The Boston Marathon is unique in a lot of ways – emotionally, logistically, and what it does to you physically. I will try to cover each one the best I can here.
One of the unique logistical pieces is getting to Hopkinton, where the race begins. Everyone loads into school buses and is driven there. Given the fact that “everyone” is 35,000 people – this process starts early and takes a long time. It is no wonder that the city takes a national holiday. The kids certainly can’t go to school with all us runners using their school buses!
Before we headed to the Boston Public Garden to get on the buses, I had oatmeal with 1/2 serving protein powder, bananas and blueberries in the hotel room. The hotel had a mini-fridge and microwave, so I just used a paper cup to make the oatmeal. This was about 6:30am.
From there, we got in the aforementioned buses. My parents and John decided to stay in our hotel for a viewing spot, as it was directly at mile 25 on the course. My parents went with me to the buses though. When we parted ways, I sat down to wait for my turn. There were already people there cheering on the runners and keeping our spirits high as we waited in line.
My mom bought this awesome foam finger at the Red Sox game on Saturday night. It worked perfectly for me to find them in the crowds!
Meanwhile, after about a 45 minute bus ride, we arrived at athletes’ village. This experience was so special on its own, let alone as part of The Boston Marathon. Everyone was hanging out and talking about running. And it was fun to truly feel like an athlete as a part of this event.
I had about two hours before it was time to load up in my start corral. I passed the time by drinking water and standing in line for the porta potties. Haha! Literally. I also got my name written on my arm by the lovely people from Clif Bar. Best decision I made all day.
The athletes’ village was filled with coffee, water, bagels, gatorade, bananas, apples, sunscreen, body glide, band aids….you name it, they had it for the runners. This was the first, but certainly not the last, time this day where the course support blew me away. And we were not even on the course yet. Each volunteer was so kind. If you asked a question, they were all kind and knew the answer, and then congratulated you and asked if you needed anything else.
I don’t know how all of those volunteers had the patience of saints when dealing with 35,000 runners who were hyped up on caffeine and adrenaline. I did my best to sincerely thank each and every volunteer and law/fire/EMT/public officer – there were almost as many of them as there were runners.
I had ridden the bus into athlete’s village with a lady name Sue from Nebraska. We ended up sticking together until it was time to load into our corrals. It was so nice to chat and get to know her. I made her take this picture with me so that I could look her up after the race haha!
One thing that became very clear in the athletes’ village – it was going to be HOT. Volunteers were encouraging everyone to put on extra sunscreen. I was glad I had taken such care to hydrate the previous three days, as it is really not something you can do at the last minute. At about 9:00am, I had a picky bar. Then at 10:00am, I drank a serving of Cocoa Delite flavored Generation Ucan.
As the corrals loaded, and one last trip to the bathroom was made, the heat became more noticeable. Especially when you are in the crush of bodies in your corral. As we walked (quite a long way) to get into the corrals, the town of Hopkinton had already showed up to greet us. People were in their front yards, barbecuing and giving out high fives. Someone even had a tent filled with vaseline, sunscreen, safety pins, water, food – all free to the runners. And this was just someone who lived there, doing this out of the kindness of their heart. Someone watching even helped me put sunscreen on my back! She was standing outside of a house in Hopkinton, and saw me trying to get the sunscreen on my back, and said, “Now you come over here and let me do that. I’ll not have you getting fried on our watch.” There was no arguing with her, and it was so sweet.
The race starts out very downhill for the first few miles, and I made it my goal not to go out too fast. I knew it was hot, but I was still going to give sub-3:30 a shot if I felt ok. For the first 10k, I felt pretty good and hung onto my pace without having to do too much jostling for space. I didn’t put my headphones in, and kept my ears open for the crowds and the noises of the runners around me. I stayed relaxed, and hit my paces.
The crowds might have thinned out just a tad as we worked out way towards Ashland. There were some rolling hills, but I knew that from the course tour the day before. I felt my chest constrict like it will sometimes do lately in workouts. I don’t know if this is an effect of hypothyroidism or possibly the medication I am trying out (update: my doctor is going to tweak the medication to help this). I try hard not to let it freak me out and just take it one step at a time. I was already feeling very hot though, and I do admit the lead anvil sitting on my chest feeling DID freak me out.
I let the crowds carry me with their cheers and focused on getting to Wellesley. I was around mile 10 and feeling bad. You really can’t fake 16 miles. I took my first gel down at mile 5 and got about half of the second one day at mile 10. I could feel it start to come back up, so I tossed it. The anvil on my chest combined with the heat was dropping my pace slower and slower. I knew it was time to make the call. This race was not going to be for time. It was going to be about honoring my journey and taking a 26.2 mile victory lap. I could either fight with my pace and be miserable, or I could make this a party. I think the next picture tells you which one I picked!
The picture above is from mile 17. But I won’t skip ahead that far yet. Right before we ran through Natick Center, I had made my decision to not run for time. So as I ran through Natick, I put both hands over to my right and high fived everyone along the route. I picked up my bicep with “JBird” written on it and they screamed my name. I shouted, “Boston Strong!!” right back at them and we were all going wild together. The heat quickly reminded me that shenanigans such as shouting and running were taking a lot more lung power than I was working with. I started alternating taking Gatorade and water and each aid station – which were all a mile apart. I also grabbed two extra cups of water to dump over my head. I would drink, dump the water over my head, and be completely dry and very thirsty by the time I got to the next aid station, literally 8-9 minutes away.
Soon we were in Wellesley. And you really could hear the screams from a mile away. As we approached the school, the students were out in full force. The women had the funniest signs. The shrieked and told us we were looking good. Some runners stopped for a kiss and I decided that I would have my very own marathon kiss at mile 25 😉
A huge group of men were out too. They were screaming, “marry me!! kiss me!”, and they also had very funny signs. I was genuinely sad to run away from the scream tunnel of those bada$$ ladies, but excited to get to the next town.
As we worked our way through the flat of mile 14, the roller coast series of the race approached. The spectators on the course were amazing. They had taken ice and put it on cookie sheets for us to grab. I stuffed my sports bra with and held some in each palm. My friend Sue had told me that her doctor friend told her that was a good way to get your core temp down. Mile 15 started with a little climb that topped out quickly. I put in my headphones and got ready for the Newton hills.
In my head, I chunked it down to three big hills. They were very similar to what I trained on at home. I was bummed I was feeling so physically bad, because I’d have liked to see what I could do with them. At the top of the first hill, I had an orange slice from a spectator. Orange slices during a marathon are magical. At the top of the second hill, I grabbed a blue otter pop and got about half down. The ice cold felt wonderful. I knew I needed to keep fueling because I had ditched the gels, and some calories seemed better than none. The spectators were encouraging the runners to eat and take what we needed.
Getting to the top of Heartbreak Hill was deafening. I didn’t stop getting to the top. I tried to keep my eyes on the top and keep shuffling up the hill. I knew my parents and John would be around mile 24-25, near the Citgo sign.
There was an overpass to get over in order to get there – and THAT somehow felt much harder than Heartbreak. There was a young man at the top on his side. His skin was grey and he was surrounded by EMTs. I said a prayer for him and gave them a wide berth to give the medical team room to do what they needed. I hope he is ok.
Getting to run down the overpass was something that I thought would be a relief. But the knives in my quads told me otherwise. The crowd support along the next 2 miles was unbelievable. At one point, when I thought I might just seriously stop and sit down, I picked up my arms and the crowd screamed for me. I kept my eyes peeled for my people and stayed close to the right side of the road.
And there they were! I ran fast (which was probably a shuffle) up to my mom and dad and was wrapped in a big hug, and got two kisses from John. Then it was off to finish this damn thing! We ran down a swoop to go on to the part of the road where you turn right onto Hereford. The crowds there were so cool. I was so so tired, but I knew I couldn’t walk or they would yell at me to keep going haha!! As I turned left onto Boylston and saw the finish line, I said a prayer for those killed and injured in 2013. I was so grateful to be a part of Boston Strong. It felt like Boston had folded me into its tradition. I had goosebumps the whole way down the street.
Final clock time was 3:53:55. My slowest marathon to date. Not what I trained for in the slightest, but I am forever grateful. The course is hard, the weather was tough. But that is what the day gave me and I am beyond grateful to be a part of the tradition.
The moment you crossed the finish line, the volunteers were there to swoop you up. I stopped and turned back to look. And take it all in. I started to cry a little and a volunteer came up and wrapped me in a big bear hug. “You did it. Thank you for running my city,” he said. Naturally this caused me to burst into hysterics due to the kindness of it. I hugged him back and thanked him for volunteering. Then, like a massive sap, I proceeded to thank every volunteer as I walked to get my medal. They all thanked me back. More tears. Some of them were even crying!
The plan was to go to the family meeting area and meet under letter “Z”. We figured that less people had a last name that ended in Z, so it would be easier to find one another. We had each received heat sheets and a protein drink among a ton of other snacks. I sat down to try and open the drink and wait. The med team was immediately on me. No sitting down – you will get dizzy that way. They asked what my last name was and what meeting area I was looking for. I think they thought I had confusion from heat exhaustion because my last name starts with a K and I was in meeting area Z. Luckily I convinced them I was ok, and I would stay standing.
Their concern was not unfounded though. People were NOT doing well. The med tents had a lot of runners with IVs, and people were in wheel chairs. The heat had taken its toll. I felt lucky to still be upright. I try very hard to respect the marathon distance, but sometimes these things sneak up on us.
After a lot of hugging and more crying, we went back to our hotel. The hotel has a bar on the ground floor, and we went straight in for a beer. There was a HUGE crowd of Boston residents that come to the bar every year since 2013 for a viewing party. They all screamed for me! I’m pretty sure I turned more red from blushing in that moment than I did from running the marathon. It was AWESOME!
They even brought me a beer right away! More hugs all around. Also french fries. Oh man those were good.
After a much needed shower, we went to Fenway for the mile 27 party. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it might have been worth the additional cost of tickets for my parents and John just to get to drink a Sam Adams 26.2 Brew, while wearing that medal and jacket, while standing in Fenway. I mean, what?! I am the luckiest!!
And of course my mom and I wore our matching lobstah shoes!