I flew into Boston the Wednesday night before race day with my husband, kids, mother-in-law, and grandmother-in-law. We spent Thursday through Saturday doing some slow-paced sightseeing and then I spent Sunday sitting around watching movies and resting up.
On Monday morning, my husband took the T with me to the start line and stayed with me while I got oriented, checked my gear, and found the busses.
We said goodbye and then I was on my own with 30,000 other excited Boston runners. We were all already drenched, but the mood was positive. The most common expression was “this will be a great one to look back on.” The forecast called for rain all day and a constant headwind of 25 mph.
My original time goal was to finish under 3:35, my secondary, to set a PR (under 3:39:55) but with the weather I decided to focus on my third goal: to run a smart and grateful race. I wanted to pace as evenly as possible (not too fast on the downhill and not too slow on the uphill) so that I had enough energy to soak up this amazing experience and be constantly aware of what a privilege I had to be here.
Athlete’s village looked like the apocalypse. Everyone was huddled in tents, sitting on cardboard and trying to keep as warm as possible. I had time to go to the porta potty, eat the pb&j sandwich I’d brought, and down a complimentary cup of coffee before my wave was called and it was time to head up to the start line.
The walk to the start line is surprisingly long and I wished I’d dropped my extra sweatshirt and garbage bag later than I did. My teeth were chattering and I was shaking from the cold as I waited. I started my music playlist and jogged in place to try to warm up.
Then we’re off! I’m grinning like an idiot. I feel like I could start crying at any minute. I am running the actual Boston Marathon!
I’ve never run a marathon this big and my first impression is that I have no idea how anyone goes out too fast. It’s so crowded! I try to run my own pace without swerving too much around other people, but also staying as much in the middle of the road as possible to let other’s take the brunt of the wind. It’s a struggle I’ll deal with the entire race.
5k split – 25:26, pace 8:11/mile
My headphones quit on me around mile 6 so I take them off and tucked them in my bra strap. I spent he rest of the race listening to the crowds of hero spectators cheering us on.
10k split – 25:05, pace 8:05 min/mile
My mantra for the first 16 miles of the race is”cruise.” I made a deal with myself that I was going run comfortably fast until the Newton hills and that’s when I’d start working. I had no expectation that I’d actually be comfortable, but that’s what I’m going to tell myself.
15k split – 25:11, pace 8:06 min/mile
A wardrobe malfunction that I know is going to cause serious chaffing if left unchecked has me veering off to the porta potties, but I fix it without actually going inside one and head back out on the course.
20k split – 25:28, pace 8:12 min/mile
The Wellesley girls! Those champions are out and screaming their heads off. Even in these conditions I can hear them at least a quarter mile in the distance. The runner next to me says “here they come” and I agree. “So it’s true!”
I don’t stop to kiss one, but I do kiss the sock on my hand and give a few high fives.
Right before the halfway point I see a sign saying DESI WON! I’m freaking out. I’m so happy for her!!
HALF – 1:46:41 – average pace so far 8:09
I spend the next couple of miles psyching myself up. The infamous Newton hills are coming and this is where I really get to put my training to the test.
25k split – 25:22, pace 8:10 min/mile
Somewhere in these hills I’m going to see my husband and kids. I’m not sure where, but I’ve been looking forward to this the whole time. I need to see them. I focus on the crowd and I’m surprised when the first hill passes by pretty easily.
At least, I think that’s the first hill. I’m trying to count the hills but it’s hard to tell where one stops and the next one starts.
Finally, right before 30k, I see them! I yell out “That’s my family!” to warn the other runners and swerve over to the side of the road. I give my husband a kiss and high five the kids. Later, Russell will comment that I could’ve finished faster if I hadn’t slowed down here, but I tell him I was here to have the best race possible, and seeing them is a big part of what makes it the best.
30k split – 25:38, pace 8:15 min/mile
Here comes Heartbreak Hill. There really is a guy offering beer at the bottom of it. I’m in a lot of pain by now, but I know if I can power up this one I’ll be in the homestretch. My split from mile 20-21 is 9:10, and this ends up being the slowest 5k of the race overall.
35k split – 26:40, pace 8:34 min/mile
I stop for a few seconds to fish my last gu out of my flip belt which I’m having trouble finding the opening to. I figure stopping for a bit is smarter than being distracted and tripping on another runner.
My mother-in-law and her mom are waiting for me around mile 22 because it’s right outside where we rented an apartment for our stay in Boston. They wave and cheer for me from the far side of the street. Gloria (grandmother-in-law) once jumped into the Boston marathon in the 50s and made it about 3 blocks before being pulled off the course by police. This is her first trip back to Boston since then. Seeing them at this point gives me extra motivation to keep pushing.
40k split – 25:46, pace 8:18 min/mile
The last few miles are a mental game as well as a physical one. The headwinds going into Boston are worse than they’ve been the entire race and I’m so tired. Three more miles is close, but it’s still 25-ish minutes away. I struggle so much at the end of marathons but I’m determined to finish as strong as I can.
Then the Citgo sign appears.
Then there’s a mark on the road saying one mile to go.
Right on Hereford. Left on Boyleston.
The finish line is ahead and I think I’m going to cry. I’m so happy and proud of myself. I’ve run the freaking Boston Marathon!
FINISH – 3:36:11, overall pace 8:15 min/mile
It feels like it takes forever to get my checked gear, find my family, and then finally take the T all the way back to our Boston College apartment, but the shower is the best I’ve ever had.
This was a truly incredible experience and I feel really lucky to have had it. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the volunteers and spectators that came out to support all of the runners and even more so for my family members who came with me and my family and friends who supported me from wherever they were.
The most amazing thing about this experience is the feeling of being part of something historic and big and truly wholesome. Maybe it’s still the runner’s high, but days later I still just feel so positive about the strength of large groups of people rooting for each other to succeed.
I don’t know if I’ll be back next year, but this is a race I’ll definitely try to get to again.