Here it is! Here is the post that the past 4 months of blogging have been leading up to! Not to mention it took me over a month to actually write it. Better late than never!
April 20th, 2015 was, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life. Not going to lie, the marathon hurt like hell, but the pride and outpouring of emotions that came with pushing through to the finish were unlike anything I have every experienced.
So here it is!
My alarm went off bright and early on Marathon Day (~5AM) so that I would have enough time to check, double check, and triple check that I had all of my gear before needing to leave. I also knew that Olive would be home alone for a very long time that day so I wanted to take her out for a good walk around the neighborhood. Good morning sunshine!
As soon as I turned off my alarm, I checked the forecast on my phone hoping that somehow the weather gods had been playing an April Fools joke over the past few days and that it was magically going to be sunny and 50. Nope…no such luck. We were not going to get out of the cold soaking rain this time around…
It was time to rally. Around 5:45am I had breakfast #1.Since I wasn’t going to be running until 11AM, it was very tricky to figure out how to fuel properly in the morning. I was very used to eating ~2 hours before my other long runs, but I would not have the luxury of my kitchen to cook oatmeal like usual. Because I would be awake for so long before running, I ended up deciding to eat two full breakfasts- one at 5:45 AM then again at 9AM. I cooked my regular oatmeal for the first breakfast, and I packed overnight oats with me for the bus ride to Hopkinton. Heck, I was about to run a marathon. Carb me up!
After breakfast #1, I packed my 2 race gear bags. I needed one bag to leave with the gear check on Boston Common because I didn’t want to bring my phone with me to the race. My second bag contained the items that I would need for the bus ride and waiting area at the Athlete’s Village.
This second bag included a few cheap ponchos, my arm sleeves (since I didn’t want to wear them until the race started), my GPS watch, and my second breakfast. Couldn’t help myself…
Once I was all packed and Olive had her walk, I called an Uber to take me into the city. The plan was to pick up my coworker Shelley on the way so that we could get to the Common and find our TNT group together. I told Shelley I would get her at 7:45 so I called the Uber around 7:15 anticipating the usual Monday rush hour traffic. Apparently there is no rush hour on Marathon Monday since it is also a holiday- Patriot’s Day. Instead of the anticipated half hour trip, I was at her door about in about 9 minutes. Whoops.
On the way to Shelley’s, my uber became surrounded by dozens of big yellow school buses. One of these babies was going to be our ride to Hopkinton!
Because I was obnoxiously early, I hung out in the lobby of her apartment building for a bit before letting her know I was there. Around 7:45 Shelley came down and we hopped in another uber to get to the common. It did not take us long to find the rest of our TNT gang near our prearranged meetup area at the Boylston Street T stop. Before walking over to the bus area, we took a quick group photo in our sexy throwaway clothes. I’m in the middle of the back row. Go team!
We walked over to the bus area as a group, checked any bags that we needed to, and managed to all get on one bus together. Like I mentioned before, I checked my cell phone in my gear bag so my personal cellphone photos end here.
Oh yes, and I have to do a quick shout out to the BAA real quick- the commons area was so well organized! It took no time at all to check bags and get on a bus, and there was never any confusion or overwhelming crowds. Thanks BAA!
The bus ride out to Hopkinton was overall uneventful, but it was also LONG. We had been warned about the ridiculously long trip so I was mentally prepared, but man- they weren’t kidding! The bus took a somewhat long route out to Hopkinton to avoid road closures. It ended up taking about 45 minutes to get out there on the highway! If I didn’t expect the ride to be long, I would have started panicking a little bit at this point. During the ride, Shelley and I ate our breakfasts and just chatted and joked until we arrived in Hopkinton.
The Athlete’s Village is the pre-start area for runners to congregate before their wave is called. It is located in the fields behind Hopkinton High School. The photo below is from boston.com in 2011, but gives you the idea of how it is set up..
The buses got us to Athlete’s Village around 9:15/9:30. We had roughly an hour and a half to hang out, use the bathroom as many times as possible, and stay warm/dry before “go-time”. Per advice from our coaches, we immediately headed to a port-a-potty line since that whole process can take up quite a chunk of time. It ended up taking about a half hour to get through the line once. While we waited, the waves and corals before ours were called to head to the starting area. The Boston Marathon has several different start times depending on your qualifying time. As a charity runner, I started with the latest group at 11AM.
After doing our business, we met up with the rest of our team, including our coaches, and did our best not to freak out together. Who were we kidding- we were about to run the Boston Marathon! Luckily, the weather managed to stay dry while we waited, though we all kept our ponchos on just in case. We even had (silly) optimistic thoughts that maybe the rain would hold off all day!
At ~10:20 our wave was called to head to the starting line. As we left the Athlete’s Village, we had to show our bibs to prove that we were with the right group. The second that we showed our bibs, rain started pouring from the sky. A full blown soaking rain. It was a cruel cruel joke on Mother Natures part. Yep, this was going to be a wet one.
I walked to the start with some of my closer TNT running buddies, with hopes that we would be able to run the race together. The anticipation was growing like crazy as we walked the mile-ish long road to the start. Along the way, we started to shed some of the warmer clothing layers and ponchos. We also noticed the heavy security forces (aka snipers) lining the rooftops of the houses around us. That was my first and only visible reminder of all of the security that went into making the race safe this year. It’s crazy to think about how much planning went into the behind the scenes security. As we got closer to the start, we were all giddy with excitement. I followed my teammates as far as I could, but unfortunately I was assigned to a different coral than them since I got my bib through my work and not Team in Training. Even though I tried to push through, the bib checkers were super strict, and there was no way I was getting into that coral. I yelled a quick goodbye to my friends and headed back to my correct coral just minutes before the gun went off for our wave to start. I managed to find a few of my coworkers in the same coral, so it was comforting to have some familiar faces with me for such an exciting and anxious time. The rain was coming down hard, but there was no stopping us now. 11:00AM hit, and we were off!!
Miles 1-3 “The Honeymoon Phase”
The first three miles were very slow. Pace-wise that is. There were so many runners everywhere! This is another moment that I wish I had a camera because it was such a crazy sight. There were THOUSANDS of runners wearing bright neon colors in every direction. My plan was to purposefully go slow during these miles because I had been advised that the steep downhill and adrenaline can trick you into overexerting too early. Even if I wanted to run a faster pace for these miles, I don’t think I could have with the crowds. I was also very mentally distracted during these miles because I had to go to the bathroom BAD. Even though I went at Athlete’s Village, once was not enough to flush out all of the water that I drank over the previous 12 hours. At every opportunity I looked for a place to stop and pee. I was not alone in this. For the first 2 miles, there were dudes standing on the side of the road relieving themselves EVERYWHERE. It was equally gross and hilarious. I was actually pretty jealous since I had to go so bad. At around mile 2, I spotted a port-a-potty, but the line was outrageous. I stood in the line for about a minute and when I realized that this line would probably add a good 15 minutes onto my time, I decided to keep going. By mile 3,Right when I thought I couldn’t hold it any longer, I saw another set of port-a-potties. There was still a line here, but it was much shorter. That whole pit stop probably took me 3-4 minutes, which felt like a lifetime when there were thousands of runners passing by. The stop was worth it though. I felt a million times better!
When I got to the 5k mark, I had to accept the fact that this would not be a fast-for-me race. I think I passed the 5k mark at around 35 minutes, which actually isn’t too bad considering my pee stop, but still. No world records would be happening today. Shucks.
Other than my need to use the restroom and slower than desirable pace, miles 1-3 were quite enjoyable. I was feeling strong, the road was downhill, the rain was actually refreshing, and the course was scenic. The crowds through Hopkinton were also awesome. I high-fived about 100 kids who lined the sides of the road. We were rockstars! And holy crap- I WAS RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON!
Miles 3.5 – 12 “Hell. Just Hell.”
The strech from miles 3.5 – 12 was by far the hardest part of the whole course for me. The “honeymoon phase” of miles 1-3 came to an end shortly after passing the 5k mark. Around mile 3.5, I began to notice a deep dull ache at the top of my IT band/piriformis area. This same issue actually bothered me at the end of the 20 miler training run 3 weeks prior, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it since it was a pain that I had never felt before. I did get a deep tissue massage after the 20 miler, and the injury didn’t bother me in any other runs after that.
It didn’t take long for this nagging pain to consume my thoughts. How was I going to run ~23 more miles on this? It wasn’t excruciating at this point, but mentally I was just scared of how the pain would increase over time. Around mile 4 was the first time I had doubts that I would be finishing the marathon that day. In just a half mile the feeling had progressed from a slight ache to a pretty strong, almost throbbing, ache. If this type of pain happened in any other run, I would have stopped right then and there. But, I continued on…with a whole lot of self doubt.
I tried to keep my mind on anything but my pain for the next few miles. Luckily the crowds through Ashland and Framingham were out in full force with cowbells, posters, and balloons. It was also pouring rain for a lot of this time so that was another factor I could keep my mind on. I had my first Gu at mile 4.5 and soldiered on.
Passing the 10k was the first major milestone of the race for me. I knew at that point, my family and friends would be receiving text alerts about my status. It was strangely comforting to know that a dozen or so phones were going off around the world at that very moment (a few of my friends were following me abroad) . Even though I wasn’t running with anyone physically, I suddenly felt like I had a team pushing me along. This distance was also a big achievement mentally. There were only 20 miles left! I’ve run 20 miles before. No sweat right? Every step forward was a step closer to Boston.
Miles 6-10 were a bit of a blur. The pain got worse, but the farther I went the more motivation I had to keep going. I had my second Gu at mile 9, and I remember seeing some purple TNT singlets up ahead.. Mile 10 was another mental milestone for me. Even though my right IT band issue was just as bad (if not worse) than it had been earlier, it was a huge mental feat to know that I had managed to continue on to 10 miles when i thought I would quit at 4. Around mile 10 is also where I entered my Saturday long run training territory. From January – April, our TNT team trained through Natick, Wellesley, and Newton. I knew this stretch of the course like the back of my hand.
At mile 11, I started to hear a distant high pitched roar. Even though geographically I knew that there was still about a mile to go, I knew that this sound could only be one thing- the Wellesley scream tunnel.
Miles 12-17 “Halfway Home”
The Wellesley stretch of the course was totally unreal. You always hear the stories about how the scream tunnel can be heard from a mile away, and it’s wild to now know that the stories are true! Even though my IT band still ached during every step I took, it was hard not to smile for this entire stretch of the race. Hundreds of Wellesley girls lined the course holding every “Kiss Me I’m ________” sign that you can imagine. “Kiss Me I’m Single” “Kiss Me I’m Bored” “Kiss Me I’m Gay” “Kiss Me I’m Wet” (gross but funny with the weather). The high pitched roar was deafening. I was running near some firemen, and they took full adventure of kissing some of these ladies. I ran down the line of girls high fiving them, and then towards then end of the tunnel I just said “F it” and kissed a random girl. Why not?!
Another major mental milestone happened shortly after the scream tunnel… the half marathon mark! If I needed to quit at this point- at least I had run a half marathon! But I didn’t quit, I kept on going.
A mile or so beyond the half marathon was the Team in Training cheer station at the Wellesley Community Center. This was where we met every week for our long runs, and it was great to see some familiar faces cheering at the volunteer tent. I took another Gu at mile 13.5 and a few pretzels at the community center since I knew what was coming next- the Newton Hills.
Miles 17-22- “A Team Effort”
At mile 17 I was hurting bad. Every step I took sent a searing pain up my right IT band/piriformis. I had to stop to stretch every few minutes or so, and that would only help for a few minutes. I was not happy. Shortly after turning the corner at the firehouse onto Comm Ave, I saw my friend Liz standing at the side of the road. It was great to finally see a friend on the sidelines. I gave her a hug and said something along the lines of “this hurts like a bitch” and kept going. She has run the marathon before so she gave me some words of encouragement as I went into the hills.
Around the top of the first of three hills in Newton, I ran into my TNT teammate Becky. She was also in pain so we stuck together for a mile or so through the first hills. It was a funny coincidence to run into her at this moment because we also ran this section of the course together during the 20 miler. Somewhere between miles 17 and 18 we saw the November Project cheer area. I yelled out a “fuck yeah!” to them, and their cheers in response pushed me on for another short stretch. Gu #4 was taken at 17.5. Somewhere around that point Becky and I separated.
Around mile 19, towards the top of the second Newton Hill, I saw Keith, another Team in Training buddy of mine, stretching on the side of the road with our coach Andrew. I was so happy to see Keith this far along in the course because he had been dealing with an injury for a few weeks before the race. Knowing that he could push through his pain this long was further inspiration for me to dig deep and keep going. After a quick pep-talk from Andrew, we were off. For the next few miles, Keith and I were a team. If he needed to walk, I walked. If I needed to walk, he walked. Since we were both in the same situation where we needed to think beyond the physical pain to keep going, we kept each other distracted with conversation. We chatted down the second hill and through Newton to Heartbreak Hill.
Heartbreak Hill seemed like it would never come, but once it did, it seemed like it would never end. On it’s own, Heartbreak was not that bad of a hill. It wasn’t all that steep and the crowds were great. The hard part was that it was long and it was at an excruciating part of the race. At one point, we even had to ask a police officer if we were still on it. Keith and I were hurting bad, but we wouldn’t let each other quit. We knew that after heartbreak it was all down hill to the finish line. Yes, it was another 6 miles, but mentally it would be huge to get past it.
At the top of Heartbreak I was excited to see another good friend of mine, Dave, with a bunch of his friends. Dave goes to BC, and it was an awesome surprise to see him there. Shortly after seeing Dave and his friends, we crested Heartbreak and began the downhill journey into Boston. The BC crowds were in full force for this section of the course. It was hilarious to see how drunk the kids were. They had probably been day drinking for 5+ hours at that point. Just another hour or so and I would have a beer in hand too!
Keith and I pushed on into Brookline and Brighton. I was now in my “home turf”, surrounded by streets, stores, and bars that I knew well. Though we still had a while to go, I was starting to become giddy with excitement. I couldn’t believe that I had made it so far after wanting to quit at mile 4. This was going to happen!
Miles 22-25- “Runners High”
Around mile 22ish was when Keith and I finally split up. I cannot thank him enough for helping to push me through some of the toughest miles of the course. Our run-walk method and nonstop conversation got us through the worst of it. Around this point, the “walk” part of our “run-walk” method actually began to hurt more than running. Every step hurt whether I was running (aka jogging/shuffling at this point) or walking, so I just needed to keep going at the fastest pace I could. I felt bad splitting off from him, but I knew that at this point we would both make it to the finish. We had come too far!
Shortly after I went ahead of Keith, I looked over to the right and saw something I wasn’t expecting- my face! At first I thought I was going crazy, but then I realized three of my best friends- Olga, Angela, and Stacey- were wearing tshirts with my face on them! I was SO excited to see these girls. I ran over and gave each of them a big hug. I had the goofiest smile on my face, which is pretty accurately captured in this photo. Man I look CRAZY!
After saying goodbye, I was off. There was no stopping now. Only 3 miles to go until home.
Around mile 23, I saw 3 of my coworkers cheering in the rain- Alex, Jon, and Eryn. I waved to them and yelled something along the lines of “this is the worst f***ing thing ever”. All three of them burst out laughing. I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked, tired out of my mind and yelling obscenities as I ran by. I could hear their continued laughter as I continued on. There was no way I was stopping now.
At this point, I was the definition of a runner’s high. I actually don’t remember my IT band/glute hurting anymore during miles 23-25. All I remember is smiling ear to ear and waving my arms around like a mad woman. Everything around me was a familiar landmark at this point. I was almost there. I saw more friends through Coolidge Corner and as I approached Fenway. The crowds were starting to build now, and I could finally see the Prudential building through the thick rain clouds.
Mile 25-26.2 “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston”
The mile 25 marker came up right before Kenmore Square. The crowds here were crazy and there were familiar faces everywhere! My friend Michelle was cheering,to the left, my friends Megan and Katie were to the right. Immediately after waving to them, I looked down and saw the best thing I had seen all day- the “One Mile to Go” line across the road. This photo captures how I felt at this point pretty accurately. Epic. Thanks for capturing this Megan!
The final mile of the marathon was a blur of excitement. Because I held back so much through the Newton Hills due to my injury, I had enough energy in the tank to really bring it home. My whole body hurt, but I was too excited to finish to hold back. I passed almost every runner around me with a huge goofy grin on my face.
Immediately before the dip under Mass Ave, I saw a crowd of people holding a huge cut out sign of my running buddy Keith’s head! I yelled out to them assuring them that he was only a few minutes behind me.Their cheers and thanks put an even bigger smile on my face. Then I saw Olga, Angela, Stacey, and a bunch more of my friends standing right in that area too. This spot is where I usually watch the marathon with my friends every year so it was great to see them there from the other side of the fence!
The little dip under the bridge HURT! Though it was short, the downhill portion was steep and my legs felt like jell-o. I now have a much greater appreciation for all of the runners that I have seen “hit the wall” at that spot over the years. It doesn’t matter how close you are to the finish, if you’re legs don’t want to go anymore, they just won’t!
Shortly after the bridge and right before the right on Hereford I saw my friends Tim and Albert. Albert yelled something along the lines of “GET IT! YOU ARE SO CLOSE! PUSH IT” and that was just what I needed to pick up the pace into the best part of the whole course.
As soon as I took the right on Hereford and could see the left onto Boylston, the tears started. The crowds here were going absolutely insane, and I could not believe that I had actually made this far.
Turning left onto Boylston took my breath away. I have never been so emotionally overwhelmed in my life. There was the finish line! I was only 0.2 miles away from completing something that I had once thought to be impossible. All of the crowds around me were a blur, but somehow I looked over into the crowd and saw my parents! Of the hundreds and hundreds of people cheering on this stretch of the course, I still cannot believe I saw them before they saw me! I ran over to hug them, and the waterworks really started. I was crying and laughing, they were crying and laughing, basically we looked completely insane. They said how proud they were of me and I kept those thoughts in my head as I pushed on to the finish.
I did it. 5:08:44.
Though this time was about 45 minutes slower than what I had secretly hoped to do, I am still so proud that I pushed through the pain that started so early in the race. I’ll do another post soon about what’s next and what my future goals are, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.
The walk down Boyslton after the finish line was one of the most painful experiences I can remember. As soon as I stopped running, the cold temperatures and driving rain caught up with me. I could not stop shaking and all of my fingers and toes were numb…not to mention my right IT band/piriformis pain. I tried to take a good picture with my medal and the finish line behind me, but I really had no control over my ability to properly pose for the camera. Derp.
Shortly after this picture, they handed me a reflective space blanket which really helped. I’ve received these at several races in the past, but the Boston Marathon ones were by far the fanciest I have ever seen. They were logo’d and even had hoods! As I continued down the road, I was handed a pre-peeled banana, which was so awesome considering my fingers were totally numb at this point. I was so cold that I was actually starting to get worried about hypothermia. I made the game time decision to go directly to the Park Plaza (where Team in Training had a suite reserved for us for hot showers) instead of continuing on to the common to get my checked bag (containing my wallet and phone). Even though wallets and phones are pretty important, I knew I would be in trouble if I stayed out in the rain.
The inside of the Park Plaza was PACKED with people. It took me a little while of aimlessly roaming to figure out where the Team in Training suite was. Once I found the suite though, it was worth it. They had our bags ready and waiting for us, and a bunch of my teammates were already there. It sounded like a lot of people had struggled through the weather and finished slower than expected, but we were all super pumped to be done. I put my name on the waiting list for the showers, but after waiting for about 10 minutes, I decided to just change into some dry clothes and go find my family. I was so stiff that it took me a good 10 minutes to change my clothes, but oh man, dry sweatpants felt so so good.
When I took the elevator down to the lobby, I was greeted by about a dozen of my friends and my parents! I was only really expecting to see my parents at this point, so I felt totally overwhelmed by all of the love. Someone handed me a Boston Lager, which was easily one of the most delicious beers of my life. (Though I was definitely feeling the effects of the alcohol even after a few sips!) Here’s me with Stacey and Marisa!
My parents, Olga, and Bill all got me flower as well. Check out this botanical garden!
My friend Adrian who also ran the marathon was there too. He’s super fast and his start time was an hour before mine, so he had already been home, showered, and changed by the time he met up with everyone for my finish. He also struggled through the cold rain, so i was glad to hear that I was not alone. Running is a weird thing. Even though it is a very individual sport, everyone is going through the same struggles at the same time to a certain degree. Adrian was also disappointed in his time, but he still did phenomenally well. So proud of my little buddy. He was also a life saver. When I mentioned that my phone and wallet were still checked at the common, he ran out the door to go get them for me. Such an awesome friend 🙂
After we all had a beer or two, we decided to get out of the city and meet up at one of my favorite burger spots in Cambridge called Christophers. I fantasized about a hot juicy burger for the last 10 or so miles of the race, so that was the first spot that popped into my mind.
My parents had parked pretty far away from where we were at the Park Plaza, so my mom headed outside to get us a taxi. When the rest of us joined her, we were slightly confused to see that she had pulled over a big van. When we got on, we soon realized that this wasn’t just any old van… this van was a party bus! As soon as the driver started driving, the strobe lights and disco ball turned on, and he blasted “Party in the USA”, “Timber”, and other awesome party songs. We all danced the whole way to my parents car, having the time of our lives. I still laugh when I think back to it. I took a whole lot of snapchats during the crazy ride, but unfortunately forgot to save them. Hopefully one of my friends still has pics!
Once we got to the car, it took us about an hour to get to Christopher’s with the traffic. Woof! Everyone made it there though, and it felt good to finally get some warm food. Even though I originally wanted a burger, the seafood ravioli just sounded so good. We also started with nachos and finished with ice cream. Well deserved comfort food!
So that’s it! I ran my first marathon!
The question almost everyone asks now is, “Would you do it again?”. Though it hurt like hell and my body definitely needs some time to heal, fuck yeah I would do it again. I learned so much about myself throughout the process, and I know that if I train for another one I will just learn that much more.
When? Where? That I don’t know. Only time will tell!