During the spring of 2013 I started training for my first half marathon. It was pretty much an impulse decision brought about by wine and a BBQ with friends. At the time, I just wanted to finish around the two hour mark; I had no ambitions to run longer distances and definitely did not have the Boston Marathon on my radar. However, as I began my training, I realized how much I loved my long runs. My first half was a women’s only race on Belle Isle in Detroit, and it was a fantastic experience. I loved the comradery of the running community, seeing all of my hard training days pay off, and just the feel of running a good race. I’m pretty certain that I set a goal to run a full marathon sometime during this first half, and as a began my training during the spring of 2014, I realized that I had a pretty good shot at running a Boston Qualifying time. I ran the Quad Cities Marathon on a hot day that September, and while I did qualify for Boston, I missed the time cutoff by about a minute and a half. That really lit a fire under my ass, and I was determined to do better in Chicago the following year.
I have since run fifteen marathons and have qualified for Boston in thirteen of them. I’ve changed my marathon goal from running a sub 4:00 marathon in every state to qualifying for Boston in each. Having the opportunity to run this iconic race four years after starting my distance running journey is such an honor. I am humbled by the talent and dedication of every athlete in this field and filled with gratitude for a city that welcomes all of us crazy athletes with open arms each year.
Jim snagged a charity spot with an organization called Tenacity, so we were able to run the race together. It was also Easter weekend and my father in law’s family lives in the area, so we brought him and the kids along with us and made a long weekend out of the event. We got to spend a couple of days with Jim’s grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins and have a hotel- lawn Easter egg hunt for the kids Jim’s uncle, Joe, has run Boston in previous years, so he drove us downtown and helped us to navigate the expo—which was huge but so fantastic and exciting!
We spent the night before the race with my old roommate, Ami, and her husband as they were within walking distance of the bus pickup. Security was no joke at the loading site or at the athlete’s village. (I found this out the hard way when my iPod shuffle came unclipped in a porta potty and fell on the grass under the unit. I had to find a police officer who could go behind the security fence to help me tip the damn thing up enough for me to retrieve my music.) The village was also crazy- crowded, but there were snacks provided and the feeling of anticipation made the space feel more like a festival than a pre- race gathering.
Walking to our starting corrals was a surreal experience. First, it was quite a hike to get to them—they’re over a half a mile from the village. The organization at the start is, of course, impeccable, and it just felt a little unreal to actually be in Hobokin. Because we were all lined up by our qualifying time, it was also very funny to check out the runners around me (who were all women about my age and men about twenty years older than me.)
I will say that up until this race, my goal had been to GET to Boston. I hadn’t really thought much about how difficult it would be to requalify during the Boston Marathon; however, this might have been my most challenging race to date. Even though it’s a net downhill, the course isn’t easy. The first half is an elevation drop, but once the hills did start I could feel them. I’d heard a lot about Heartbreak Hill—which was a bitch—but the worst was the highway overpass at mile 16.5. Possibly because I hadn’t been anticipating it. It was also HOT the day that we ran, and because this race has such a late start, it was mid- morning before I got into my corral. It got up to 80 degrees somewhere along the course, and I was very grateful to the volunteers passing out ice (and oranges! God bless the fruit volunteers!)
I started the race in a bit of a funk and wasn’t sure if it was even worth pushing myself to run a good time. I decided that if I could get through the first half in 1:45 or less, I’d have enough of a cushion built in to get across the finish in under 3:40. I was able to hit that benchmark, and even though the course got more difficult and the weather got hotter, the crowds also picked up substantially in and after Wellesley. Running through the college campuses was a blast, and so many people came out to party and cheer on the runners. This made such a difference.
If I had been underwhelmed by the first half of the course, then the last four miles completely made up for it. I have never in my life seen anything like the crowds on the street once we entered the city. (I will also never in my life feel more like a celebrity.) The cheering, noise, and JOY emanating from the people of Boston was overwhelming. Turing the corner onto ___ Street to finish the last .2 miles of the race was incredibly emotional: I teared up, then had trouble catching my breath and honestly through that I was going to hyperventilate within site of the finish line…
I could write another ten pages on this marathon, but there are honestly no words to describe the experience. I have run prettier, faster, and more fun races, but none can ever compare to Boston. I’m sure this is one that I will run again, and I am certain that my sense of awe will not have faded.
** Race Highlights: Everything about the last three miles of the race. Also, turning the corner onto Boylston Street and seeing the finish line was one of the coolest moments of my life to date.
** The Downside: It was a HOT day. Also, my iPod Shuffle fell beneath a porta potty in the Athlete’s Village before the race started. I had to have another runner tip the thing on its side so I could crawl under and retrieve my device. That was pretty much just awful.
Sub 4:00 State #16, BQ State #14
Finish Time: 3:36:14
Overall Place Within My Gender: 2231/ 11973
Favorite Race Day Song: ‘Loose Yourself’ by Eminem (This was my Heartbreak Hill jam)
Total Training Miles: 3625
Shoe Total: 13