It’s been almost one week since the Boston Marathon weekend, and the euphoria and excitement from the country’s biggest marathon celebration is still fresh. Erin and I are going to split this post into two parts: my perspective and thoughts from the race and hers. So settle in, it’s going to be a wild ride.
My race story really starts after qualifying in September. I immediately started suffering from posterior tibial tendonitis with a touch of plantar fasciitis thrown in for good measure. After finishing a season of Running Club with my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders and running the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis half with Jessica and Erin, I finally was able to stop running and rest it. I figured I’d give it a few weeks and be back up and training in plenty of time for Boston. Unfortunately, this was not one of those injuries. Just over 12 weeks until the marathon, I was finally ready to start slowly adding miles back in, but I was starting with a base of zero.
Adding so many miles at once was not the most ideal way to come back from an injury, and I suffered from some tightness and pain in other areas as a result of most likely over compensating for the injured foot. However, I ended up hitting three 40+ mile weeks, and got two 20-milers in before the marathon, so I wasn’t totally unprepared.
I still had a sense of disbelief that I was actually going to make it to Boston able to run pain-free and with my abbreviated training going better than I had originally thought possible. After weeks of counting down, making packing lists, and shopping, we were finally headed to Boston.
We hit the Expo on Saturday morning right when it opened at 9 am. We picked up our bibs from the friendliest volunteer in the world – an older man who had run it many times in previous years who, despite giving bibs to probably hundreds of runners, still took time to get really excited for us and tell us all about Boston and the race.
Then it was time for some Expo shopping. We had our whole group with us: me, Mike and our daughters, Erin and David, and our parents. I bought a new pair of running sunglasses (Expos are the BEST place to get super lightweight sunglasses). Side note: my debit card then got canceled because the sunglasses vendor was from Florida and my bank thought it was a fraudulent charge. Thankfully Mike’s still worked and I had my credit cards since it was the weekend and I couldn’t get it squared away with the bank right away.
I grabbed a free poster that has the names of all of the marathon runners printed on it (which I later framed to go in our exercise room), a Brooks Run Happy Boston 2017 shirt, the long-sleeve tech shirt that came with the bib, and my marathon jacket, which I had ordered previously.
After enjoying all there was to see at the Expo, we made a quick stop at the finish line to see where we’d be crossing after our 26.2 mile journey.
Then it was on to do the tourist thing in Boston for the rest of the day. HELLO, Freedom Trail and 7+ miles of walking! It’s a good thing we didn’t have a time goal for this race.
Sunday we went to church, had Easter brunch, celebrated my daughter’s 8th birthday, and generally tried to stay off of our feet. I did lay out my flat runner which wasn’t strictly necessary since I was catching the 9 am shuttle to the start from my hotel which meant I would have plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Oh well, it’s tradition.
When I woke up, it was clear that this race was going to be HOT. I dressed, ate a bagel, said goodbye to my family, and boarded the hotel shuttle, perfectly comfortable without any throw-away clothes on.
As I waited for Erin (she got dropped off at Athlete’s Village on the marathon buses that came from Boston Common; I got dropped off at the starting line), the sun continued pounding down and it seemed to only be getting warmer. I read later that it was 79 degrees when the elite men hit the halfway point in the race. We started almost an hour after them, so that would have been the temp right when we started.
The first five miles were tough for me. I was really feeling the heat and at an 8:30 pace, we were probably going a little too fast for the conditions and my (lack of) training. After a few water stops at which I would drink a cup of water and dump a cup on my head, and after slowing down a little bit, I started to feel more like we had found a groove that I could maintain for 26.2 miles.
You’ll notice I brought my own water, but if I had known just how many aid stations there were along the course (I would say about every mile), I probably would have left it behind. We got water at about every other one, or every 2 miles.
At Mile 10 I saw Mike and the girls cheering us on in the town of Natick. Their plan was to hop on the next train into the city and be waiting for us at the finish line. Unfortunately, MBTA didn’t plan enough extra trains for race day, and they ended up waiting over an hour and then barely squeezing onto the next train. By the time they got to the finish line, they had just missed us. They met us at the family reunion area instead.
Ever since the bombings, I have really felt that the spectators are the real heroes of any race day. They wait for HOURS to see you pass in about 10 seconds, and then navigate closed roads and traffic to get to the next spot on the course. They support our crazy schedules, hours of running, and get up at ungodly hours, often to stand and freeze somewhere, all to show us how loved and supported we are. Three cheers for the spectators!
The crowd support of this race was unbelievable. The energy and excitement, the screaming, the signs, it was unlike any race I’ve ever done. From the Wellesley girls giving out kisses to the kids on trampolines lining the course, to the crowds lining every one of the hills, and the celebrations when we reached the top of each one; it only seemed to build in intensity as we got closer to the finish line.
I loved hitting Mile 24 when I could see the famous Citgo sign ahead. When you cross the Citgo sign, it marks exactly 1 mile to the finish line. Then it was a right on Hereford, a left on Boylston, and a straightaway to the finish. Our parents were in the stands at the finish cheering us on, but I couldn’t hear their voices over the screams of the crowd.
We crossed the finish line in 3:57:13, then hobbled to our medals and started making the long journey out of the finish chutes and toward the family reunion area. Despite the fact that after a long, difficult race you’re dying to sit down, the long walks around the city and eventually to the train back to our hotel really helped loosen me up and helped me get far less sore than I was after Big Cottonwood. (That and running a full minute per mile slower no doubt helped too!)
Despite tough conditions (what I wouldn’t give for 45 and cloudy), and less-than-ideal training, it was a once in a lifetime experience. I’m still smiling just thinking about it.
Uff da, this blog has been neglected! Our last post was in November – basically a lifetime ago in running time. The only thing to remedy it is a double whammy Boston Marathon post!
My heart wasn’t exactly into marathon training this winter/spring. Work has been unrelenting, and David and I bought a house and moved in about a month ago. Running started feeling more like an additional stressor than a hobby. I decided not to worry about it too much – I used the same marathon training plan that Elissa chose for her post-injury training, mainly because it incorporates less miles, and even then didn’t hit all the runs. I got the long ones done, made sure my shorter runs were on the speedy side, and hoped for the best.
By the time we were set to fly to Boston, I think I was more excited for a vacation from work and regular life than the race itself. But that quickly changed as soon as we were immersed in all the excitement of the weekend-long running party that Boston inspires. Everywhere you looked, there were people doing shakeout runs, banners for the race, and marathon jackets galore.
As Elissa mentioned, we walked the freedom trail to see the sites after the expo. Note: I am not advising anyone to walk as much as we did two days before the race. But I also do not advise anyone to stay cooped up in their hotel room when you have so much to explore! This wasn’t the first time I chose sightseeing over fresh legs, and it probably won’t be the last.
The evening before the race, David and I went to the official pre-race dinner. Runners get in for free! There was a long line to get in, but it moved fast (pretty sure the Boston Athletic Association has marathon weekend logistics DOWN). They had different kinds of pastas, bread, salad, and beverages, including a special 26.2 brew from Sam Adams. All the volunteers were so enthusiastic, and we enjoyed our meal.
Boston is kind of weird in that the race starts way later than most marathons. Our wave was set to start at 10:50, basically the middle of the day! We stayed in Cambridge, so David and I hopped on the 10-minute train downtown at around 7:45. That gave me plenty of time to leisurely get ready and eat breakfast. I kissed David goodbye as I boarded a bus to Hopkinton, which took SO LONG. It’s always unnerving to get bussed to the start of a point-to-point course, and this one seemed to take even longer. I checked the weather about a million times, even though by that point I was resigned to the fact that it would be a hot one.
Once we made it to Hopkinton, I hung out for a while at the athlete’s village, trying to eat as much food as possible. The race provided bagels and bananas, and there were several stands of other goodies (Clif, Gatorade, etc). I had brought by own snacks though so I just hunkered down to eat. I’ve been so hungry during my runs lately, I felt like I needed to eat more than seemed reasonable.
Finally my wave was allowed to start making our way to the starting line. I met up with Elissa there, and we beelined for the porta potties. Soon we were off!
And it was HOT. So hot. Between the weather and my tired legs, I thought that it was entirely possible I wouldn’t make it the whole way. We slowed down and eventually the clouds came out. I don’t think it was actually any cooler, but it sure helped it feel more bearable. The crowds screaming encouragement the entire way didn’t hurt either!
We ran a very smart race – we ran at a slower pace, took more frequent water breaks, and ran through two fire hydrants (which SOAKED us). We conquered the infamous Newton hills and even had some energy left to speed up in the final miles. The crowds were so loud and exciting.
After crossing the finish line, we hobbled our way through the chute to get snacks and our medals, then walked to the G-H section of the reunion area. We met up with David and the Hershes, and soon after our parents joined as well. It was amazing having all of them there to support us!
David and I stuck around downtown for dinner, then made our way back to Cambridge. Several people came up to me, asking how the race went and congratulating me on finishing. It just showed how much the people of Boston get into the spirit of the race.
David asked me that night about my next running goals. For quite a while, my goal was to qualify for Boston, get into Boston, and then of course to run Boston. In a way, it feels like, now what?? I’m going to take it easy with the running while we work on our new house. I think my brain more than my body needs a bit of a rest from marathon training. I have a few ideas for goals after that, but we’ll see how I feel in a month or so.
One thing is for sure – Boston did not disappoint. It truly was an incredible experience, and I’m so grateful that I was able to run it.