My first Boston Marathon was both one of the worst and one of the best things that I have experienced all rolled up into 3 hours and 15 minutes of torture. Even though this race didn’t go as planned as of Monday at 1:22PM I became a Boston Marathon finisher, and that is pretty cool!
I apologize in advance because this recap is going to be very long, with a lot more words than pictures! To give you a full picture of my race lets jump back a little bit to last Friday, three days before the race. This is when the first issue that I had during my race popped up. I was doing a short shakeout run when I noticed that something felt a little wonky in my left IT band. I have never had IT band issues in the past so I just assumed it was a little tight and needed to be stretched a little extra in the few days remaining before the race. For the next three days I stretched, foam rolled, massaged, and iced that area like crazy! I even took an Epsom salt bath to make sure my muscles felt loved and were nice and relaxed.
Even though I did all this I still felt twinges throughout the weekend and voiced my concerns to Henri on Sunday night that all the downhill on the first half of the course would really aggravate my left quad because off the weirdness (<– the best word I can think of) in my IT band. He assured me that if I warmed it up properly and took it conservatively on the downhills my leg should be okay.
Sunday I did a really short/slow 3 miles with my sister and our dogs (with minimal pain) and spent the rest of the day relaxing with family, celebrating Easter and eating copious amounts of carbs at brunch!
That brings us to the morning of the race…
Since Henri and I moved back to my parents’ house we are literally living 3.4 miles away from the starting line. I didn’t want to have to deal with the shuttles that run around town all morning in order to get to the starting line, so before the roads closed at 7am Henri dropped me off at our really good family friends’ house in the center of town – right next to the starting line. It was so nice to skip the public transportation and avoid the athlete village.
I was chatting with my friends and eating my pre-race cold oatmeal and banana (plain and boring but it usually settles really well) when I noticed that I wasn’t feeling 100%. My stomach felt a upset and for some reason I every bite I took made me feel more and more nauseous. I chalked it up to nerves and forced the food down because I knew that I would need my fuel. I spent the next few hours before the race chatting with the other runners hanging out at the house and stretching and massaging that pesky IT band which luckily was feeling much better.
About 45 minutes before race time I started to make my way to my corral. I didn’t get far because a few feet from the front porch I ran into my bestest MA running buddy, Courtney, and her boyfriend – how cute is their sign!?
After a few minutes of chatting and hugs and “good luck”s I was on my way again. I jogged a few minutes to test out my quad (it was still feeling pretty good), did a few others drills on my way to the corrals and was settled in corral #9 by 9:40, twenty minutes before race time. The girl next to me in the corral was wearing the all-state XC t-shirt from my sophomore year so I struck up a conversation with her and it turned out that she was actually friends with one of my high school teammate’s cousin – small world!
The gun went off for the elite men at 10 but it took all of us back in the last corral a while to walk to the starting line, that was the longest 6 minutes of my life. As soon as I crossed the starting line I could tell that I was really going to have to hold myself back the first few miles because there was just so much energy and excitement coming from the crowds and the other runners!
The first six miles went great, my pace was perfect to run between 2:55 and 3:00 (6:43 pace through 10K) and I felt really comfortable. But then right around the 6 mile mark we ran past a random restaurant and the smell of food was wafting on the course, as soon as I smelled it I was hit with a wave of intense nausea and thought “that can’t be good”. You see (and guys you can skip these next few sentences in italics), Aunt Flow’s visit was scheduled to come marathon weekend but I was still holding out hope that she would be postponed until later in the week because I have been struggling with some pretty intense cramps/nausea the past few times she’s been around. But no, the PMS cramps/nausea that precede her had to hit right when I had 20 more miles to run. I continued to hold up a pretty good pace but when I took some of my Honey Stinger chews at miles 8 and 12 my stomach seemed to get even more mad at me – yes my stomach can feel anger.
I knew that my mom and aunt were waiting for me in Wellesley so I told myself that I would make to the halfway, find my mom and tell her that I felt sick and see what she said. Well, Wellesley was extra PACKED this year and my mom was in the back of the crowd standing up on a planter so that I could see/hear her cheering, needless to say all I managed to do was point to my belly and shout/cry “my stomach hurts” as I passed her and continued on. I passed the halfway mark a little after seeing my mom and was excited/sad to see 1:28:19 (6:44 pace) on my watch – excited because I had paced myself perfectly for a big PR through the first half and sad because I knew that if something didn’t change with my stomach there was no way I was going to be able to keep up that pace.
Over the course of the next mile my IT band grew more and more painful. It had made it through the rough downhill of the course but all that pounding had taken its toll. I tried to take some more fuel thinking that it might help, but the second that the GU touched my tongue I knew the little drop I had squeezed out was all I was going to be able to manage. A few steps later there were some people handing out bananas and I thought that it was worth a try, I took an itty-bitty bite, chewed it and immediately had to stop to spit it out and seriously thought that I was going to throw up.
After that moment – around mile 14 1/2 – everything is a blur. I know that I saw Henri and my Dad by the fire station in Newton, my mom and aunt again around mile 20, two of my high school friends along heartbreak hill, Courtney and her boyfriend in Brookline (from the start). I know that I walked through every water station. And I know that I cried. A lot. I had wanted to tear up the Boston course, I wanted to do it for myself, I wanted to do it for the victims from last year’s marathon, I wanted to do it for my family and friends, and I wanted to do it for all of you. There were moments when I wanted to stop, if I wasn’t going to run my PR – my sub-3 why keep going?
But then a guy named Michael changed that way of thinking. I was walking and crying and he came up next to me. I was having a hard time breathing through my tears, and he helped to calm me down, got my breathing back to normal, and told me I could do it. He told me that my time didn’t matter. I just had to cross that finish line. We all had to cross that finish line. That’s when it dawned on me, it didn’t matter how fast I ran, all that mattered was that I was able to run. Every runner that finished was a part of the running community and the city of Boston taking back the finish line and this year, at this marathon that is what was important!
So as I ran that second half in 1:46:49 I gave thanks for every person lining the course cheering us on. I gave thanks for every fellow runner that asked if I was okay, if I needed help. I gave thanks for every volunteer that handed me a much need cup of water or Gatorade. And I gave thanks that I could run.
When I hit the 25 mile marker I knew that I had to keep running until I crossed that finish line. I was determined to get there as fast as I could and somehow I managed mile 26 in 6:55 and the last .2 at 5:53 pace. There is nothing quite like turning onto Boylston Street and seeing the finish line ahead of you to kick you into the highest gear you’ve got!
My sisters laugh because in my finish line photos it looks like I’m not celebrating, but this little double fist pump is literally all I could muster at that point. Official time – 3:15:08.
Even though this race was awful in the sense that I felt sick &my quad was painful (not just tired/sore but seriously in pain) it was one of the greatest events that I have ever been a part of. It was a day focused on the good that we can all do when we come together to do something amazing! A big thank you to Michael and everyone that cheered me on – whether family, friend or stranger – through the hard times. It is because of people like them that 99% of the runners that started the race that day crossed the finish line!
Only 360 days until we get to do it all over again! 🙂