It was all worth it. The 15 and a half weeks of training. The 1,500 miles. The money to get here. It was all worth it for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
My mom and I flew into Boston Saturday morning/afternoon. After checking into the hotel we took out for the Hynes Convention Center which hosted the marathon expo. Seeing Boylston street for the first time was pretty cool. I stood there and imagined myself running down the final 600 meters to the finish line two days later. The expo was as hectic as I thought it would be. Picking up my bib and shirt was smooth, but then we walked through all of the vendor stations and that was too much for me. Since I work at a running store, 85% of what was being displayed I was familiar with (there was some cool special edition Boston Marathon shoes, though), but my mom wanted to check it all out so I ended up finding a place to sit down amongst the masses. Eventually, we left the expo and we found a Panera for dinner.
Sunday morning I got up and did a shake out run around the hotel, and then we went back downtown to walk around a bit. A "bit" turned into more than I wanted. Part of the extra time walking around was due to a Chipotle search. When we finally found one, they were closed. It was then that I learned the burrito fast-casual chain is closed on Easter. I am quite picky when it comes to my diet (especially when training) and even more so the final days before a race. So, I was kind of upset that my usual pre-race burrito was going to have to be changed (kind of). I found a Qdoba... inside a shopping center food court. I was very hesitant to get my dinner from a mall food court, but when I saw a few runners get in line I decided it would have to do (everything turned out fine, food poisoning scare was for nothing).
I didn't get too much sleep Sunday night/Monday morning, but that was expected. I got out of bed at 2:56 a.m., four minutes before my iPhone was scheduled to break my slumber. I kept my usual routine of morning calisthenics, sipped a cup of coffee, ate a couple packets of oatmeal with honey, took a quick shower to warm up, got dressed, and headed for Boston Common at 5:00 a.m. After a 30-minute ride on the Blue, Orange, Red, and Green T lines, I made it to the bag drop-off and bus loading.
While standing in line to get onto one of the school buses bound for Hopkinton, I looked over and saw one of the two people I actually knew out of the 36,000 runners. It was, Tom Fagin, an (brief) ex-colleague from when I interned at the Gillette (WY) News Record. Tom is a year older than I and ran at Union College (Schenectady,
NY). We ended up sitting next to one another on the ride to Hopkinton. We discussed the journalism industry, traveling, our vegetarian (me)/vegan (Tom) lifestyles, our training leading up to the race, and other small talk that made the approximately 30 minute ride more interesting.
We arrived in Hopkinton two hours before the start of the race. The runners' village was beyond crowded. It was hard to walk around with runners laying down everywhere resting before the race. Tom and I found a piece of grassy real estate that was just big enough for us to sit down. It was chilly, but a mylar sheet was enough to stay comfortable. Finally it was time to make our way to the starting line. We were both in the first wave of runners so we walked the .7-miles from the runners' village to the starting line together. After a final stop at a bathroom station, we wished each other a kickass race and parted. Tom ended up running an awesome PR of, 2:38.
Just before the gun sounded to start the race, after the national anthem, four National Guard helicopters flew over the the starting line. That was awesome. Then it was time to go. Time to do the damn thing.
My plan was to put a little time in the bank during the first 5k and then settle in. That is not what happened. Unless you are an elite and at the front of the pack, the first 5k-10k is a log jam. It was hard for me to get into a groove. I wanted my first mile to be around 6:10, but half a mile in I was at 6:40 pace with nowhere to go to speed up. My Garmin beeped for Mile 1 and displayed a 6:24. Shit, so much for time in the bank. I made it up the next two miles with a 6:07 and 6:09. But it was still so congested that I was running on gravel off the side of the road to try and maneuver around people. Eventually, I settled in.
I was feeling good and running in control through the halfway point, but I didn't know exactly how grueling the approaching Newton hills were going to be. The whole time I kept telling myself to maintain control so I can feel good after mile 21, after cresting Heartbreak Hill. The Boston course is DOWNHILL. From studying the course map and talking to past Boston Marathon participants I knew the first portion was downhill, but I feel like the whole course was downhill except for four climbs in Newton.
After popping my second GU at mile 16, I was ready to see what the Newton hills had to offer. Now, this is obviously just my opinion from my own experience and I know everyone will have their own viewpoint, but the hills were not as debilitating as I thought they would be. Only one of the four hills, the third one, took me below race pace. The hills are not long distance-wise, and once you get to the top there is a downhill stretch leading to the next incline that allows you to regain some time. Heartbreak definitely took some victims, though. I past several runners that were slowed to a walk or hunched over and stopped completely. With Heartbreak behind me I was ready for a strong finish.
Stomach problems were nowhere to be found for me during the race, and I didn't have to stop for any "relieving." However, with four miles to go I began to feel my hamstrings AND quads starting to cramp. I began to worry. I was feeling so good and running 6:00 pace at the time, but I knew the cramps weren't going to let me finish without a fight. I took two GU's chased by water and Gatorade within two miles to hopefully help fend off the cramps. I was taking in water every two miles throughout the race, and I didn't feel dehydrated, but something was going wrong (it could have just been that I was 22-miles into a marathon). At mile 25 I had to stop for about 10-15 seconds to stretch and do a few leg swings to try and stop the cramping. That mile ended up being 6:12, but should have been faster. I was pissed. I yelled and hit my legs and told them to get me through just one more mile. Luckily, the cramping lessened and I finished with a 6:06 and 5:53. When I made it to Hereford street and turned left onto Boylston, I was full blast. Boylston to the finish is line is amazing. I cannot put into words how amazing it is, so I won't even try.
My official finishing time: 2:43:33.
After crossing the finish line I took a seat on the ground and tried to stretch out my legs a bit more. Then I decided I didn't care if I cramped because it was over. I kept walking with my running brothers and sisters to receive a medal, a heat sheet (which was not needed because it was quite warm, although they are high quality Adidas heat sheets with the marathon logo on it, so a good keepsake, i suppose), hydration, food, and onward to bag pickup at Boston Common.
Just after receiving my medal I saw a board that listed the male and female winners, and that's when I learned Meb won! That took me to a whole new level of excitement. I was so pumped to see that Meb won the Boston Marathon that I also ran. I read this article today that is incredible, if it is true like they say it is.
About ten minutes after finishing I reunited with my mom at Boston Common. When I saw my mom I became overwhelmed with emotion. It was a really amazing feeling.
My phone was filled with text messages from all of the wonderful people that were following the race and congratulating me. My mom and I made our way back towards the finish line to watch some of the race, but it was so crowded I decided I wanted to head back to the hotel and recover a bit.
The first thing I did this morning, Tuesday, was a phone interview with a Wichita radio station during their morning sports show. It was another cool experience to add to the list.
My mom and I then made our way to Cambridge, MA and I did a shakeout run around Harvard University. Maybe I ran by a future president? Anyway, it was a fun change of scenery. And it was also my last run for about 14 days. The sedentary life will be a big part of my life for the next two weeks, allowing my body to recover.
I want to thank everyone that has supported me during this chapter in my life. Too many people fall into this category for me to name individually. I will say it has been an experience and trip my mom and I will forever remember and cherish.
Once again, thank you for supporting me and following me on this adventure. I've had a lot of people ask me if I would run a marathon again. My reaction is always to smile and laugh. While my goal was to run the Boston Marathon, and now I have achieved that goal, it was never meant to be the finality of my running. So, yes, I will do another marathon. When? Which one? I don't know. All I know right now is that there is a box of Dunkin' Donuts sitting next to me that needs tending to.