This post took days/a week to write as I processed my feelings/emotions about the day. I hoped that as time passed, I’d feel better about my experience, but to be completely honest, I had a bad race. You can do everything right and everything in your power to feel good and do well, but sometimes there are just bad races, and unfortunately, mine happened to be the biggest race of my life. My boss’s boss said it the best: You train six months for 1 day, and there’s no way to know if it’s going to go as you’ve planned.
The week leading up to the Marathon was great. The forecast was looking ok, I got over my cold, and I was feeling pretty good. I was feeling ready. My friends arrived on Friday night, I got good amounts of sleep, ate well, relaxed, and had fun. The weather forecast began to look less great.
Before the Marathon:
I felt incredibly calm Monday morning. Slept pretty decently the night before, felt rested. Got dressed, ate some breakfast, and Eric drove me to Davis Sq where I got the T to Park Street. I found my team and as we chatted while waiting for the buses, my nerves began to wear off and I actually began to get excited. On the bus ride to Hopkinton, I snoozed a little bit (obviously). The Athlete’s Village was amazing – enormous, filled with runners wearing ridiculous throw-away outfits, garbage bags, and ponchos. We even wore baggies over our shoes to keep them dry. I found my team, sat around, took a trip to the Porta-Potty, and continued to feel calm and happy. When they called out Wave 4, we stripped off some layers, donated some of the throwaway clothing, and headed to our corrals. The rain held off until we were headed to the corrals, thank goodness, because sitting in the rain would have been much worse than walking to the start line in it. I knew it was going to be a wet run, so it wasn’t unexpected as we were getting ready to run. We got packed in like sardines, quickly threw off the last of my throwaway gear – a $3 Target sweatshirt and plastic poncho – and then we were running.
The first few miles were incredible. The rain didn’t bother me, I felt warm enough. My legs felt good. I was running a slow, comfortable pace around 11 minutes. I saw my teammates and let them pass me, knowing that I was staying slow and steady. I let myself take it all in, listen to the crowds, and was having a great time. I knew that my friends Kim and Erin would be around Mile 2, so I kept my eyes peeled for them. When I saw them, I yelled out and gave them hugs (sorry they were such wet hugs!!) and continued on my happy way. We ran through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham…. I ran past the Framingham Train Depot and the 10K marker.
The second quarter or so took me through the rest of Framingham and into Natick. We crossed Speen Street and hit the 15K mark. I still felt decent and excitedly ran under some photographers positioned over the 15K marker (this is the best photo of me from the day… more on this later…). Ran through Natick center and towards Wellesley College. This stretch of the Marathon is renowned for the screaming Wellesley students that can be heard a mile away. These ladies were fierce and had so much energy. They also had some of the best signs listing out reasons why runners should give them kisses (“Kiss Me, I’m graduating!” “Kiss Me, I left the library for this!” “Kiss Me, I’m wet!”… That last one made me giggle for the next half mile). After Wellesley, I ran through the half marathon point… and immediately felt the need to walk. All of a sudden, my legs were so sore and so tired… and I was only half way done.
Oh goodness were these miles tough. My next check point after the half marathon was Mile 15 at the Wellesley Community Center. I continued walking on and off, and began to feel a blister forming on the side of my ankle where my sock was rubbing. Luckily, right before I hit the Wellesley Community Center, a bunch of elderly women were passing out sticks with Vaseline on them! I grabbed one, stopped, and slathered it all over my ankles – which kept me blister free the rest of the race. I ran another hundred or so steps to the Wellesley Community Center and tried to stretch my legs out and get them back for the next 10+ miles, but they weren’t having it. After I passed the WCC, I began texting Sarah and Eric to get a sense of where they were – hoping they were close. My wonderful friend Jess had offered to drive them to a couple different spots so they could see me run by – and they were waiting for me just past Mile 17. I did my best to run to them, walking a bit as I crossed the bridge over 95 and ran by Newton Wellesley Hospital. Eventually, I was on the lookout for them and ran slowly so they wouldn’t see me walking. And then there they were. And I was so happy! Until they reminded me I needed to keep running…
And then I was in the Newton Hills. I’ve never been one who hated running hills. I like the rolling up and down. But after the extreme downhill from Hopkinton, and the overall exhaustion I was feeling, my legs weren’t having it. I began to walk again, until I saw my teammate Cassie. Rather than let her pass me, I decided to try and run with her for as long as possible. She and I had struggled through the Newton Hills during our 20 miler, so I knew we were probably going to be tackling them at a similar pace. After the first hill, and maybe midway through the second one (of 4), I began to walk and let her go on without me. My Coach Andy found me soon after, and we walked/ran together while he tried to diagnose what was going on. I was eating right, I was hydrating right, I started out SLOW, but my body just wasn’t interested in performing. He gave me a pep talk, and sent me on my way to tackle Heartbreak. Regardless of how shitty I was feeling and how much pain I was in, I decided that I was going to run up Heartbreak and not stop. And I did. And that was a great accomplishment. But then my IT Band gave up. And it felt like a spear was jabbing into the side of my knee after running more than a few steps. This was the beginning of the #SoloShuffle, which I continued to do until the finish line.
As I headed towards Boston College, I was surrounded by college students again. Again, the energy (the drunken energy?) was fierce. They were screaming my name, cheering me on with all their power, and I couldn’t handle it. I saw my friends again (minus Eric who was racing to the finish line) and all the emotions started to bubble up. As soon as I said goodbye to them, I was crying. My friend Julia sent me a text to give me her location, and as I began to respond to tell her I was nearing her old apartment just past BC, my phone turned off. My hands were so cold and wet that I didn’t want to take my phone out of its plastic baggie, so I just kept running and figured I’d see her. With all the emotional crazy, I think I read her text as Cleveland Circle, when in fact she was at Coolidge Corner (let’s be honest, I get them confused in real life, too), and when I didn’t see her at the first one, I got extra emotional thinking I’d missed her. I continued the #SoloShuffle and combined it with the ugly sobbing (if you want to see some hilarious/unfortunate race photos, please feel free to check mine out).
And then I heard someone screaming my name and running towards me in a pink rain jacket – JULIA! This was the most emotional moment – I was at mile 24 or so, in horrendous pain, and an emotional basket case – I don’t know if I was crying because I was in pain, or because I was having a shitty race, or because I had put in all this work for 6 months and was not doing as well as expected – but some of it was definitely thinking about Granny. In the weeks leading up to the Marathon, our coaches reminded us over and over that we needed to remember why we were running and who we were running for. So, I also sobbed thinking about how much I missed Granny and Poppies, and that no amount of training or running would bring them back.
After a sobbing hug from JKP, I kept up with the #SoloShuffle. I shuffled through Kenmore, through the tunnel, and all of a sudden, I was turning right on Hereford, and left on Boylston. There was no more #SoloShuffle as I headed towards the finish line. Once I was on Boylston, there was only running (albeit, slow running). I saw Eric on my right screaming my name and blowing me kisses – luckily I had the strength to blow him some back. Then I saw him RUNNING down the sidewalk to meet me past the finish line. I think I may have blacked out at the Finish Line because I have no memory of crossing it. Apparently they said my name and that I’m from Somerville.
Once I had passed the line, I saw Sarah, other Eric, and Elizabeth. I think they were cheering for me and taking pictures and asking me questions, but all I wanted was to get my medal and my foil blanket. They were so great and didn’t even seem to mind that I had no interest in chatting. Maybe I gave them hugs? All I remember is walking down the Finish chute for blocks before getting my medal and blanket. Eventually, I was able to turn right off of Boylston towards the family meeting area, where Eric was waiting for me. As soon as his arms were around me in a hug, I was sobbing again. When I was done crying for the umpteenth time, we walked (I hobbled) to our Team’s meeting area in the Boston Park Plaza, another few blocks away.
The hotel was filled to the brim with happy runners who had showered and changed and were enjoying their congratulatory beers. Once I finished taking a shower and getting into dry, warm clothing, I began to feel like myself again. Sarah and other Eric’s flight got delayed to Tuesday, so we headed back to Somerville where I ate a bowl of delicious fries and an enormous burger topped with onion rings… and a beer.
After a week of processing, there are a few things I know to be true:
1. I’m glad I did this. I’m glad I applied to be a part of the LLS Team; I’m glad I chose to honor the 5th anniversary of Granny’s death this way; I’m glad I dedicated the last 6 months to training and fundraising almost $10,000 for LLS.
2. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of 6 months of balancing what felt like a second full-time job; I’m proud of all the early Saturday mornings I spent running outside in the worst Boston winter of recent history; I’m proud of myself for finishing my first marathon.
3. I will run another marathon. In the first few days after the Marathon, I said that not only would I not run Boston again, but that I wouldn’t run any other marathon, ever. A week out, I know that I’m a better athlete and runner than what showed up in Hopkinton last week and I want to prove it to myself by running another marathon in under 5 hours. I still don’t think I will run Boston again. The day is so special and meaningful, and I think I would rather support other runners by volunteering during the day along the route or just by cheering on my former teammates (who already plan on running again next year).
I am so thankful for this experience. I am thankful for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society who do such an amazing job supporting 100+ runners in their training and fundraising. I’m thankful for my two coaches Andy and Sarad who helped me transition from a half-marathon runner to a marathon runner. I’m thankful for my amazing teammates whose stories and mission moments kept me going when the winter felt like it would never end or when I needed a reminder of our mutual goal to end blood cancer. I’m thankful for my most wonderful family and friends who supported me with love and donations, helping me to raise almost $10,000 and keep me sane these past 6 months. I’m thankful for my extra special friends who came and cheered me on during the marathon – or sent me supportive texts and emails in the days prior. And I’m most thankful for my boyfriend Eric – my #1 supporter. After 6 months of my waking him up between 5-5:30 for pre-work runs and talking incessantly about nothing other than the marathon, training, and fundraising, I assumed he’d be ready for me to take a break. Instead, he turned to me a few nights ago and said “You’ll run Boston again, I know it.”
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has raised $978,942 and we’re trying to hit $1 million. If you haven’t yet had a chance to donate, I hope you’ll consider helping us hit this incredible milestone as we fight and cure blood cancer.