. We got our pictures taken.
And we finally headed to the start line. The volunteers were unbelievable. Everyone was so friendly and helpful and so excited for us to race! People in a house close to the start set up a tent with extra hair ties and vaseline and bandaids and permanent markers (to write names on our bibs or arms). Katie and I said goodbye and good luck (we were in different corrals). Then it was just me among thousands of others just as excited and nervous as I was. I found a spot in the middle of my corral and made small talk with the people around me. Two men said they were both trying to qualify again. Another woman said it was her second Boston, another her third. I just stood there a bundle of nerves.
Then they fired the starting gun, and as I crossed the starting line I started to cry. I was here. I finally made it. My injuries didn’t matter. My lack of training didn’t matter. I was actually running THE Boston Marathon. And I was going to be proud of myself no matter what happened. I pulled myself together as I started downhill. I kept my pace even–8:15 minute/miles. I wasn’t going to go out too fast. People passed me right and left. Then right before Mile 2 we had our first huge wave of spectators who were so extremely loud and excited to see us. I started to cry again. I was really here. It was finally starting to sink in.
Then I hit Mile 2 and my left quad started cramping. What? That was the last thing I expected to happen. Calves I could understand. Shins I could understand. My knee I could understand. But my quad?? I decided that the pain was only temporary because I was not overstriding and I wasn’t going too fast. My legs just weren’t used to running. I kept my pace. Then I hit Mile 3 and my right quad started cramping. I started to freak out a little. I tried to calm myself down. The pain was going to go away. It had to. Around Mile 4.5 I decided to take my first round of nutrition early–maybe the Gu would help with the cramping. Every time each foot hit the ground pain shot through my quad. The pain stayed. I tried to focus on the crowds and the cheering and the excitement. Sometimes I was able to distract myself but not for long. I was miserable.
At Mile 7 I took another round of nutrition, a salt tablet and 800mg of IB Profin. No help. At Mile 11 I took more nutrition and another 800mg of IB Profin. It was then that I realized I was just going to have to run through it. My pace just kept slowing but that was okay. I just wanted to finish. I tried to read signs and listen to my music.
“Ryan Gossling is at the finish line! With a puppy!”
“Don’t stop! You’re Almost There! (That’s what she said!)”
“You’re not hallucinating, it really is a unicorn!”
“Channing Tatum is just around the corner!”
“Run, Forest, run!”
The signs went on an on. Around the half-marathon mark we hit Wellsley where all the girls from Wellsey College went wild! They all held up “Kiss Me” signs, and tried to get the guys to stop and kiss them! Most of the women stayed to the left of the road and let the men fend for themselves. This part of the course definitely kept my mind off the pain for a half-mile or so because watching the reactions on some of these men was hilarious!
“Kiss me, I’m from Texas!” “Kiss me, I’m Bolivian!” “Kiss me and I’ll kiss her!” “I’m all yours! Come and get me!”
It was a riot! At the half-marathon point my overall pace had slowed to around 8:25–I was 1 hour 50 minutes and 24 seconds into the race. I was pushing through. Around Mile 16.5 I ran into Katie! She had passed me at some point and had stopped to say hi to friends cheering her on! She ran with me for a bit, but I knew I was slowing her down so I told her to run ahead. At the 25K my overall pace had slowed to 8:30 min/miles.
Then I knew Kim and Ellie were supposed to be at Mile 17, so I started looking. There were soooo many people cheering on both sides of the road. I was really afraid I wasn’t going to see them. But then Kim spotted me and screamed! I gave her a huge hug and then saw Ellie standing a bit behind her and gave her a huge hug, too! Then they told me to keep going. I totally wish one or both of them had been in running clothes because I would have made them run with me for the next few miles.
Soon after I left them, I had to take a walking break. I never walk during races. Never. I rarely walk during training runs. So walking was a huge deal. And I ended up walking at least part of each mile from Mile 17 to Mile 25. That was the biggest disappointment for me. My quads were just cramping so bad. I really don’t think I have ever been in so much physical pain as I was during this marathon.
At the 30K my overall pace had slowed to 8:45. At the 35K it slowed to 9:01. I didn’t even actually realize I had gone up Heartbreak Hill until I saw a sign that said something to the effect of “Your heart isn’t broken anymore!” And another one that said “You made it!” I knew it was all downhill from here. When I hit Mile 22 there were soooo many college students with their hands out. I must have slapped 150-200 hands easily! Maybe more! They were all screaming my name (on my bib) and telling me I was so close. I knew I was close! That part of the course was another highlight.
At the 40K my overall pace slowed to 9:12. I debated walking the last 5K. Then I thought about everyone tracking me. I thought about how everyone supported me during the last 4 months. I thought about how everyone believed that I could run this race. I thought about my friends all over the country getting text message updates or following me online. And I couldn’t let myself walk the last 5K. I swore I would run part of each mile no matter how much it hurt. And boy did it hurt. Around Mile 25 I saw Kim and Ellie again! I had to actually turn around and look back to see them, but I did! And they were cheering wildly! It really lifted my spirits!
And I told myself I could run the last 1.2 miles. I wasn’t going to walk the last mile of the Boston Marathon. I had worked too hard to run this race. So I ran. And I crossed the finish line in 4:01:56 with my hands in the air. An average pace of 9:13 minute/miles.
I just ran THE Boston Marathon. I had done it. What I worked so hard for was finally over.
I nearly collapsed after crossing the finish line. I didn’t realize until later that I had completely forgotten to take nutrition the last 15 miles of the race. Completely. I got my heating blanket and my medal and then a medic helped me over to the side where he tried to stretch my quads. He lifted my right foot about 4 inches and I yelped in pain. He promised he would be more gentle. (Turns out his best friend is from Verona! Small world!) He stretched me as best as he could and then told me he was watching me until I had eaten the entire bag of potato chips. I was dehydrated. Way dehydrated. Even with all the salt tablets I had been taking, my sodium level was way too low. Then he gave me part of a banana to eat. After that he pointed me toward the massage tent to the right, and told me not to sit down or else I may not be standing back up. I needed to get a massage to work out the lactic acid.
Then there was the first explosion. Then the second. I turned to look and could only see tons of smoke and people headed my way. I made eye contact with Ellie who had been following me along the outside of the finishers chute and I knew that we just needed to get back to the hotel. She helped me pull on pants and a jacket because I was shivering so much. I asked a man what happened. He said, “You don’t want to know. Just get back to your hotel as quickly as you can.” Then I realized what had happened, and I started bawling. Ellie stayed so composed. Without her there, I never would have made it back to the hotel. She posted to Facebook that we were okay, and she practically carried me the two miles to the hotel.
Again, I was a bundle of nerves. But now for a completely different reason.
The Boston Marathon was by far the most amazing running event I have ever been to. Even though my run was extremely painful, I do not regret it for a second. I learned so much about myself and my strength through this race. I had so many wonderful supporters, and I can never thank them enough for how much they believed in me. What happened was tragic and horrific. My thoughts are with all of those who are impacted, and I pray that nothing like this ever happens again. Thank you to everyone who has followed me on this journey.