It’s impossible to write a race report for Boston and not think about what happened after my race was over but before so many other people’s races were not. But I think part of getting back to normal, to living, is to be proud of what I accomplished that day. Not to treat the day as though nothing else happened, but to remember it for all that happened, the awesome and the awful. I’ve been trying to piece through my thoughts about the terrible things that happened, but what about the rest of the day?
It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning
The marathon is, so far, a singular experience in running for me. So often, a marathon is early in the day with only the hardiest of fans (often friends and family) lining the course early on. My previous marathons were often spent with a feeling of being alone (not lonely, just running alone or around 2-3 other people). Sometimes this feeling was just because my day was not going the way I wanted it to, sometimes because there were actually no other runners around, and sometimes there was no one there to cheer you on. At Boston this was never the case. At Boston, there is always someone there, running with you, cheering just for you (or so it seemed). It’s the Boston running community. It’s the Boston community.
Given that I was in wave one, given that I am a stickler for doing as I am told, I woke up at 5 AM, took my time getting dressed in race clothes and pajamas, grabbed a bagel, two bananas, some water and jumped on the T to get on the buses to go Hopkinton. Yes, I was early. Yes, there were still 4 hours before the race would start. But given my previous history with a terrible stomach, I wanted to make sure that I was hydrated, rested, fully finished with my morning duties, and with good thoughts about race day in my head. So it was that I arrived in Hopkinton with hours until race time, hundreds of port-a-potties to be used, and scoped out a place to lie down, eat my food, get hydrated, and relax. And that’s precisely what I did.
As race time approached, I knew I had to use the bathroom one last time. I dropped off my gear bag, but didn’t know if there were port-a-potties at the start (pro-tip: there are!), so waited in line, and was finally ready to head to the start with 15 minutes to go. Jogged my way through the hordes of runners in my wave and future waves and got to the start with a couple of minutes to spare. And this is where my memory of the day is not as clear as I would wish it would be. But I remember the important parts.
Here’s what Steve said to do before the race and how I feel like I did:
- Run the tangents – Not fully possible
- Don’t come off of Heartbreak too fast, wait until you get through Cleveland Circle and on to Beacon St. before thinking about taking up the pace. – There was no pace left
- Your first mile should be the slowest. – It was the slowest of my first half? Does that count?
- Bring snacks/hydration with you out to Hopkinton. – SUCCESS!
- Sit as much as possible in Hopkinton. – SUCCESS!
- Poop as much as possible in Hopkinton. – SUCCESS!
- Run steady and enjoy the first 16 miles without doing anything crazy dumb. – Partial success? I don’t think I did anything really dumb. My splits over the first 30K are pretty much bang on consistent.
- Strap it on and get tough once you hit Lower Newton Falls and climb over 128/95 – that’s where the race begins. – This is where I realized I was going to be able to run up every single one of the Newton hills (which I had never run before).
- The hills aren’t all that hard…yeah, you’ll lose a little time, but nothing serious. – That’s the truth. In fact, the finishing downhills after the uphills are worse
3:00:04. Via the splits tab, I didn’t realize I was being so consistent for the first 16 miles (all miles within 8 seconds of each other). My first five 5K splits were all within seconds of each other.
I don’t remember much specifically about the first few miles, or about the race in general. I remember male runners jumping into the woods after the first downhill to pee. I remember enormous cheers as we passed the roadside pub in Ashland. I remember reaching the 8K mark (where I had turned around the week before in my tune up) and thinking the rest of this is unknown. I kept thinking to myself: “I’m going too fast. I need to slow down. My legs didn’t feel light all week. My legs feel heavy today.” And yet I churned out mile after mile at around the same pace, running in a still enormous group. I saw my parents in Framingham, and I’m pretty sure I gave them a wave before they realized it was me. I saw a runner drop his cap, turn around and charge back into the group to get it (why?!). I was overwhelmed by the cheers at Wellesley, and then shocked when I heard a thud and realized a Wellesley student had fallen over the barricade. I got cheers from friends and friends of friends and totally random people. I saw my parents again at mile 16 (though I wasn’t expecting them to be where they were). I kept waiting for the start of the hills, then crushed it up over 128/95. I saw the RaceMenu gang at the top of Heartbreak and figured the hardest part was over.I gave just about every BC student a high five as I cruised down the hill. I had a cheering section coming around the bend in Coolidge Corner (which I would still be hard pressed to find on a map). I was tired on Beacon and failing at calculating my expected finishing time. I stopped running for a few seconds. I thought I might be a Canadian marathoner for a while. I had friends at 40K, when I was in a bad place, cheering me on. I couldn’t catch my breath in the cold shadows of Boylston. I finished and I thought I would cry from physical and emotional exhaustion. I shivered through waiting for my gear bag, then hobbled around to meet my family at Parish. And the rest of the day I’ve written about and am still coming to terms with.
Many people have asked if the 4 seconds bother me. Even before the bombs went off, the answer was no. Now even more so. The time is as it is because that’s what unfolded over the day. Every choice we make on race day can go a million different ways. Sure, I could have gone a bit slower in mile 1, but maybe I’d feel the same at the end. I could have pushed through all of the pain, but maybe I end up a mess. That’s not to say that it’s random or it’s impossible I could have gone faster. Next year I will. But there’s nothing about those three hours I spent on that course that I’d want to change.