One week after Boston Marathon and I finally feel ready to recap the race day! Not because I’ve been too exhausted or legless to hobble over to my computer but just because it has seemed a little daunting to communicate everything that went into that day and everything that went into getting me to that day.
Looking back on Marathon Monday, what may have been the most surprising thing about the experience, was how quickly it all happened; everything I had imagined to take such a long time, just flew by. Suddenly all of those months of training were over and I was up in Boston with my family, celebrating Easter, getting in those last short runs, picking up my bib, and making plans to coordinate transfers to and from the actual race.
I had to leave Milton, where I was staying with my mother, at 4:30am to get to my team’s meeting place for the drive to Hopkinton. My husband who has been so supportive of my training was ready for the early wake up call and got my to the TD Garden on time. From there we drove as a team to a senior center in Hopkinton near the start line, where we would wait for about five hours until our wave was called. Since most of us on the team had never met, those hours went by pretty fast as we all chatted and stretched and hydrated etc.
It’s hard to describe the kind of crowds of runners at the starting line; just thousands of people moving in well orchestrated droves towards one point. When the wave was called to start, everyone was so pumped up, and the weather was even an added cheerful factor. After the initial crowded shuffling, the masses start to break apart and individual runners stem off of the single wave of people. I found myself being very conservative with my pace almost right away. Before the race started and even in the days leading up to it, we’d been advised to hold back on our pace by even as much as one minute per mile, due to the warm weather. Seventy-ish degrees doesn’t sound like anything actually hot but with the kind of distance involved and considering the fact that most runners have been training in cold weather, dehydration and heat exhaustion were real concerns.
So I kept my pace comfortable; faster than jogging, but definitely slowing a bit from normal. I also made a point to stop at every mile’s Gatorade and water station. For short stretches I would be running with someone and then I would be on my own again. It was kind of a strange feeling to be running past so many incredible crowds of cheering spectators and yet feel somewhat solitary. I had always heard that the crowds along the Boston Marathon course would move you through miles and hills and you barely realized it. I was totally prepared to realize and feel all of those miles and the steep inclines of every hill and I could hardly believe it when I had already run more than half of the race and it felt like only minutes had gone by. Getting high fives from students at Wellesley College, seeing all of the adorable little kids with their families in the towns around Wellesley and Newton, and then I was coming up to Boston College.
As a BC alum, I was familiar with the area and knew when I’d be approaching the big hills, but at that time the sky became a little overcast and we all felt some relief from the heat in time for Heartbreak Hill. And coming down the last hill I was totally a believer in the power of the cheering crowds- because there were only about four miles left as I came into Cleveland Circle.
It was so strange to think that I’d be finishing the marathon in a matter of about thirty five minutes. I remembered taking the Green Line from BC to Hynes in college and how it would take for what felt like an eternity- and I still had to run through all of that stretch of Comm Ave. My legs were totally on fire but I wasn’t feeling completely fatigued…oddly enough by the time I hit Hereford – the last corner from seeing the finish line- I was exhausted! I went into a mental tunnel and barely even saw my own family cheering me on as turned on to Boylston Street. And how was it possible that the finish line was still so far when I could see it so clearly!
I made a decision somewhere around the 5K mark to ignore my watch and stuck to it. Throughout the entire marathon I had pretty much no clue as to how fast or how slow I was running. I was just trying to focus on simply running and not pushing myself too hard, because I really didn’t want to overdo it and end up in a med tent. I really just wanted to finish and feel good and enjoy the experience of it, and not obsess over my time.
So when I saw the clock with 4:18 I just decided to push through and get in under 4:20. My net finish time was actually 4:17. Slower than I’d wanted to run it but I have to admit that even crossing the finish line, I felt good. I wasn’t on the point of collapse, but I didn’t feel that I’d left anything on the table either. It was a hot day, it was my first marathon, and what I ran it in was enough for me.
After crossing over the finish line I was given my medal and heat sheet and it was starting to feel kind of dreamlike. I was in that incredible moment that I had dreamed of being in. Then I saw Ethan and Fox and Poppy heading towards me through the crowd with the big hot pink bugaboo and my whole marathon dream was real.