It has taken me the past week to process what happened in Boston, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a post about my race because it seems so completely unimportant after everything that happened. However, what I do know is that it was one of the most meaningful days of my life, and I will not let anyone take that from me. So here is a recap of my Boston Marathon and what the race meant to me.
My morning started out with me saying goodbye to my sister in our hotel room (she was there to spectate and cheer me on), and heading out for the short walk to where the buses loaded. I was fortunate to meet up with a running friend of mine from Albuquerque, Sheilah, and also Amy, from Albuquerque who has a great running blog.
Here we are ready to load the buses in our warm clothes. Amy, Sheilah, and me
We waited for an hour to get on a bus and then the ride was another hour to take us to the starting line in Hopkinton. It was nice to have the company during those couple of hours to pass the time and so that I didn’t get a chance to get too nervous. We got dropped off the buses and things went smoothly from there thanks to Sheilah who has run many Bostons before.
She guided us to a less crowded area behind the massive Athlete’s Village and we got quickly into a porta potty line, then walked to drop our gear bags and proceeded to begin the long trek toward the starting line. It was about a mile walk to get to the corrals at the starting line. Once the 3 of us got there we wished each other luck and parted ways to get to our different starting corrals. It was the first time I had been by myself for the past few hours, and I let it really sink in that here I was at THE Boston Marathon.
Here is a picture from my starting corral. I was in the last corral of the second wave, so there were probably 7,000-8,000 people in front of me waiting to start in this wave. I couldn’t even see the starting line from my corral and did not hear the gun for the start of our wave. I simply started walking when the masses began moving and eventually broke into a jog shortly before crossing the starting line.
After we started running I was able to quickly settle into my pace even with being surrounded by so many runners. I enjoyed every second of the screaming crowds cheering us on our way. I had such a huge smile on my face that my cheeks hurt. While the first few miles were downhill, I had read enough about the course to know I needed to hold myself back, which I was doing (or at least I thought I was). I was running near what I thought my marathon pace would be for the day because I was feeling strong and was consciously pulling myself back because I knew what was to come with the hills later in the race.
My first inkling that something was not going to go great for my race was at mile 5 when I looked at my heart rate and it was sky high. I don’t usually run to my heart rate, but I often track it after my training runs and know about where I should be for different levels of effort. I knew this heart rate was too high to sustain for the remaining 21 miles, but I was puzzled because I felt so good, my breathing was really easy, I was not sucking wind like this high heart rate would normally mean for me, so I thought maybe it was a blip with my heart rate monitor. I decided to continue running based on effort, still holding myself back from going faster, even though I felt like I could. I just tried to focus on each mile that I was in. The miles ticked by quicker than any other race I have run. Before I knew it, 10 miles were done. The crowds were so supportive and loud cheering us on. My sister was at the half way point and I saw her, but unfortunately with the mass of runners going by, she never saw me, despite being only 10 feet from her and screaming her name multiple times. I was definitely bummed and thought about turning around to run back to her for a hug, but at this point my pace was on track for another Boston qualifying time and I thought I’d better keep running.
I began to feel the effects of my high heart rate around mile 16 when we started climbing hills. I was able to stick with the first 3 hills and hold a decent pace getting up and over them, but by the time the 4th started (Heartbreak Hill), I began to feel light headed and a little dizzy and knew I couldn’t continue on at this pace. So, I did what I didn’t want to do and walked for a bit starting a little after mile 20. I even stopped to use the porta potty, which I have never ever done during a race! Note to spectators: if a runner comes off the race course to use a porta potty please let them go in front of you rather than making them wait in line.
After my 60 second bathroom stop that took 6 minutes with waiting in line, I started on my way again, walking and slowly jogging, working on bringing my heart rate down. I started feeling better and at that point, realizing my BQ time was out of reach, I decided to just soak in every last moment of the race. And I’m happy to say that I did just that. I prayed for friends and family and asked for God’s help in carrying me through the rest of the race. I smiled the entire last 6 miles while run/walking, soaking in the crowd, the cheers, the kids giving me orange slices. The spectators made me feel like a rock star.
The last mile finally came and I took the infamous right turn onto Hereford Street, then the left onto Boylston Street and relished those last few hundred yards of the race. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I finished in 4:04:17 and proceeded to enjoy my time in the finisher’s chute. I asked a volunteer to take a picture of me and then took a bunch of pictures during my slow stroll through getting water, getting a Mylar blanket, and eventually to receiving my medal.
Just after crossing the finish line.
I wanted to hang out in the finisher’s chute all day, it was such a thrilling feeling of elation and accomplishment after I have dreamed of this race and worked so hard to get here. However, my sister was waiting to meet up with me and I was excited to reunite with her. I texted my finishing picture to a bunch of friends and continued through the chute to pick up my gear bag and called my husband to hear his voice. While I was on the phone with him I heard and felt the first explosion. Everyone turned around and saw the smoke and we were all confused. Then the second explosion went off. My husband told me to get out of there as quickly as I could. I was nearing the gear bag buses and the volunteer saw my bib number and reached my bag out to me and I continued to head for the exit at the end of the finisher’s chute. I was able to call my sister to find out where she was and fortunately, she was headed in the same direction I was. Amongst hundreds of runners and spectators near the end of the chute, God miraculously brought us immediately together, we hugged and proceeded to walk the short distance to our hotel room.
I will forever remember April 15, 2013 for both the joy and the sorrow.
“…these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13