I still can’t believe I completed my fourth Boston Marathon on Monday! The training, trip, and race left me with a tremendous sense of gratitude. I feel like sometimes I overuse that word, but I truly feel thankful for every single opportunity and resource that I am afforded. My mantra during the first few miles of the race was “be grateful,” but first, a recap of the days leading up to the Boston Marathon.
A red-eye out of the Long Beach airport had its advantages and disadvantages. I was able to spend all day on Friday preparing and relaxing. I slept in, ran at noon, and lazily packed. I met Frank at the airport around 8:00pm since we both had 9:30pm flights. We actually thought that we were on the same flight, but as it turned out, we weren’t. I paid $90 for an Even More Leg Room seat, but just could not get comfortable. Six hours and only about 2 hours of actual sleep later, I landed in Boston and took a cab straight to the hotel. Lori and Dori had checked into the room the night before, but were running the B.A.A. 5K on Saturday morning. I had about 2 hours of quiet time before Frank arrived, but I was excited and couldn’t fall asleep. First order of business on Saturday morning: shake out run!
Running shoes laced, hats on head, and Garmins fired up, Frank and I took to the streets of Boston for a five mile run. About .12 miles into it, a huge gust of wind blew our hats right off of our heads, so we retreated to the hotel gym treadmills with our tails tucked between our legs. “I hope the wind isn’t this bad tomorrow” I thought as we stared at the hotel pool from our ‘mills. We finished up, showered, and then met Lori and Dori back in the hotel room. This would be Lori’s first Boston Marathon and it was extra special for the both of us because I coached her to her PR and BQ. The four of us planned to visit the expo, after a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts of course.
The expo, as expected, was overwhelming, wonderful, and crazy.
I bought a nice pair of shorts and a green t-shirt that says Wicked Fast from the official merchandise section. I purchased a few other items in the expo and stopped by the Marathon Tours booth for my Boston 2 Big Sur gift (arm warmers). We spent a solid 2+ hours in the expo and had a great time! Wendy was going to stay with us on Saturday night, so we waited for her to arrive before heading out to dinner. I can’t remember why, but it ended up being only Frank, Wendy and I for dinner. We went to Joe’s American Bar and Grill and enjoyed delicious meals. Sleep came very easily that night and I felt refreshed when I woke up on Sunday morning.
Cristina sent me an email a few weeks back about a run with Shalane Flanagan in Boston. She was promoting her book Run Fast Eat Slow, along with co-author and best friend, Elyse Kopecky. It was a $30 event, but we were to receive a copy of the book when it was released (September). After a short run with Frank, Wendy and Lori, I jogged over to the Sheraton to meet Cristina. About 150 of us went on a 2.5 mile shake out run with Shalane with Bart Yasso leading on a bicycle. Cristina talked to Shalane for a few minutes, but some of the girls were a little more eager to talk to her than we were. After the run, Elyse and Shalane talked about the book, the importance of nutrition to performance, how eating healthily has helped their running, and how important it is to remember that food is fuel (but can taste good too). It was a great talk and I’m so glad that I went. I look forward to receiving the cookbook and attempting to not burn food!
Cristina and I were ravenous afterward, so we hit Au Bon Pain. I would probably eat here for every meal if I were in Boston alone. We met up with her husband, Brent, and went to the expo for round #2 (i.e. spending more money). I bought a sweatshirt at New Balance and some Health Warrior bars. I’m not a huge protein/energy bar consumer, but the macro-nutrients for this bar were good. They also tasted great and offered a mini bar (100 calories per bar). The three of us ended up back at the finish line area while on the way to my hotel and Meb Keflezighi was there for an interview! We were hardcore fan-girling and Cristina managed to get a hilarious selfie “with” him. “We’ll be back here tomorrow afternoon, but feeling a lot different.” I said to Cristina when we left. I’ve said it many times before: there is NO finish line like the Boston Marathon finish line.
We bid farewell and I went to meet Frank, Lori and Dori in the hotel room. We all crashed hard and ended up taking 2 hour naps. It felt SO good. We spent about an hour trying to find a place to eat which met all of our pre-race dinner requirements; Frank wanted a burger, Lori wanted pasta, and I wanted a glass of wine (with my dinner). We finally settled on Dillon’s and it was a great choice. The waitress even sneakily hooked us up with the special 26.2 pint glass that Lori was drooling over. After dinner, we walked over to Marshall’s and hurriedly picked out a few throwaways for race morning. One more sleep until the big dance!
I woke up on Monday feeling happy and nervous. This would be the first marathon I’d run since May of 2015 and I had no idea what to expect. Though our start times were different, Cristina and I worked it out so that we could ride to Athletes’ Village together. Over bus ride breakfasts (oatmeal and nuts for me), we talked about our training, goals, running, and a variety of topics. Cristina said that she could imagine us as 60+ year old ladies still riding the bus from Boston to Hopkinton to run the Boston Marathon saying “remember the yellow school buses we had to ride over?!” We arrived at Athletes’ Village with less than two hours until my 10:00am start time and busied ourselves locating the porta potty with the shortest line and finding a comfortable spot to sit and wait… anxiously.
This was when we started to become concerned about the weather. It was much warmer than expected and the pants, long sleeve shirts, and gloves were definitely not needed. I would’ve preferred it much cooler. I left the village at 9:15am and walked with the masses .7 miles to the start line. During the trek, I ran into someone from Long Beach, California! What a small world. Being in corral 8/wave 1, I knew it would take a few minutes for the corrals to move up. I ate a Health Warrior bar and applied a fresh coat of chapstick. At 10:05am, I left Hopkinton.
Miles 1-3 felt good – I was running easily and smoothly. I thought to myself “be grateful.” I started to chat with a fellow runner right after mile 3 and we talked until about mile 15, which wasn’t a good idea in retrospect. Though I enjoyed the company, I felt like I was trying to run at his pace rather than find my own. He said we were running consistently, but it didn’t feel right to me. When I saw that we came through the half at 1:35, I knew it was too fast for me. The conditions were warm for marathon running and the course was pretty much completely exposed to the sun. I kept urging him to drop me, and we finally separated around mile 15. I didn’t feel good – my legs felt tired and my feet hurt. To feel like this halfway into a 26.2 mile race is disappointing, but it was to be expected with the lack of long runs that my training had included. About once every mile, I would “pull over” to the side and jog very slowly, but I never walked. I also forced myself to drink more water. I didn’t take water for the first time until mile 5 or 6, which caused me to be extremely thirsty later on.
Miles 3-15 felt okay – plain and simple, I just ran. I didn’t know my pace or how much time I was losing. I just ran what I felt like running. I finally remembered to eat a CLIF Shot Blok.
Miles 15-21 felt like shit – again, plain and simple, my legs were tired and I felt my shoulders being burned by the sun. I was drinking 3 and 4 cups of water at each station. Every time I would see ice cups being offered, I would take one and carry it to the next water station to add to my water. There were a few spots on the course with misters and water sprayers, which felt SO good. My goal at this point was to make it up Heartbreak Hill and then assess. I think it was at this point that I saw my friend from Long Beach, who breezed easily past me. I felt stupid.
Miles 21-23 felt better – the temperature dropped as went passed through Newton, Brookline and into Boston. I knew that I was going to finish, and that provided me with a boost. I thought about Frank, Cristina and Lori, and hoped that they were having great races and feeling good. I tried to use the energy of the crowds to propel me toward Boston. My legs were feeling extremely heavy at this point, but I didn’t walk.
Mile 23 – This is always my sister’s mile. For every marathon that I do, I think about Renee between miles 23 and 24. I think about how supportive she is of my running and how, outside of running, she inspires me to be a better person. I think about how much she’s accomplished. I try to work hard for her for that one mile, just like she has toward all of her goals.
Mile 24 – This is always my dad’s mile. Without him, I wouldn’t be… me. I wouldn’t be running the Boston Marathon. He is the most important person in my life and I have to make him proud for this mile. I think of him at home, watching the Boston Marathon on television, being proud that his daughter is running it. He’s worked hard for 29 years to provide for us – I can work hard for 1 more mile.
Mile 25 – I look up toward the heavens when I get to the mile 25 marker, asking my mom for strength. I think only about her for that mile and try to ignore my legs and lungs, asking me to stop.
I tried to run as fast as I could through the tunnel, after the right onto Hereford Avenue, and the left onto Boylston Avenue. The crowds on both sides yell as if each and every runner is the winner. I covered up my cringe with a smile and willed my legs to get me 600 meters to the finish line. Everything hurt and I was so thirsty. I crossed the finish line and had to stop a few times to put my hands onto my knees. After a few minutes of walking around and a bottle of water, I felt 20 times better and went to receive my medal. I was a 2016 Boston Marathon finisher.
I walked to the Westin Copley Place, showered, and then called my sister and cried. I felt emotional for many reasons (partly probably because I was tired and hungry). I was happy that I’d finished after a year and a half of health issues and sub-part summer training. I was happy to be able to run the Boston Marathon at all. I just let myself cry to her for a few minutes and then waited for Frank and Lori to get back. In the meantime, I looked up my finish time and was a bit alarmed to see a 3:23 finish time. I thought I’d seen a 3:22:xx on the clock when crossing, but I had started 5 minutes back, so it should’ve been around 3:17. It also showed that my first 5K had taken me 27 minutes and I am 100% sure I did not run 9 minutes per miles for the first 3.1 miles. It looked like my chip didn’t register when I crossed at 10:05am, so they set it to a 10:00am start time. I set up a reminder to have the time adjusted, but it was actually fixed by that evening. My official finish time was 3:18 (1:35/1:43).
To say that I’m not slightly disappointed with that time would be a lie. I did not run a smart race, but I learned a few lessons. I came across a great blog and she had this to write about one of her race finishes: “a number on a race clock does not quantify the will, determination, and struggle of the human spirit. The clock at the finish line is a mere snapshot capturing just that – the finish line; it does not capture what transpired before, during, or after the race.” I thought that was especially poignant, and very true. I tried to condense my training into a 1.5 month block, which does not work for the might 26.2. However, what’s done is done. Time to move along.
By the way, Cristina completely smashed her PR by 10 minutes and is now a member of the sub 3:10 club. SO. DAMN. PROUD.
“I’m about to gnaw my arm off” was Frank’s response to whether we were all ready for dinner. We decided that our post race celebratory dinner would take place at Met Back Bay and I have to say, our restaurant choices were on point for the entire trip. We struck up a conversation with our table neighbors and discovered that they were “charity runners.” An interesting dynamic exists between those who qualified for the Boston Marathon by running fast and those who earned an entry by meeting a fundraising minimum for a charity. Personally, fundraising is a huge and often overlooked component of the Boston Marathon for me. As the oldest running road marathon in America, its prestige acts as a solid platform atop which many dollars can be raised for wonderful charities. Running 26.2 miles is hard enough, but fundraisers must raise $5000+ in addition. That’s a lot of hard work. However, I definitely understand the contention created when the 6000 spots taken by charity runners become unavailable to those who did indeed qualify by running quickly. Achieving both goals are difficult, but in different ways. Runner’s World posted an interesting article about the two sides. That couple next to whom we were sitting raised $65K for St. Jude’s Children Hospital. My mind was blown when they told me this. That is a LOT of money and a significant contribution to the hospital, I’m sure. I feel more confident in my ability to break 3 hours in the marathon than fundraise even $10K!
Lori and I did a celebratory shot of tequila at the restaurant and we all enjoyed delicious food. After the meal, we walked to the original Cheers where I met up with my friend Alejandro. Having not seen each other for almost 3 years, we had a lot to catch up on! Dori and Frank went back to the hotel, leaving Lori and I to party late into the night. Just kidding, we had one more drink and then walked back to the hotel. I had a morning flight, so I packed and reminded Frank about our 5:00am run. No way was I going to skip our post-Boston Marathon early morning shake out run! Despite 4 hours of sleep, I was up and ready to …jog at 4:45am. We ran 4 bittersweet miles in a light drizzle – I was very sad for this trip to come to an end. The rest of the day: airport, the longest Starbucks line I’ve ever witnessed, boring flight, lunch at Panera with my airport picker-upper Eli, unpacking, laundry, and trying to relax.
During the flight home, I remembered my mantra “be grateful.” I am healthy, have freedom, am loved, and get to do things like run the Boston Marathon. I am rich in so many aspects of life and this trip was a reminder of that.