Driving more than 1,000 miles to run in the record-breaking wall of heat that was this year’s Boston Marathon was so incredibly worth the journey. Even as I endured those brutal weather conditions, I can say with absolute certainty that it was the right choice for me. Yes, there were some runners who took advantage of the deferment and will run next year instead. And I did maybe consider this option for a second. But ultimately I knew that having come so far — literally, in our silver mini-van across numerous state lines and also in my up-and-down, injury-peppered training that really began well over a year ago when I decided to train for my first marathon with the idea and hope that I would qualify for the Boston Marathon — I just had to run this race. Had to experience the Boston Marathon at this very time. And I knew I could do it, so long as I altered my expectations and listened to my body throughout the 26.2 hot, hot, hot miles.
A little over a week later, sitting here thinking about this most momentous event and all that this trip entailed — spending long stretches of time with my family, seeing great, great friends, exploring a new city — it’s all sinking in just how important this race was for me. Not just because it was the chance to run a well-known, historic race and a culmination of many, many months of training and planning and hoping. But because it was a gift to my family, to take time out from the chaos of life and to spend time really being with one another. Not entirely unlike our recent spring break, yes, but also it ended up being a very different experience. Maybe it can be distilled down to this: the power of a accomplishment. I feel so good about setting this goal and reaching it. What an accomplishment for any of us to set a specific goal and make it a reality. But I also can’t — won’t — overlook just how wonderfully powerful the support and love of family and friends plays in making our dreams come to fruition. I’m not sure I can adequately express how thankful I am for what my friends and family did for me so that I could do this…and equally as amazing is how the experience affected my family and friends. I’ve been told by Joe that being there on the streets of Boston, watching for me with our three kids, was more exciting and moving than he’d anticipated. He’s supported me at other races, but being there amid the masses of people shouting out words of encouragement to runners, holding signs and handing out ice chips and orange slices and water…it all was just so inspiring, he’s shared with me.
I realize this post so far is reading less of a race re-cap and more of an Oscar acceptance speech…I have grappled with how to start this post. Many times. Which is partly why I haven’t gotten to it until now. Writing simply about the race itself and my time — a humbling 5:00:52 — just wouldn’t roll out like I thought it would. Instead, I’ve found myself wanting to try to articulate how meaningful some moments in our life can be. This was one of them.
So maybe the best thing to do, since I can’t seem to express myself all that well here, is to share some great photos we captured from this race and from this trip. And I also want to share part of a note from an old friend, someone whom I rarely see or talk with but had heard I’d run the marathon and emailed me. It really meant a lot to hear this from her: I wanted you to know that I’m so proud and impressed with you. All I’m saying is that you rock…you make me want to try running.
I’ll admit, there were moments throughout this race, especially at the end, when it was really, really tough to keep going. I wanted to stop. I was too hot, kept dumping cups of water and chunks of ice on my head, and then came the leg and toe cramps that I’d never before experienced. But I kept going, even though it meant many, many walking breaks, out of sheer will. And I also kept thinking about my best girlfriends and family and friends back home rooting for me, about Joe and our kids waiting for me at mile 24. I pressed on.
We arrived in Boston the day before race day after spending several days with dear friends Jenn and Nick, who live with their two adorable kids Wyatt and Stella in Norwalk, Ct. After settling in the hotel, Emma and I hopped onto Boston’s public transportation the “T” and headed to the marathon expo at the World Trade Center.
Jenn, along with Wyatt and Stella, and her mother-in-law Nona, came up to watch the race. They stayed in a hotel in Newton, while we had a spot in Cambridge, not far from the marathon finish line.
After a delicious meal Sunday night at the Cheesecake Factory in Cambridge — I ordered a yummy pasta dish — we headed back to the hotel. I actually got myself to bed by 10 and gratefully enjoyed a beautiful night’s sleep. I awoke early, even though my Wave 2 of the race didn’t start until 10:20 a.m., to dress in my lucky purple tank, black flower running skirt and Brooks Launch shoes, and catch the 20-30 minute bus ride to Hopkinton, a quaint village where the race begins.
With two hours to wait until the race started, I walked around the Athletes’ Village talking with other runners, like Susie from the Porta Potty line who was running her third Boston Marathon and lived in the suburbs with her husband and two young children, and Terry, an older man who has run six Bostons and generously offered me an extra garbage bag he had in his orange marathon gear bag for me to sit on in the field next to Hopkinton High School. I also decided to take advantage of the Addidas give-away tent by having one of the volunteers there write my name down my arm in black. I also thought it wise to grab a couple of BodyGlides for the oh-so-fun inevitable inner thigh chafing to come.
Finally it was time to head toward the start line. I ended up toward the back of the throng of runners who were also part of Wave 2. I chatted with a few other runners along the way, mostly about the scorching heat — it was well into the 70s at race start — and what seemed like everyone’s plan to take it easy, not go out too fast at all and basically not even think about any kind of PR. The first several miles are in fact downhill, a fact numerous experienced Boston runners I spoke with warned me about. Take it slow, don’t fall into the trap of going out too fast.
It’s true that locals come out for this race–they’re everywhere along the race course. Kids held out their hands to be high-fived, families and sat on their porches clapping their hands and ringing cowbells, numerous people brought out hoses to spray us. Signs were everywhere. The infamous section of Wellesley College girls screaming and holding signs asking for kisses was everything I thought it would be, and when I saw one pretty brunette hold a sign that read “Kiss me! I’m a Yooper!” I ran over to her and planted one on her cheek after telling her I was from Michigan, too.
As the temps continued to soar, I felt myself slowing down, even though I never ran faster than a 9 minute mile. I slowed to a stop at every aid station, sipping a cup of water as I walked and dumping a second cup either over my head or on my neck as I prepared my mind to start running again until I reached the next aid station. Just before a hillier section in Newton, I turned a corner and saw Jenn, holding Stella on her hip with one hand and clutching her camera with another. She snapped my picture and I gave her a quick hug. I’m pretty sure I said something to the effect of, “This is so *&^%^ hard!” Seeing her gave me a boost and I powered on. Those hills, though, definitely slowed me more. I walked more than I’d planned, but then I saw a sign that made me smile:
Run if you can. Walk if you have to. Crawl if you must. Just never, ever give up.
Finally, finally, I’d reached mile 22. I can do this. I can do this. I’m going to see my family any time now. And there they were.
Less than three miles to go!
The last two miles felt like forever, but I kept going and was powered by the growing number of spectators. The closer I got to the finish line, the larger the crowds–and they were screaming, yelling, giving the thumbs up and really motivated me to just get this done. Turning left onto Boylston, seeing the finish line, was the best feeling. I was fighting cramping in my calves and toes, but I could see it now, could see the end. I mustered a final sprint and crossed the line, seeing the red numbers flashing an unbelievably slower-than-anticipated time. But I was OK with it. I had done it. I had finished the Boston Marathon. In ridiculously hot weather.
Dizzy and lightheaded, my legs more sore than they’d ever felt, I found a spot to sit after accepting my medal and baggie of food and water. Not long after I found Joe and our kids, and though it would have been great to stay in downtown Boston and catch a bite and soak up the scene, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel, shower, and put my legs up.
We took our time leaving Boston the next day. A final picture Joe snapped before we left the hotel:
One of the very best parts of this trip: coming home. Pulling into our driveway, at 2 a.m. in the morning, we saw this hanging on our garage wall. Thank you Kelle, Gloria, Jennifer, Michele and Susie for your amazing love and support.
Thanks to all of your who have read through this and kept me going strong these past several months as I prepared for this race.