This post is part of the “My First Boston” guest post series I started leading up to my first Boston Marathon! I asked few of my favorite Boston veteran bloggers to write guest posts about their first Boston Marathon experience or to share some advice for other first timers leading up to April 18th. If you missed the first two make sure to check out Susan’s First Boston and Dorothy’s First Boston.
My First Boston
Soak It Up!
Congratulations Aron, and everyone reading who has qualified for Boston this year! Whether you qualified by a few seconds or 30 minutes, you have earned the chance to participate in one of the most spectacular athletic events in history. This is a big deal, and you deserve to get super excited about it! The one thing about Boston is that it is impossible to build it up too much. No matter how many amazing things you hear about it, it will always surpass your expectations.
The city is so welcoming to all the runners, and makes a huge deal out of the race. People on the street will congratulate you for making it there! The race itself is like no other… it is in a class of its own. You will feel like a star every step of the way as millions (millions!) of people cheer you along the most historic course in marathon history.
Though the race has been held for over a hundred years, and you may be there with tens of thousands of other runners, your Boston experience will be unique. It will not be the same as anyone else’s or any other year you participate. There will be different circumstances that bring you to the race and the events that occur while there will change every year. No matter what happens, it will be great. I’m sharing my experience to show you that despite many challenges and adverse conditions, nothing can stop a marathoner from having the time of their lives in Boston!
I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2007. That year the weather was terrible, my training was minimal, and our trip was short and planned at the last minute. But none of that phased me- I was in for the experience of a lifetime. Despite all the hurdles and challenges, it was Boston and it was going to be awesome.
I qualified at CIM in 2006 and registered the next day. Back then, the race didn’t fill up so fast so this was possible. However, the hotels were filling up fast and the remaining ones were super expensive. I booked an overpriced room in Cambridge and was just happy to get in somewhere. It was a little far from the action, but the T stop was close by so we made it work.
After a few days of basking in the glow of my BQ in December, I headed back onto the roads. Unfortunately, I knew right away that something was very wrong with my knee and finally saw a doctor after a few weeks of painful short runs. On his advice I took a few weeks completely off. This was the first time I’d dealt with a major injury like this and I was devastated. Boston was inching closer and I was not able to run. Finally, after about 2 months off, I was able to run pain free. I did a short training cycle with only one 20 miler and hoped for the best. I never did figure out what was wrong with my knee but it didn’t bother me and my training actually went pretty well.
As the trip grew near I encountered another problem – the weather. The northeast was being hit hard by a major storm and there was even talk of canceling the race! They even sent out emails the week before with warnings and backup plans and everything. It was nuts! I figured they wouldn’t actually cancel it but there was a lot of hype. Best case scenario was that we could run it, but it would be super stormy.
Everything came together and we headed east. This was my first time ever visiting the east coast. I grew up in Montana and was living in California, and in fact I had never been east of the Dakotas. My parents flew out from Montana and my husband Zach was with me, and it was going to be a big experience for all of us.
The weather was indeed terrible – SO windy and rainy. The news was non-stop coverage of this epic Nor’easter and how it would affect the race. It was hard to not let that get in my head!
We visited the expo and ate dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant in Cambridge. We were only there for one day before and one day after the race, so the trip was short and sweet. We didn’t do any sightseeing really, but what we did see was very cool. I was determined to enjoy the experience even with all the weather worries.
Race day I boarded the bus and we drove out to Hopkinton. The Athlete’s Village was a muddy, wet mess. I was wearing a poncho and I had plastic bags over my feet. I had dry running clothes under several layers and I packed along a pair of dry shoes. I tried to find a bit of shelter but all the tents were packed. You couldn’t sit down because the ground was so muddy, so I just stood there shivering for hours. I visited the portopotty a bunch of times just to stay dry. I didn’t talk to anyone and the mood overall was very somber. Not fun!
I waited until the very last minute to shed my poncho and layers and change into my dry shoes. It actually stopped raining right as I started walking toward the start. The bad thing was that I had waited so long that I basically lined myself up right at the very back of the pack, even though my bib would have got me into a corral much closer to the front. I had to weave around a lot of people, and I also had to hurdle a lot of puddles. But I stayed positive and looked forward to the race.
The race itself was kind of a blur… I only remember certain details but a lot of it was lost in the fog of the marathon. The first few miles I was enjoying the scenery – it was a lot different from where I was living in California. I had been training in summer weather and here it was still stark and cold. The houses were so beautiful and everything was just so New England-y!
As we started hitting the towns there were more and more people, I couldn’t believe how many. And I hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. When we got to Wellesley the girls were screaming and I ran along and high-fived them! The crowds built and built and by the time we got close to Boston it was nuts. I heard people saying “This is way less than normal” and I couldn’t believe it. I’d never run such a big race and it was SO cool. Everyone was cheering and it felt like they were cheering just for me! I felt like a rock star.
The hills were hard, as I’d expected. I knew they were coming, but I couldn’t have anticipated how hard they would feel after 20+ miles of marathon pace running. I ran up them and tried to soak up the experience. I had been fueling well and pacing well, so thankfully I got through the hills ok. The crowds continued to be amazing and that helped a lot!
We got into Boston and the streets got wider and the crowds got bigger. There were still tons of runners around me – another first for me. I had only run 3 marathons before this and they were smaller so this was crazy. We finally got to the famous landmarks – I saw the Citgo sign, I turned onto Boylston, and I was on the home stretch. My family was along Boylston and they saw me and I waved!! I ran as hard as I could and crossed the finish line!
My time was 3:55:18 and it was, and still is, my slowest marathon finish of all. But it was by far the BEST race of my life. It was such an amazing experience and I’m so grateful that I had taken advantage of it. The weather may have sucked, the trip may have been short, I may not have been in the best shape of my life, but I was determined to enjoy every step of the way. And I did.
My first Boston marathon was absolutely one of the greatest experiences of my life. I ran Boston the next year – the weather was gorgeous and I ran 10 minutes faster and we stayed longer and did tons of sightseeing. It was awesome, but it was nothing like the first time. I’ve run other marathons, I’ve run big PR’s in all distances, I’ve done an Ironman, and nothing can touch that first Boston. There’s just something really special about that trip and that race that will always have a special place in my heart.
I don’t know if I’ll ever run it again – for now it’s not really a goal. I prefer smaller races, trail races, that kind of thing. Plus with the new qualifying standards it will be much harder! I think it’s a real blessing that I was able to qualify for and run Boston when I did – the timing of it was perfect.
I wish everyone who is running Boston this year the best of luck and I hope you can soak it all in!! Make the most of it – you have earned it. I can’t wait to hear your story.
And I hope you have better weather.