2015 Boston Marathon – aka cheerfest 2015

When you’re a little down and out on running, there’s nothing like a marathon weekend to get your spirits back up.  I’m trying to be smart about this groin pain, so I’ve been resisting the urges to “try” to run.  I’ve definitely missed training and pushing myself, but I’ve also missed being immersed in the running community.  When internet-searching for possible causes of injury, I keep seeing the phrase, “An injured athlete isn’t an athlete – they’re an injured person.”  I’m still a runner, right?  I’ve got all the shoes to prove it…

Anyway, after missing the Boston Marathon weekend last year (it was Easter weekend and that’s not an easy weekend to get off from work, apparently), I definitely wanted to head up this year.  Luckily, my friend Amy shares my enthusiasm and there was no hesitation in whether or not we’d be cheering!  She’s been housing me/cheering with/for me since 2010 – I’m so lucky to have her in my life!

I took a bus up on Saturday, arriving in the early afternoon.  It was a pretty chill day.  (Literally – there was a chill in the air up in Boston!)  After grabbing some lunch, we headed down to Boylston to meet Chris (who doesn’t really use Twitter anymore, but you can look him up if you like) for some drinks.  I haven’t seen him since we were in Germany for the Berlin Marathon and Oktoberfest in 2013, so we had some catching up to do.  He survived the Boston winter and has been battling some injures himself, so he ran Monday as a pacer for a blind guy til the half mark, then for another girl chasing a crazy fast time (3:01).  We had some beers, then walked to dinner with Meg and her husband. She’s living in southern California and thought 60 degrees was cold – I definitely need to move to San Diego ASAP.

photo 1 (44) Of course, Boston’s sky put on quite a show on Saturday evening – but wouldn’t warm San Diego be so nice??

sunday – expo day + arts and crafts

After grabbing some delicious brunch in Beacon Hill, we headed to the expo!  For my first few marathons, I feel like expos were really exciting, but they’ve kind of lost their magic.  I mainly like them to catch up with people (shoutout to Kim from Nuun!) depending on who happens to be there.  Kim was the only person I ran into at the expo, but it’s always great to say hi.  Otherwise, Boston usually has some good gear, although I try to resist buying anything if I’m not running the race.  Expos usually have some fun activities going on, so we got to check those out.

Picture with Meb!  Or at least a cut off out of him…I also entered to win a trip to San Diego (!!!) to train with him, so fingers crossed on that.  I know it’s just a cut out, but I’m always amazed by how tiny the elites really are.  I don’t think I have 20 pounds to lose, but that’s about what would I need to lose to be elite-sized.

photo 2 (43) MEB!

Boston is in the bid for the 2024 Olympics, so they had a booth where you could put on an olive branch wreath, some gold medals, and grab a country flag.  I like to think the US swept the gold in the CHEERING department:

photo 3 (24) GO USA!

After we finished browsing the expo, we headed back to start working on our signs for marathon day.  Amy’s boyfriend cooked us dinner (pork tenderloin – it was delicious) while we brainstormed ideas.  We put a lot of effort into our signs and even made it onto Boston.com one year!  As a runner, I definitely appreciate a good sign, especially when it’s not the same sign you see over and over again.  We did some searching/brain storming for what would be good for this year.  We have our classic “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear” sign, but we didn’t want to take that out in the rain!  We drank some wine, put on our thinking caps, and listened to a Carly Rae Pandora station…three hours later (this is commitment and a fine art, not just arts and crafts)…

photo 2 (44) Amy in action.

photo 2 (45) Post-marathon, but had to share!

For those who maybe the picture isn’t working, we went with:

  • Pain is just the French word for bread. 
  • Is that a gel in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
  • Watching you run is making me wet.  (Made because of the forecast for rain…)

 

We didn’t finish until after midnight – sign making is a commitment and also SO MUCH FUN.  I pondered making a “Run like someone just called you a jogger” sign, but I think these were much funnier.  You be the judge…

MARATHON MONDAY

I still hold that Marathon Monday is better than Christmas.  It’s such a fun, positive day whether you’re running or cheering.  Amy and I have spectating down to a science, but we had a simple game plan for this year.  Usually we (or Amy) are following at least one runner, so we have three spots along the course.  However, this year we weren’t following anyone specific, so we figured it’d be best to pick one spot and stay there.

My favorite spot to watch is in Wellesley Hills, right after mile 14.  Runners have the energy of the Wellesley girls behind them, and they should still be feeling good at mile 14.  (It’s long 12 miles to go if you’re not feeling good….)  We stand near the end of a downhill, so runners get a little boost from that as well.  If you have a car, it’s super to get to, and it’s right by a train station as well if that’s your thing.  As Amy said to runners who liked our signs, “We’re here every year, folks!”

We planned our arrival for 10:30am, which would give us enough time to get settled before the elite women arrived.  Since we were in it for the long haul, whatever the weather might bring, we packed snacks, umbrellas, and trash bags for our purses and signs.  (SAVE THE SIGNS.)  It was a chilly morning, but the rain held off for a bit…we crossed our fingers (for the runners, mainly) that the rain would stay away until late afternoon.

photo 4 (15) Love this sign!  And you can see our trash bags behind me…

The elite women arrived right on time, and we screamed our heads off for Desi and Shalane – only a preview of what’s to come!  There was a bit of a lull before any sort of crowd arrived, and Amy and I discussed how we wouldn’t want to be running this course by ourselves, which some of the elite women were doing.  That would be so rough, especially with the wind coming right at you.

photo 1 (45) Not the best photo, but Desi is up in front!

I knew Kris would be coming by soon – the elite men (GO MEB!!  AND DATHAN!!) passed her right before she got to us – it must be pretty cool to look back and see that lead pack coming right at you!  Also, unbelievably cool to start as an elite!  (I just want my name on my bib…just once!)

Once the elite men come by, it’s time for the masses.  The super fast guys ran by, then we spotted the first guy without an elite bib.  The crowd slowly started picking up, and these guys were moving fast.  Boston is an interesting race to watch.  Since every is lined up by official times, the front of the crowd is all men and very few scattered women.  The further back you go, it shifts to more women – it’s kind of cool to watch since it’s just how the natural spread goes.  ANYWAY.

We were cowbelling away, but once the crowd thickened, it was time to grab the signs.  I’ll admit that the front of the crowd is probably moving too fast to look at our signs, but we have to try!  Amy had the “Pain is just a French word for bread” sign and I had the “Is that a gel in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” sign.  FUN TIMES.  My phone eventually started dinging like crazy with tracking updates – runners would  be to us soon!

The highlights of the runner crowd include:

  • Ben almost taking down half the pack to head over to us.  Ben moved to Korea with the Army, and I miss him!  I told him to use me chasing him to give him a mid-race hug as motivation to run faster, but he said he wouldn’t dare miss a chance for a hug.  Unfortunately, he was on the other side of the street when he spotted us, and he put a valiant effort forth in crossing the street.  He yelled at me to run to keep up, but my Grandma hip isn’t dealing well with fast movement, so I said I couldn’t run fast enough to keep up.  He later called me out on it, and now I owe him a trip to Korea.  (Obviously.)  Still sad I missed the hug.
  • Michael – Amy and I met Michael in this very spot three years ago.  It was the heat wave that was Boston 2012, and we had signs that said, “Kisses for PRs.”  Michael took the bait and we took his bib number, and we’ve been connected on Facebook since.  Amy sent him a message that we’d be cheering, so he ran up to us and gave us both hugs!  So nice.  We felt bad at the end of the race because he ran 3:00:03, and I’m not sure if those race hugs cost him the sub-3.  Sorry, Michael.
  • Jacy is one of those women you look for in the pack of men!  She’s really fast and it’s inspirational to watch her run.  I love seeing the fast women right up there with the men.
  • Chris (from above!) and Jess – Chris is a rockstar in his own right, but was pacing Jess to an impressive pace.  Looking good at mile 14!
  • Michele – I like following Michele’s training because we have similar paces/goals.  She’s been rocking her training, and I was excited to see what she would do in Boston.  I spotted her coming down the hill and she looked a little surprised, but she was making the pace look easy.  She looked great and nabbed an awesome PR on a tough day.
  • Claire and Robin – I feel bad when I miss people running by, but they both spotted us and yelled.  It was Robin’s first Boston, which is always a special race, and Claire ran a great race in preparation for an ultra.  Just another long run, right?
  • Caroline – I’ve been reading Caroline’s blog for a loonggg time, but we’ve never met.  She yelled hello when she recognized the signs (oh, the powers of Instagram…)…it took me a second to realize who she was (since you know, we’ve never met…), but so fun!

 

And sorry to all those who I missed/left out!  It was so fun to follow everyone and cheer!  It’s also so, so, so much fun to cheer for random people.  I know how much random cheers help my race, so Amy and I try to yell for as many people as we can – picking names/colleges/organizations/etc on people’s shirts to give them a boost.  Otherwise, it’s just a nonstop yelling of, “LET’S GO RUNNERS!  LOOKING GOOD LOOKING GOOD!  KEEP IT UP!”  By the time you finish the three things you usually say, there’s a new crowd of runners in front of you, so no need to mix it up!

Holding the signs is always fun because you can see people reading them – and then their reaction is always interesting.  The gel in your pocket sign definitely got some mixed reviews – it appeared that the older men were more comfortable laughing about it, women didn’t like to have any response other than a scrunched up face, and young men smirked or ignored it. 

As for the bread sign – PEOPLE LOVED IT.  Loved it.  Such a simple sign, but a great sign for mile 14 when that pain might be starting to set in.  We had a few French people say something to us in French (…still no idea what), and a bunch of people told us it was the best sign they’d seen all day.  VICTORY.  Two people even stopped to take pictures with the sign!  Other people told us that they love bread or that they wished they had some bread right now…we eventually started replying, “BREAD LOVES YOU” because…runners.  Right?

Eventually the rain came out, and we put up our umbrellas but never stopped cheering.  It wasn’t bad under an umbrella, but I was happy I wasn’t out running!  Not the best conditions at all.  Amy broke out the “Watching you run is making me wet” sign – also got mixed reviews!  The women seemed to appreciate it the most…but some people maybe thought it was a bit…raunchy?  We’re just here to make you laugh at mile 14 in the cold rain, people!  Some people did yell, “Thank you for getting wet!” which was funny.  We did appreciate when the rain stopped, however.

We arrived at our cheer spot at 10:30am and didn’t leave until nearly 2:45pm.  Over four hours of cheering!  I admittedly don’t see the back of the pack that often, but it was still fun to cheer for runners coming by one at a time.  They really appreciated it, which is awesome as well.

As a side note, I’ve never seen so many people running in trash bags.  So many people.  I can only imagine what running in a trash bag in the rain in the wind is like.  I hope I never find out!

We decided to call it a day around 2:45pm and headed for some lunch and a beer.  Cheering is serious work!  We hung out for the rest of the afternoon, then I boarded a bus back to NYC.  It was a successful Marathon Monday from a cheering standpoint, and a great weekend to lift my running spirits.  I can’t wait to get back out there and chase down my marathon PR dreams.

And since we’re proud of our signs…we secretly hope (okay, not so secretly hope…) that we’ll be famous for our signs, and at least a little part of the internet liked us…

photo 3 (2) VICTORY.

Our sign making skills/cheering skills are for hire.  And by “hire,” I mean we’ll do it for free.  I LOVE YOU MARATHON MONDAY.

And of course, congrats to all those who ran on Monday.  It was so, so fun to cheer you on, and I hope the day was everything you wanted it to be – whether it was a PR, a course PR, a victory lap, or just a day to get out there and do what you love.  Boston is such an amazing, positive day for runners, spectators, and the Boston community, and I hope you loved it…because I know I did.

Spring 2015 Race Plans

You may (or may not) be thinking…just what is Susan doing all this running for?  Despite the fact that I really, truly just love to run, I don’t necessarily put myself through 17 mile long runs and workouts that almost make me puke just for the fun of it.  (Although seriously, I’ve never really reached the puke factor before, why is it getting to me now??  Anyway.)  I’ve been around the marathon circuit for a few years (er…8.5 years!), and I’ve knocked a bunch of bucket list races off my list.  I took 2014 off from marathons due to a return of my back issues in late 2013, so I knew that I’d want to tackle the marathon again in spring 2015.  But which one??

Post-half Ironman last year, it took awhile to rebuild my running endurance, and time moved quickly!  I ruled out any marathons in March or earlier, aiming instead for April or May.  Sometimes I spend more time that I’d like to admit on Marathon Guide, and it didn’t take me long to realize that the Eugene Marathon was in May this year.  The past few years have found the race in April and July (neither of which fit my schedule for the respective years), so I was excited to see the date was set for May!  Eugene has been on my list for awhile now, but it is on the other side of the country, so planning is certainly involved – not a quick weekend trip, although I suppose it could be if you needed it to be.

My brother lives in Portland, Oregon, which is conveniently close (enough) to Eugene, and gives me yet another reason to head to the other coast.  Additionally, in discussions with my mom, we’ve turned it into a family trip!  My parents haven’t seen me run a marathon in years, so it makes for a great reason for us all (minus my sister) to get together.  Hooray!  That’s also Mother’s Day weekend and my brother’s birthday is on Friday – so many things!

I’ve only ever heard good things about Eugene – from the history of Prefontaine running there to a fast course (hilly enough to keep it interesting but not drain you, I’ve heard).  Not to mention I’m looking forward to challenging myself to the marathon again and hopefully pushing myself to a PR.  The last time I set a PR was fall 2011 at the Twin Cities Marathon – I definitely need to get myself in gear.  I’m excited and nervous – which is about where I should be.

and to get ready for it…

I wanted to race a half marathon leading up to the marathon because not only does it let me gauge my fitness, but it also lets me experience racing.  I don’t really race much which I generally blame on working two weekends per month – sometimes it’s tough to work in races or I have other plans.  Plus, I’m not so keen on paying money to run in Central Park, so there’s that.  Anyway.

I had high hopes of getting into the NYC Half (lolololol, I KNOW), but of course my name didn’t get pulled, so I was out of luck for that.  I don’t have my eyes on half marathons quite like I do marathons, so I don’t have a list of races I’d like to check off.  However, with some incentive (more on that later), I checked on the Rock n Roll website for their list of races – and they happen to have a race in Dallas in March!  As you may recall, Eric’s mom lives just outside Dallas, making this decision a bit easier.  Although after experience my race weekend anxiety, his family may not be so excited to have me around, ha.  (Just kidding, I think.  Although I do have a track record of puking post-half marathon…hm.)  But on that note, I recently registered to run the Dallas Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

Image result for rock n roll dallas

Highlights include a red participant shirt (hooray!) and Deena Kastor apparently pacing the half.  I don’t know what pace she’ll be pacing, but if it’s somewhere around me, that would be awesome.  The course looks like it has some hills to it, so that’s a bit worrisome, but we’ll see.  It’ll be a good test of fitness, if nothing else.

And now you’re all up to date!  We’re about nine and a half weeks out from Eugene, so that’s cool.  Not time to freak out yet, right?

Anyone else running Eugene or Dallas?  Let me know!  Or tell me your spring race plans…might be a race to add to the list!

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