It’s been two weeks since Marathon Monday, and it’s about time I write a race report for it. Part of me doesn’t want to write it…I was admittedly not happy with my time on that day, but the second those bombs went off, all of that went out the window. I didn’t care because what was important was that I was safe, that my friends were safe, and that no one close to me was hurt. It was terrifying to be there, and I still can’t fully shake it. Reading other people’s accounts over the past two weeks has brought me to tears. I still can’t fully believe that it happened.
But it was a totally different day up until 2:50pm, and everything that led up to that time is another story to tell. I read the Boston Globe’s article, "Runners, the marathon does matter," and it really resonated with me. Yes, we put so much emphasis on race day, but one of my favorite parts about marathon training is the endurance that it takes to even get to the starting line. The long runs in the cold, the mile repeats where I counted down the seconds until they were over. And a year ago, I was standing on the sidelines wondering when I’d be able to run again. If I’d ever be able to run Boston again.
So yes, this marathon does matter, and so does the telling of it. So, away we go. And if you’ve ever read any recap I’ve written, you know you’ll be around for a bit…so go to the bathroom, grab a beverage, and pop those feet up…because this is Marathon Monday 2013.
I fell asleep on Sunday night probably around 11:30pm with my belly full of spaghetti and meatballs, and my head wondering how in the world I was going to run a marathon the next day. I woke up and wondered if I should take cold medicine, but I actually felt a little better. I did a quick morning routine of brushing my teeth, etc, then made some peanut butter toast for the road. I figured if I ate my breakfast at 5:45am, I’d be hungry by race time…so save that for the bus.
Amy is the best hostess in the entire world and woke up to drive me to the Common. We stopped for some Dunkin Donuts coffee on the way, and we made it to the Common by 6:30am. After a final "good luck!" I hopped out of the car and made my way to the masses of runners waiting to get on buses. The plan was to meet Celia and ride the bus out with her…I texted her to let her know where I was, and as I was waiting, Alisyn and I did the "I’m pretty sure I know you…" stare and then chatted. Her fiancé was running and she came with him to the Common…I love running into friends all weekend, and it was great to see her!
Celia appeared and chatted a bit with Alisyn (they’re both SF Ambassadors this year!) before we said goodbye and headed to the buses. It was a bit chaotic and I couldn’t remember if there were lines, but I was pretty sure you just picked a pack of people to stand by and eventually got on a bus. We walked down a bit to where the lines seemed shorter and held our ground. We asked a woman to take a picture of us with the buses in the background, and we did the same for her. "I’m here by myself so I need someone to take a picture for me," she said. She asked if it was our first Bostons and we answered (my second, Celia’s first), and she said it was her first. She asked me if the race is as amazing as everyone says it is…I assured her it is, just wait and see. We climbed on the buses by 7:15-ish and started our journey to Hopkinton.
Again…with a bus in the background.
I don’t remember what Celia and I talked about…our race goals? How training has gone? I have no idea. I drank my coffee, water, and nuun, and started to eat my peanut butter toast. After about an hour, we started driving through Hopkinton…a little town outside of Boston that I’m sure is quiet on any other day, but is filled with runners on Marathon Monday. The houses always look so cute.
We finally pulled into Hopkinton and got off the buses to walk into the runner’s village. First matter of business was stopping at the bathroom…the lines went pretty quick for the first round, so we moved onto our next step: the Hopkinton sign. I didn’t get a picture with it my first time at Boston, so it was definitely time. We had a moment of silence for the Newton shootings while we waited in line, and the 26th mile of the marathon was dedicated to the 26 people killed in the shootings. Food for thought for the events that happened later…but back to the now. We got our pictures which I think were pretty snazzy!
Next up was finding Celia’s friend, who led us to the bathrooms by the baggage buses, which supposedly had shorter lines. We ended up waiting in line for awhile and by the time we were done, it was time to bag check our stuff and head over to the corrals. We never ended up sitting around much, which might have been too much time on our feet…I’m not sure what I’m missing as everyone sits around in the morning! Who knows.
I ditched everything but my throwaway sweatshirt and my "arm warmers" in the form of long socks that I cut the toes off of and wear until I ditch them. (Thanks to Erika for that secret!) What they don’t tell you is that the walk to the corral is about 0.7 miles, and it was getting close to start time! But everyone was headed in the same direction, so we just kept moving along. We ended up walking with a woman from Orange County who said she was 50…but neither of us believed her because she looked so good! Celia eventually headed off for one final bathroom stop, so we said our final good lucks and I was on my own.
My bib was 9013, which meant that I was fourteen people off starting in the first wave…so I was in the first corral of the second wave. They let us into the corral single-file, so it was taking a long time, and I only made it in with about six minutes to go…which ended up being fine because I just get too nervous standing on the starting line. I stretched a little, retied my shoes (nervous race habit…), coughed a lot (not because of my cold, it’s just another nervous habit…), and ditched my sweatshirt with two minutes to go. It was already pretty warm, but I kept the arm warmers on. With one minute to go, I stood at the start of the Boston Marathon with no idea how this race was going to go. Go out, run steady, run hard, hold on. I’ve waited a year for this…
the first miles
Everyone says to not go out too fast. Keep it slow. I had told myself I’d go out at 7:30′s and see how I feel from there.
All I can say about that is…oops? Beyond that, when that gun goes off, a race is a race and I want to race. I had high hopes that maybe, just maybe some race day magic would happen, so I just went with it…and it’s downhill, right? So my "real’ pace is actually slower, right? 7:05 is like 7:30? Okay, maybe not. But I just let my legs go and went with it. It didn’t feel fast. I wasn’t breathing hard. My legs felt good and not like they were pushing.
The first miles have a lot of trees…I remember that. And someone offering Coronas within the first mile. The pack was pretty tight, but it was awesome to be right up near the front, look down the hill, and see the front of the wave. I think I’ll always remember that view.
The beginning miles are always a little bit of a blur as you try to find your spot, figure out what your pace is while everyone around you seems to be flying. Running was definitely feeling easy, and I dropped my "arm sleeves" after about two miles…it was much warmer than the 30 degree weather I’d be running in for months, so I was left in my tank top and shorts. As the miles clicked away, two men near me just chatted away like it was an easy day on the run…I wish 7:10 pace was conversational for me, even though my legs felt really good here.
I knew exactly where Amy was going to be in Ashland, so although I’d be running on the right side of the road, I veered over to the left around mile three so I’d see her around mile 3.5. In doing this, I ended up running behind some guy named Dave…like, right behind him. He must have had his name on his shirt because everyone was yelling, "Go Dave! Dave! Go!" and I got nervous that I’d be right behind him and Amy would miss me…so I quickly ran around him and kept my eyes peeled for the train station that we park at for cheering in Ashland. Soon enough, I spotted Amy in her bright pink shirt and waved my arms like crazy…I look forward to seeing people I know on the sidelines even for just seconds.
Once I saw Amy, I wasn’t going to know anyone until I saw her again at mile 14-ish, so I tucked in and tried to run a smart race. Fact is…I never run a smart race. Ever. I kept looking at my watch and thinking I should slow down…or maybe I shouldn’t? Just go with it. It feels good, miles are clicking off. The water stops were every mile, so at every other one I’d grab a cup. I packed my chews in my shorts, so around mile 5 I started taking a couple every now and then. I actually didn’t train with them at all…I kept saying I’d practice fueling, but then was too lazy to take any with me on my long runs, so I never took fuel or water with me. I do think it’s one of the problems in my marathon training, but oh well. Race day is too late to be trying to figure it out…oops.
Energy chews in a plastic bag, safety pinned into my shorts. FYI.
Around mile 6, my Garmin beeped to tell me it was running out of memory. So on the run, I deleted old data. Can’t say I’ve ever had to do that in a race before…ha.
Mile 1-8: 7:27, 7:05, 7:04, 7:07, 7:13, 7:05, 14:23 (7:11 avg)
the late beginning to the middle
Around mile 8, the marathon starts to get a little more real. I’ve been running for around an hour, and there’s a long way to go. I remember seeing a lot of charity runners…who ran in packs in the middle of the road. Clearly they’d started in the first wave, and I specifically remember being annoyed that I had to go around them when they ran four across. I always thought that the charity runners started in the back of the last wave, but I guess I was wrong…
This might actually be a good race photo…
I’d be lying if I said I remember much else from this part of the race…people yelled my name the entire way. I remember that. Seriously, Boston is one giant cheering squad on Marathon Monday and I love it. Otherwise, I kept telling myself to scale back to 7:30′s, but could never get my legs to do so. I did get back to around 7:15-ish pace, but I just figured that was a result of the road being a little flatter and therefore not as downhill as the start of the course. I was definitely still feeling good.
The first "significant" (laughable, probably…) uphill is to get up into Wellesley. I remember loving this part the first time I ran the race. My mom was always grateful that neither of her daughters were screamers…I’m not sure I’ve ever screamed in my life. But oh goodness…those girls in Wellesley scream like only girls can. I love reading the signs and high fiving girls for the entire stretch in Wellesley. It’s just part of the Boston experience and definitely helps to pick up the pace.
My favorite part was right after the giant line of girls was over…two girls were holding poster board signs that read, "If you run faster, we’ll drop the signs!" As you run by, it looks like they don’t have anything on, but behind the signs you can see that they just have shorts and strapless shirts on. Very clever girls, you made me chuckle.
Miles 9-13: 7:11, 7:18, 7:18, 7:19, 7:17, 7:23
Half marathon split: 1:34:49
the middle to the beginning of the end
I crossed the half marathon part still feeling good and wondering how long this would last for. The beginning of my marathon training had gone so well, but the last five weeks were a battle between sickness, being tired, and just feeling slow. I was REALLY excited to be seeing Amy again soon a little after mile 14 in Wellesley Hills. We always have a good spot to cheer, and I knew I’d see her. I think around this point was when I started getting mentally tired…I kept thinking I saw the bridge that was near where we usually stand, but then I wouldn’t see Amy. I couldn’t miss her! Where was she? I really want to see her! Finally about half a mile later, I found her and waved my arms like a crazy person. I love my spectators.
Things really got mentally tough after this. I knew the hills start at mile 16, and by mile 15, my legs weren’t feeling so hot and the rest of my body was. I know the weather could have been so much worse (50′s and sunny? I’ll take it…), but after running in an everlasting winter, I thought it was pretty warm out. I started dumping a cup of water down my back at the water stations.
I also took a bathroom break. GI system was not in check for the race.
I look really concerned about something…
I also noticed that I was starting to get a little grumpy…people were still cheering for me, but I couldn’t give a wave or smile like I usually like to do. Someone running near me had their Garmin set to beep constantly (a pace thing or something?), but he had headphones on and I certainly shot him some dirty looks. (Sorry buddy…) My pace slowed a little bit, I got mentally tired, and…well. That was that.
Miles 14-17: 7:19, 7:29, 7:51
it’s a long road to the finish
I’ve run eleven marathons now. Only one of them has been run with any sort of smart pacing (Big Sur = run with camera = not paying attention to anything = really good pacing), and the rest are usually some sort of speed demon race followed by holding on until the finish. People see 3:18 as my PR and are then shocked to hear that I walk in races and fall apart at the end.
Oh, and fall apart I did in Boston. It’s probably the worst I’ve experienced yet. Anyway. I had seen Kim at the nuun booth at the expo, and she told me where they’d be. Naturally, I couldn’t remember if they said they’d be between mile 15 and 16 or 16 and 17. So at mile 15, I started to get excited about seeing them…if only I could make it to them, then I’d be further along in my race and could concentrate on the next obstacle. When mile 16 came and went, I just kept thinking, "Where are they? Did I miss them? Why didn’t I write down where they’d be?" My legs weren’t feeling it and I knew it’d be a long way to the finish.
Coming up a hill in mile 17, I spotted the nuun tent at the top of the hill and ran to Kim who I think said something like, "You look great!" and handed me a cup of nuun. I definitely didn’t feel great and finally took my first walk break…which basically means the rest of the race will be a disaster. And disaster it was.
I’ve never had my legs give out on me quite like they did in Boston. I literally couldn’t move faster…I would try to run, it’d be slow, then I’d have to walk. I had nothing left in my legs, and with nine miles to go…that’s a long way to have legs that aren’t cooperating. Not finishing wasn’t an option, and it was so rough to watch time pass by. The hills in Boston aren’t fun. For some reason, I tell myself they aren’t that bad…and I suppose they might not be if you ran the first half right and had something left for those miles. I did not and those hills were torture. Spectators, despite their best intentions, kept saying, "one hill left!" and I knew they weren’t right. I ran, I shuffled, I walked. I ate an orange slice someone was handing out. I was hot. I dumped water over my back.
Neal says it all:
I tried to keep a good spirit despite my legs hating me…someone had small dixie cups of water, and I grabbed one as I shuffled by. Noting the small shot glass size, I turned to her and questioned, "This is water, right?" I’m not so sure my humor was conveyed, but I tried. And those spectators tried too. They brought their cheering A-game, but my quads. Game over.
I made it up and over Heartbreak and hoped that maybe the downhill would help me a little bit. And it did…my pace dropped a little, but that didn’t last for too long. I kept eyeing my watch and playing the, "okay, if I run X:XX miles, then I can still do X:XX." First I wanted to run under 3:25. Then I saw that slipping away and focused on going under 3:30. That slipped away too, and I realized how upset I’d be if I didn’t at least BQ…but let me tell you, I wasn’t even sure that would happen.
“I am not having fun.”
I cannot believe how unattractive I am. You’re welcome.
The last time I ran Boston, I remember thinking that I wish I had my name on my shirt for when I got to the final miles, Boston College especially. The crowds in those final miles know a thing or two about cheering…not that the rest of the crowds don’t, but I assume they’re assisted by alcohol. And they yell like crazy. I was doing my run, shuffle, walk routine around mile 22-ish, and the street was wide and the crowds were deep. (Deep and wide, deep and wide…there’s a fountain flowing deep and wiiiiiide. Anyone? Church songs? Okay, sorry, back to the race report..) A big group of college-aged-looking kids starting chanting, "SUSAN! SUSAN! SUSAN! SUSAN!" I mustered myself to start running again, and they let out a huge cheer…I’ve never heard anyone cheer that loud for me. My legs felt terrible, but my spirits were lifted.
Sometimes I actually look like I’m running…
These miles dragged on…not surprisingly, feeling good at 7:10 pace makes the miles go much faster than aching quads at 10:00 pace. I got cheers from the sidelines, but for the most part was in my own little world. It was by pure luck that I made my way over to the right side of the road around mile 23…right where Maura had the High Five Station. I was totally oblivious until I heard someone yelling, "Susan Susan Susan!" and got my high five. I do love the high five station.
I’m glad I looked better than I thought I did! After Maura, it was three miles to go. Three long miles. A young woman cheering on the sideline looked me in the eye and talked to me like I was standing in front of her, getting final instructions. "You go, Susan…you so got this. You’re amazing." Those words are so helpful if only for a few steps.
I was still shuffling along, and I kept my eyes peeled for people who might be passing me…is Celia rocking it? What about Katherine? I think I did see Jess fly by me, looking strong on her way to a PR.
I made it to mile 25-ish. I started to recognize the final areas. The underpass I remember that is so quiet. And quiet it was. I smiled to myself, thinking about how I couldn’t even run down my block a year ago, but here I was at mile 25 of a marathon. The Boston Marathon. Then the Citgo sign. One mile to go. My legs didn’t quite register with that, but we moved. Soon enough, I realized those famous final turns were in front of me.
Sign from the finish line ladies!
We took a right on Hereford. No walking now, legs. Next up, a left on Boylston. I knew Amy was there, I knew I’d pass Christine, Carla, and Leticia. I knew I probably wouldn’t see them, but all of them saw me. It’s with tears in my eyes that I imagine what that scene must have looked like an hour after I finished…but I gave that final stretch all my legs would let me give.
Right on Hereford…
Boylston picture compliments of Christine!
3:31:54 after I crossed that start line in Hopkinton, I finished my 11th marathon.
Miles 18-26.2: 9:35, 8:52, 9:04, 10:19, 8:36, 9:52, 9:22, 10:38, 9:45, 1:51. Yikes…
Finish line picture!
My quads weren’t happy with me, that was for sure. For some reason, walking during a race never seems that bad. Well, it does, and I don’t necessarily like it, but walking after the marathon is the worst. I just wanted to sit once I crossed that finish line, but that wasn’t an option. I grabbed some water, a food bag, a protein bar (never ate it, any takers?), a space blanket (it was so cold/windy in Boston!), and finally…my medal.
I wore a red Sparkly Soul headband for the race. I think I actually forgot I was wearing, but when I walked up to get my medal, I put my head down for the volunteer to put it around my neck (I love that part). She congratulated me and said, "I love your sparkles, you need some sparkly shoes to match! Wizard of Oz style!" I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about since I forgot about the headband…but I quickly remember. I laughed and thanked her.
All I wanted to do was sit down for a few minutes. My legs were not in the mood to walk anymore. I hobbled over to the baggage buses, and they found my bag quickly. I put on a long sleeve shirt and made moves to an empty spot in the baggage area to put my pants on…I was so cold! I looked down at the ground to figure out the best way to sit…this was going to be rough. A volunteer walked over to me and asked, "What are you trying to do?" I responded and stated that I was trying to sit down since I wanted to put some pants on.
"Ohhh no, I’m an EMT and I’ve run a few of these before…you’re not sitting down. You look like you’re on the edge of muscle failure. Let me know how I can help, but you’re not sitting down." While I knew he was right and only trying to help, all I wanted to do was sit. And say, "Well, I’m a nurse and I’ve run eleven of these…and I want to sit." But I listened to him and asked him to hold my shoulders while I put my pants on.
Thank you, volunteers.
Next order of business was the waddle to find Amy…I put my phone on airplane mode for the race since the battery has been draining quickly. It took a few minutes, but my phone finally got signal and I met up with Amy in the meet up area. All I wanted to do was sit, so we made our way over to a place to sit down. And we ran into Kevin, who I’ve only ever seen once before in real life, go twitter. Finally I sat down and it was glorious. Yet chilly.
We sat for a few minutes, and I knew I wanted to get somewhere warm…we thought about post-race pictures, getting a picture of the two of us, but for some reason, we never snapped any. We (okay, I) hobbled over to the parking garage while Amy served as my walking helper, letting me hold her arm while stepping down curbs. I commented that we were definitely going to get some ice cream that night, as she lives around the corner from J.P. Lick’s.
We walked through the Prudential Center shops on the way to the parking garage on Boylston Street…once we got in the car, I put on my Boston 2013 jacket (I never wear race stuff until the race is over). And then we tried to leave. And, well, you all know the rest of the story…
Boston Marathon 2013 Stats
26.2 miles in 3:31:54, avg pace of 8:05
As we were trying to leave the parking garage, I attempted to tweet, "Played the ‘hold this fast pace and see what happens’ game and lost. Can’t say I didn’t try, but it’s a painful game. Thanks all! #Boston2013." I admittedly wasn’t happy with the race. Not only had I missed any time goal I wanted (still chasing 3:10…or at least a PR?), but I ran a poor race. I went out too fast, as I always do, the wheels fell off at mile 17. And they fell off hard. People hear that I run marathons and go, "That’s amazing! I could never do that! Congrats on finishing!" But to me, it’s not just about finishing. I wouldn’t subject myself to mile repeats and tempo runs in 14 degree weather if it was about finishing. I like to race and see how fast I can go. So yes, I finished, but I missed my goals. And ran a poor race…who knows if I’ll ever learn.
All that being said, my tweet about my race didn’t go through because we were underground. The next thing we knew, bombs were going off, and I could have cared less about my time. I cared that Amy and I were safe, and I wanted to know if everyone else was too. What was going on. My time, my poorly executed race, it didn’t matter anymore. In that moment, I forgot the pain of mile 22. How ten minute pace is miserable. Who cares if I finished? Bomb squads were appearing in front of us. I’ve never been so scared, and the marathon that I trained for seemed so…unimportant at that moment.
I do think it was important to take some time to think about the marathon. It’s been two weeks, and a little bit of the sting of those tragic events has been removed. I still get upset about it, but I can reflect better on the race part of the day without it being as clouded by the bombings.
My friend Katie (from high school, the non-runner…not to be confused with Katie, my friend from high school who I met through running…) sent me an email the afternoon of the marathon. After expressing concern and thanking me for being fast enough to not be at the finish line during the bombings (ha!), she had some wise words. Words that I know myself, but sometimes you need someone else to tell you something for you really to remember it.
A year ago, I couldn’t run down the block. My doctor suggested that maybe in life I would need to scale back my running and take up cross training. No one had answers, and at some points I wasn’t sure I’d ever run again…or if I did, if the marathon would be an option. As much as I would have loved to come back from that injury and rock a PR, the real goal here was to run again. To run a marathon, which is difficult no matter what condition you’re in. The mental game is so important in the marathon, and I certainly had my doubts. I doubted my ability to go the distance, my ability to run fast. Katie reminded me that whenever we start something new, we have our doubts about them. Training for and running Boston is a lesson to myself…that I can handle marathon training, that I’ll come back stronger with time. Yes, running is about goals for me and not just completing a race…but this past year has been different, and to even be on the line at Boston this year is something to be proud of. And to celebrate.
I didn’t run the race I wanted, but I ran a marathon again. I had poor training at the end and ran the race with a cold. However, I had some great training early on, hit some awesome paces, and most importantly, was running again. With no pain. Every now and then I feel a random twinge in my back and get nervous, but so far, so good. I know this will lay solid groundwork for future marathons, both physically and mentally. And I’m excited about what lies ahead.
Now, if someone could just teach me proper pacing…
and, as always…
Thank you to all of you. Especially Amy, my number one Boston Marathon fan. It’s been a long road through my back injury and running again. It really does mean a lot for people to read what I write. For people to track me. I thought about all of you with each timing mat. Texts, tweets, phone calls, emails, comments after the race congratulating me and then asking if I was okay after the bombings. Some of you I know in real life, some in this crazy internetland, some of you comment, some of you lurk. No matter who you are, thank you to everyone for your support, and thank you for reading. Now time to get ready for the next great adventure!