My Boston Marathon weekend was full of planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and, of course, running feet. What an experience! I am still on the race “high” so I want to share my favorite moments with you while they’re still fresh.
I flew to Boston a couple of days before Marathon Monday to try to adjust to the time zone and being in a different environment and climate, and also to take in the city while doing my final race preparations. I must’ve been a bit excited because I didn’t sleep more than a few hours each night. This was like my Christmas morning: months of training and anticipation, a full on mind-body-spirit event. I carbo-loaded, hydrated (too much, more on that later), walked around the city sightseeing, did a short shake-out run, and tried to get my legs up some the day before the race.
As weather reports rolled in notifying us that it was going to be pretty brutal out there with a rainy, cold, and windy race day, I began to get worried. This Phoenician isn’t used to those elements! Race morning, I was up at 5 to leave the hotel at 6 with food packed in a clear bag. I took the train to Boston Common, then the marathon bus all the way out to Hopkinton where the race begins. I received a few texts along the way from friends and family giving encouragement. One that stuck was: “Just go do what you came to do. Run. Don’t forget to have fun!” Man, that was what I needed. Get out there and enjoy it. No pressure. I’ve done the training. I’ve eaten and hydrated well. I was prepared. I couldn’t control anything else. So, I just went to do what I love to do: run.
Once we arrived at the Athlete’s Village in Hopkinton, there were huge tents, tables with coffee, water, bagels, fruit, several hundred port-a-potties and thousands of runners huddled together draped in trash bags, parkas and anything we could find to stay warm and somewhat dry. Most of us also wore sweatshirts purchased at consignment type stores that we planned to discard during the first mile. These are all picked up and donated to charities after the race.
Once my wave and corral were called we made our way to the starting line. I was full of nervous energy, covered in goosebumps, and filled with pure excitement!! The first few miles were all about trying to get the body warmed up and find my pacing. Weaving through the crowds can be a bit tricky and you have to be careful not to trip or slip due to the rain. I found my rhythm pretty quickly and was totally awestruck by the crowds and cheers, right from the start, that never ended the entire race! Screaming, signs, clapping hands, and smiles for 26.2 miles! The weather didn’t keep the Boston people inside; they treated us like each of us were a celebrity and that energy made me smile inside right from the beginning.
Wellesley College was situated at about the half way mark and that was (and still is) my favorite mile. The ladies held signs with funny phrases and questions like “Why do the cute ones always run away?” and “Kiss me, I don’t even go here”. Shortly after seeing them, I felt my socks pretty soaked and beginning to rub. Blisters during a marathon can make or break a runner. So I stopped, removed my shoes and rang out my socks. I couldn’t even get my shoes back on and tied because my fingers were so numb! But then a spectator ran over to help me (thank you, guardian angel!). Six pit stops later (yes six!) thanks to being over hydrated and not sweating, I was reaching the famous heart break hill. What goes up must come down.
“Let’s do this,” I told myself.
Once over that lovely long hill, I knew I was almost there. The final 4 miles and then just the streets of downtown Boston were all that remained. This is when and where I usually get emotional.
Today was no different. The biggest moment that got me was turning the corner onto Boylston. Thinking of the bombing two years prior and knowing this was the spot so many runners were bottlenecked and stopped from finishing the race. Today, though, at this point, all of the spectators, thousands of people, were screaming and chanting, “USA! USA!!!”. I was crying, running, smiling, and filled with such joy for my country and truly grateful to these strangers for being there and being such an example of patriotism in America. The finish line was now in sight and every bit of energy I had left was spent sprinting towards it and waving at anyone who would wave back!
My dear, sweet friend met me a few blocks from the finish with warm, dry clothes and socks and took me to the closest spot for hot coffee. She was angel number two for the day! Seeing her bright smiling face, giving me a hug, and taking my arm to help me share this special time is a moment I will never forget.
Was this my best race? Strictly judging by time, no, not by a long shot. But measuring my personal enjoyment and joy? Absolutely. To quote Shalane Flanagan, famous elite runner, “success is not linear”.
So, what’s next for me? For now, I’m going to keep doing what I love. Helping others, finding the joy in the little things, appreciating those who bless me with their lives, eating cupcakes (I earned it!), and running! Boston is truly still strong!!!