|Make Way for Ducklings - Boston Common|
When I ran my first marathon in 2009, I was in awe of runners who ran the Boston Marathon and never in a million years believed that I would someday run those hallowed roads. But as my fitness improved over the course of training for triathlons with Coach Muddy, the allure of Boston caught me, and I set my sights on making it to Boylston Street. On Monday, April 16, 2018, I experienced the joy of crossing the finish line in some of the worst weather in race history…and I wouldn’t change one bit of that experience.
|The city has these #BostonStrong daffodils all over the city for Marathon Weekend.|
Boston. In running circles, that’s all you need to say and everyone knows you are talking about the Boston Marathon. Some people are fast enough that they can achieve the super-fast qualifying standard in their sleep. But for most others, running fast enough to achieve the qualifying time (let alone being enough under the standard to actually get in) takes constant dedication, focus and planning. But the great thing is, the qualification race takes the hard work, worry, and stress. Once you get to Boston, it is a celebration! That’s not to say that you don’t train hard for Boston or set goals for the race, but the Boston Marathon is so much more than just a race for a time or a place. It is a celebration of the history, the joy, and community of running. And I noticed that from the moment I stepped foot in the city – Boston is PROUD of this race and so welcoming to its runners!
|Not excited AT ALL!!|
|Shakeout 5k with mom - race weekend tradition!|
The husband and I arrived on Friday to a great Air B&B in Beacon Hill. The weather was chilly, but nothing to write home about. The rest of the Sherpa squad (Mom, Dad, step-dad) arrived on Friday as well. On Saturday we packed in lots of Boston: mom and I ran the B.A.A 5k, hit up the expo to get my bib, toured the city on Caty the Duck, and feasted at Legal Seafood with old family friends. The weather was perfect running weather.
Sunday, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. I did my shake-out run along the Charles River and across the bridge to MIT – I was running sideways to counteract the wind, and I knew that would be the headwind we would be running into on Monday. We trekked to Fenway and caught a Red Sox game in the SNOW!! (so fun and totally worth it), then finished off the night with my traditional per race dinner of Thai food (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)
|Bundled in so many layers and still so cold!|
I had been checking my weather app non-stop in the week leading up to race day. Family and friends kept trying to tell me how the New England forecast of rain, wind, and cold would change by Monday. And, while the weather prediction for EVERY OTHER day of our trip changed a million times, Monday remained etched in stone. By Sunday, I fully accepted that we would be running in the rain…but kept telling myself it would be warmer, so it wouldn’t be a big deal… But no matter what, I was toeing that starting line!
|I bought this jacket for $20 at Marshalls intending to toss it at the start - turned out to be my lifesaver!|
Monday morning arrived with a civilized wake up call of 6am. My start time wasn’t until 10:50am, but the busses to the start took off from Boston Common (5ish minute walk from our rental) at 8am. I picked up my mom from her Air B&B on my way to the Common, and it was already raining. By the time I dropped my gear bag off with dry clothes and shoes for post-race, my shoes were soaked all the way through. Lots of runners had tied garbage bags around their feet to keep them dry – I thought they looked ridiculous, but definitely wished I had realized just how much rain there was going to be… The rain was unrelenting, even before the race started. Just after 8, my mom said goodbye and I boarded the bus to the start. During the hour drive, I kept looking out the windshield of the bus to see if the driver had stopped using his wipers – nope, definitely not. And there was definitely snow on the ground along the highway…yikes! But I shared a seat with a lovely man from Pennsylvania which distracted me from the weather (at least a little bit).
|Bundled up, heading to the busses!|
Arriving at the athletes village was just nuts. The start is at the high school in Hopkinton, and the gathering areas for the runners were under tents on the athletic fields…on the grass-turned-mud pits! The pre-race updates had suggested bringing a second pair of shoes to change into before the start so that you would start in dry shoes… I totally regretted that I didn’t have a second pair (or done the silly garbage bag look). My shoes were covered in mud from my second step onto the field, and they squished like full sponges as we trudged our way to the start line. But in the end it didn’t really matter because they would have been soaked the minute I switched shoes or took off the garbage bags.
|Not joking - Athlete's Village was a mud pit!|
Finally it was time! The gun went off to a rousing cheer, and Wave 3 was off. My feet felt like ice blocks but by mile 3 they warmed up enough that everything just seemed to settle in for the long haul. The hardest part of the start was figuring out how fast to run! I had an original goal of 3:25 (and I am certain I had the fitness for it), but with the reality of the cold, wind, and rain, I had no idea how my body would cope. So I just took it mile by mile. Right from the start, the course was lined with spectators. I actually can’t picture any portion of the course that had more than a 25 yard gap between spectators! I have already come to the conclusion that runners and endurance athletes are a special (crazy) breed, but I was in awe of the support out on the course. Even with the torrential downpours, there were lots of sections where I couldn’t even hear my music over the cheering!
|In the zone - not a clue that I was running past my family!|
The miles ticked off one by one, and soon enough, I hit the girls at Wellesley and was halfway done! Then I was counting down miles until I thought I would see my mom around mile 16. I didn’t see her where I thought I would, and after looking for another mile, I just got in the zone and tried to click off mile by mile. Apparently I was so focused that I completely missed her and my step-dad at mile 17!!! And I ran RIGHT next to them!!! So bummed. But I just focused on getting to the top of Heartbreak Hill, then it would be all downhill from there. Well, it was around that time that the winds really started to get to me. I thought I would be able to ride the downhill into mile 25, then pick up my pace for the last mile to the finish. But miles 24-26 were my slowest of the day. I was so cold that I couldn’t even open up my hand to stretch them out, and it felt like I was barely making any progress!
|So happy and relieved to see my family just before the turn onto Boylston!|
Luckily, I spotted my husband right after Fenway Park which gave me a huge boost until the right on Hereford. Then I saw my mom, dad, step-dad, and long time family friend, right where they said they would be. And all the emotions were captured in my smile. I turned onto Boylston and finally got choked up for everything that the day brought. I ran straight down the street and could not be more proud to cross that finish line!
|Crazy stats for the day!! Cannot believe we ran in that nonsense!|
But as soon as I stopped running, the cold sunk to my bones. My teeth would not stop chattering as I made my way through the finish area. It felt like I was walking forever before I got to the water…then my medal…then a heat sheet…then my food…then, FINALLY to the dry clothes that I had dropped off in my gear bag earlier that morning. The line to get into the change tent was way too long so I headed straight to the Starbucks to meet up with the fam. What a relief to be out of the rain!!!! I finally changed out of my soaking wet clothes and was able to absorb the race I had just run! It felt like the race took forever and at the same time was over in the blink of eye!
Celebration time!!! After fully defrosting, we feasted on Italian food in the North End at La Famiglia Georgio, then followed it up with delicious cannolis at Modern Pastry. Of course by then the rain cleared, and the night was beautiful to stroll around the North End, in my finisher’s jacket, and enjoy the city.
|The horrible weather|
And the day after the race Mother Nature blessed the city of Boston with perfect running weather – seriously?!? We finished the trip off with a visit to the Sam Adams Brewery tasting delicious brews, then had a farewell dinner with longtime family friends.
|Morning after - Seriously, Mother Nature?!?|
Over a week has passed and it still feels like a dream trip. But, I know that I have some unfinished business out on the road to Boston. I had a goal of running sub 3:30, aiming for 3:25. I KNOW that I was trained for that time and my body was ready, so it’s tough not to think about the what ifs. Could I have pushed a little bit harder, did I let go of my goal too easily? Maybe I could have at least guaranteed a BQ time (my official time to qualify is 3:40, but this year you had to run 3 minutes and 23 seconds faster (so 3:36.37) faster). But then I think about the conditions, about how many people didn’t finish, how many elites dropped out, how many people didn’t even start, and I am super proud of my day. I powered through awful conditions, where it became a complete game of mind over matter, and I earned every bit of my unicorn!