I am having a hard time finding the right words to fully express this day, I just want to do it justice!
I really tried to go into this race without a ton of expectations, but with a race like Boston that is pretty much impossible. It gets so built up from everyone who has run it, then is seriously everywhere when you get into town, plus I had been waiting years to get to experience it for myself. Needless to say I was a little nervous to see if it would actually live up to the hype.
Long story short: it definitely lived up to the hype and much more. Want the long story? Continue reading, because it is long.
I actually slept really well the night before the marathon and hopped out of bed right when my alarm went off at 5am. Even though the race has a late start (I was in wave 2 at 10:20), the busses shuttle you to the start line much earlier. It is quite the process!
I did my usual pre-race routine and took a shower, got dressed, had some coffee and ate a little breakfast, then I packed the rest since I had a number of hours before the race would start. I met a teammate of mine in the hotel lobby and we walked the almost mile walk down Boylston to the Boston Commons where the busses were picking us up. There were lots of runners out and we passed the finish line on our way there. I thought to myself “see you in a few hours finish!” It was actually all becoming real. This was happening!
There were tons of runners in Boston Commons already but we met up with a big group of teammates and boarded the busses. I was pretty quiet the whole trip, staring out the window and just was lost in my thoughts and taking in everything around me. The bus took a while and it seemed like so far to have to run back, but eventually we were at Athlete’s Village!
I met up with Page and huddled together with her chatting away about how it was finally here! Cate eventually found us and it was fun to chat with her too. Dorothy came by and said hi, which was so great to meet her in person if only for a minute. There was a ton of energy with all the runners around and it was fun to watch it all.
The sky was clear and the sun was shining which made me nervous, it’s no secret I like to race in cold cloudy weather. The wind was blowing pretty hard which made us cold as we waited, but I was nervous about how warm it would be once we started running. There was nothing I could do about it so I just tried to keep warm as I waited.
Time went by pretty fast and before we knew it, we were using the porta potties one last time, dropping off our bags and making the long walk to the start line with thousands of other runners. Boston has busses that are labeled with your bib number, so you find your bus and hand them your bag and your bag gets a seat on the bus for a ride back to Boston. It was really organized! I wore a throw away sweatshirt until we got to the corrals and just had on my tank, shorts, arm warmers and gloves which could both be tossed.
Eventually we were at the corrals, I found mine and hugged Page good bye. I found my friend Melissa (who I ran Oakland with) easily, which was so great, it was so nice to have a friendly face to start off this epic day. Melissa and I both qualified on the same day back in December 2009 (different races), so we had both been waiting a while for this day.
Not very long later it was go time! I couldn’t believe it was actually starting. It still took a bit to cross the actual start line and I got irritated that people were running before the actual start, but we were there before I knew it and there were already big crowds cheering us on.
The course starts off on a pretty steep downhill for about a half mile and then climbs a little hill and pretty much just keeps on rolling after that. My plan for this race was to just run by feel the first couple miles to let myself warm up and just go from there depending on how I felt. A PR would be fantastic but my number one goal for this day was to make sure I enjoyed this race and soaked it all up. This was my victory lap and I was very set on making sure that that’s what it was.
A mile in I was already warm and peeled off my gloves. Around 2 miles I was getting even warmer so took off my arm warmers and lost my Gu I had shoved in there in the process – oops. I still had 5 on me, so I just planned to space them apart a little more than I originally planned.
I had decided to carry a handheld water bottle during the race and was so glad I did. The first few water stops were madness and knowing it was going to be a warmer day, I was happy to have my own water. I made sure to start my hydrating right at mile one and continued to drink at least every mile throughout the race.
I was trying hard to find a good pace where my legs felt good, but they just didn’t really feel that great. I kept on running and reassessing my effort as I went without paying much attention to my watch, I was really just looking at everything going on around me. Before I knew it we were at the 5k mark with the first timing mat! I thought of everyone out there who might be tracking me and I smiled.
Mile 1 – 8:41, Mile 2 – 8:32, Mile 3 – 8:24
As we wound through all the small towns I have heard so much about I was still surprised at the number of spectators that were out. Little did I know this was nothing compared to what I would see later. I was having fun checking out the scenery around me and listening to the other runners as well. I could see thousands of runners ahead of me and it was pretty awesome. I took my first Gu at mile 4 and since it was going to be warmer than I was used to I also carried some salt caps that I have used in training before and took one around the 6 mile mark just to be safe. Next think I knew we were at the 10k mat!
Mile 4 – 8:20, Mile 5 – 8:37, Mile 6 – 8:31
The miles were just flying by at this point. It seemed like things were happening so fast. I could tell today wasn’t going to be a speedy day for me and just decided to dial back my pace and pay attention to effort. I REALLY wanted to conserve energy for the Newton Hills and the later miles of the race. If I wasn’t going to have my fastest time, I was going to run a strong race and run the whole thing. I took another Gu around mile 8.5.
Mile 7 – 8:26, Mile 8 – 8:37, Mile 9 – 8:39
Around mile 10 we came into Natick and this was really the first big pack of spectators we came into. There had been spectators pretty much the entire course so far, but here you ran through this big town square with the intersections closed off and you just felt like a rockstar. I just kept on smiling and everyone out there just cheering their hearts out for the runners. These spectators in Boston are no joke!
Mile 10 – 8:45, Mile 11 – 8:48, Mile 12 – 8:48
I have had visions of this course and what it would be like in my head for a long time. I knew you could hear the Wellesley College scream tunnel before you got there and I definitely could. For some reason this part of the course didn’t match at all what I thought it would look like. It was kind of between things and you could hear it coming, but there was nothing around and before you knew it, it was just there.
The screams were incredible and the girls were out there with all their “kiss me” signs and it was fun to watch. I was reading all the signs taped up on the fence because a reader had one made for me but sadly I never saw it. I knew it was there though! I got choked up at this part of the race, just really being in the moment and experiencing it for myself. I had to pull myself together a little bit and enjoyed the bit of silence after we passed through.
Once we hit the half marathon mark, I finally turned my Garmin over to the total time screen to see where I was at. I really had no idea what kind of time I was running at the point and I saw 1:53 and was happy with where I was. I wasn’t completely cruising but I wasn’t all out gunning it either. I hoped I would have enough energy to be able to finish strong. I took another Gu around mile 13.
Mile 13 – 8:47, Mile 14 – 8:44, Mile 15 – 8:51
The crowds just kept getting thicker and thicker at this point and I just couldn’t get over all the support from everyone and how much fun they were having. People had music blasting and twice on the course I heard YMCA playing and the crowd and all the runners joined in, it was a big party!
Just before mile 16 there is a long downhill and then you enter Newton, where the series of “Newton Hills” begin. I had done a lot of my training specifically to tackle these hills at the end of the race and had done a lot of “Boston Simulator” routes that were supposedly tougher than the actual race route – I was about to find out if it was true or not.
Chris had planned on coming out to mile 16 so I was on the lookout for him. Somehow I had missed every other person I was looking for that morning so I really hoped I would see him. I was running along and somehow happened to look to my left side and there he was! I was so happy to see him and gave him a big smile and wave. It was just the boost I needed before heading off into the tough hills.
The Newton Hills are a series of 4 hills starting in mile 16 and finishing with “Heartbreak Hill” in mile 20. I got through the first one and was happy to have one down. The crowd support through this section was so awesome and really helped me get up and over these hills. The second one came and I thought it was the toughest of them all, but I got up and over it without my pace dropping too much.
I was getting low on water around here so I would take off the lid to my bottle and dump cups into my bottle while running which worked great. I took another Gu just before mile 18.
Mile 16 – 8:40, Mile 17 – 8:58, Mile 18 – 9:05
Mile 18 is always one of the hardest spots for me in a marathon. I am tired but still have 8 miles to go. I got through it feeling ok and was happy to still be feeling strong and that I was still having fun soaking up everything around me but I knew I still had a couple tough hills to go.
Around mile 20 I was Becky and Lauren cheering and gave them a big wave. I was really happy to see them on the course and loved their screams! I had heartbreak hill coming up and I was determined to make it up and over it without walking even though my legs were getting pretty tired at this point. There were tons of people out and everyone was screaming for you. Heartbreak was tough, but I got up and over it and was so glad I was done with the toughest part of the course. I took my last Gu at mile 21.
Mile 19 – 8:49, Mile 20 – 9:08, Mile 21 – 9:23
Mile 22 is when the spectators really start getting thick. If you think you saw spectators early in the course you really had no idea. I just couldn’t get over the masses of people out cheering! This part of the course goes through Boston College and all the students were out screaming their heads off, it was insane! People are just having so much fun out there and make you feel like you are so amazing to be out there running.
I continued to fill up my water bottle when needed and was definitely getting tired at this point. Around mile 23 the Citgo sign came into view but it was still a ways away. The spectators continued to be insane and even though my legs were getting really tired and really just wanted a walk break, there was no way I was walking in front of all these people!
I kept on running and before I knew it I was climbing the little hill just before the Citgo sign. The next thing I knew I saw a sign with one mile to go. I really had no idea where I was time wise, but with one mile to go I switched over my Garmin to overall time and saw 3:43:xx. I knew I would beat my nemesis time of 3:57 by a good chunk and this made me happy.
Then we went under the short underpass where things got very quiet for a few moments. I remembered hearing about this part and definitely took in those moments before the real madness began.
Mile 22 – 8:54, Mile 23 – 9:00, Mile 24 – 9:08, Mile 25 – 8:55
I knew how far my Garmin was off and I knew around how far the run down Boylston was going to be, I just didn’t realize it was all going to happen so soon. Before I knew it, we were turning right onto Hereford, the street I had ran on this week leading up to the race and many times when I was there in June. I had imagined the day I would run on that street before the famous left hand turn onto Boylston. It was happening.
The only way I can really describe these moments are bittersweet. I was tired and really wanted to be done running so badly but I did not want this to end. There is nothing like that feeling of turning left onto Boylston. The number of people out there screaming are just insane. You can see the finish line straight ahead but it’s still about a half mile away. I remember all the people, the deafening screams and all the runners around me, but it was also so quiet and so surreal at the same time. I was about to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon, something I had been looking forward to for so long and counting down the days to.
Before I knew it, I was there crossing that big blue line. I threw my arms up in the air for the first time ever in a marathon and just smiled. I had done it and it was absolutely amazing.
Mile 26 – 8:48, last .47 (per Garmin) – 3:40 (7:48 avg)
Garmin time: 26.47 miles/3:51:57/8:45 avg pace
Official time: 26.2 miles/3:51:55/8:50 avg pace
We had to walk for what felt like forever, getting water then the space blanket and finally I got my medal. This whole time I just kept getting choked up and my eyes would fill up with tears. I was completely and utterly happy. I had done it, I was a Boston Marathoner.
I got my bag and texted with Chris to where we were meeting and then called my mom and just cried. I was so happy and so proud of myself for this race. I soaked up every single bit I could of the marathon and it’s spirit that I could, and I am so happy I ran the race this way.
I found Chris and gave him a big hug and just couldn’t stop smiling. I proudly put on my jacket I had been waiting so long to put on. There were people everywhere and we weaved our way back to the hotel and I was beaming.
This race absolutely exceeded every expectation I had for it, and there were a lot. I am so glad I ran the race the way I did and was able to have fun and soak everything up. I definitely think that is the best way to take in a first Boston. This race was worth every second of hard work I put in to get there and it made me 100% certain I want to BQ again to come back in a few years. Tougher standards? Bring them on! This race is so worth it, I will be back.
People aren’t lying when they say this is a tough course. The first half is all rolling hills with lots of downhill, but there are plenty of uphills in there to keep it interesting. The Newton Hills are definitely tough, although the ones I trained on were a bit harder, the ones in the race still will get you. The last 4 miles have a couple of tiny hills that hurt at that point in the race too.
Thank you again to everyone who tracked, emailed, called, texted, facebooked, tweeted or just routed for me from wherever you are. Your support means the world to me and I don’t know if I would have been at this race without it. I channeled you all every time I crossed that timing mat and loved knowing everyone was getting an update at that moment.
I am now very proudly a Boston Marathoner. I know this smile won’t fade off my face for a bit and I will never ever forget this amazing day.
Lots of pictures and more recaps of our trip to come!