Boston Marathon - Hot, Hilly, Amazing :)

So it's been almost 2 weeks since I ran the Boston Marathon. I still have a mixture of too many words but not enough words to describe what running it was.

I got a text from a coworker after I finished congratulating me and asking me how it went and I distilled it to this:

"It was hot. It was hilly. It was amazing!"

Still those words describe it best. It was not a great race, I ended up bonking and having to reevaluate my goals, but it was everything I hoped my first Boston Marathon would be. So with that teaser let's jump in!

Prep

As I wrote about before - my training went really well. Before taper I was hitting my workouts and was feeling really good. During taper I had a lot of stress at work which didn't help me relax and decompress like I wanted to leading into the race but I put that in the back of my mind. I was so excited so come what may!

We took a red-eye from Denver to Boston Friday and were wheels down at 4:45am on Saturday in Boston. Fingers crossed that we'd be able to check in ridiculously early and get some rest before spending the day with some college friends in Boston.

The travel gods smiled on us and we were able to check in and were asleep again by 5:45am at the Westin Waterfront Boston, love it!

I was up again around 9:30 and we spent the morning lounging until we left to meet up with our friends for lunch. We then spent the day walking around Boston (checking out the finish line of course) and then checking out a brewery of the beaten path (Night Shift if you want to check it out!).

Bombing memorial wreath

Bombing memorial wreath

I'll see you Monday!

I'll see you Monday!

It was an awesome and relaxing day of catching up with friends and checking out a beautiful city!

Expo

Now let's jump into the real race weekend. The Boston Marathon from top to bottom was run seamlessly. I never once waited for something or was confused about where I needed to be. They thought of everything and it was a wonderful runner experience from beginning to end.

In the morning I went for an easy 2 mile shake out run. My legs weren't feeling great, the stress of the week definitely was putting me off my game but even if I wasn't 100% I was still at Boston and couldn't be stopped!

After a lazy morning we went to the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center. The expo was HUGE but not too overwhelming. All the vendors were there!

Up a few escalators to the bib pickup area!

Up a few escalators to the bib pickup area!

I got my bib from a very friendly volunteer with more Boston Marathon pins than I could count! After grabbing my bib it was time to grab my shirt and swag bag.

So excited!

So excited!

Bib in hand it was now time to go the big expo!

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We didn't spend too much time at the expo. Just enough time to sample some of the Sam Adam's 26.2 beer, grab some KIND bars, mingle with a couple vendors, watch some of the course video, check out a Tesla (yep, a Tesla), and grab my pre-orders from RawThreads. The whole time I was at the expo I was walking around on cloud-9, pinching myself and having a permanent goofy grin on my face. I had arrived!

After a lap, we headed out because it was time to grab some dinner. We found a Pho place nearby and enjoyed some delicious noodles :)

After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I prep-ed and rested. This was it, tomorrow was BOSTON MARATHON DAY! I was having trouble believing this was all real. After 3+ years of training and working towards this goal, it was finally here!

Boston Marathon Day!

It's here, it's here! The day is finally here! I can't believe it!

I got some coffee and grabbed a bagel from the Starbucks in the hotel around 7am and just tried to keep the morning relaxed. I had prep-ed my post-race gear bag and my start line bag (they allow you a small bag of stuff to bring to the start) the night before so I just needed to dress and get out the door. I'm ready, I'm ready!

I was out the door by 7:40 and on the shuttle bus to Boston Commons by 7:50. We arrive just before 8am and I was one step closer to the race!

I was in wave 3 so I was right on schedule to be on a bus between 8 and 8:40. I walked across the park to drop off my post-race bag at the tents and then walk back to Boston Commons to get on the bus. Eep! This is really happening, this is awesome! I was spending the whole morning trying to control my emotions and stay focused on the task at hand, running the marathon!

I hopped on the bus and was on my way to Hopkinton at 8:30 am. I was seated next to a really awesome runner and we chatted the whole way up. I had also brought along some Laffy Taffy to snack on and we exchanged some jokes which always helps break the tension.

Our bus arrived at Hopkinton around 9:30 and we were ready to go! THIS IS HAPPENING! I am at Athlete's Village!

I arrived at Athlete's Village and had about an hour until I could go to the corrals. I got in a really long line for a port-o-potty and passed the time taking in the experience and surfing social media. The usual. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was loving it! I grabbed some coffee for a last minute caffeine jolt and put on some more sunscreen. It was then time to head to the start corrals!

Did I mention... THIS IS HAPPENING!!!!

So the walk from the Athlete's Village to the start area was longer than I expected but it was awesome to already see people out cheering us on! We were walking through a neighborhood in Hopkinton and people were already out there sharing in the excitement. After a 10 min or so walk, I had arrived. Wave 3, corral 2, here we go!

The view from the corral!

The view from the corral!

With a few announcements from some awesome announcers and the firing of a gun, we were off! The beginning of my Boston Marathon experience was finally here. All the hours of training, all the races, all the everything, I had arrived and was here running the most prestigious and historic race of all. Happy was playing over the speaker, the sun was shining and there was an air of excitement everywhere. I just kept taking it all in and trying to control my emotions. Crying + running = hyperventilating (for me) so I needed to keep it cool which was so difficult. Pinch me!

As everyone is warned, the first 6 miles are pretty much all downhill. I tried to run these conservatively but along with the downhills there were also some rolling uphills. This began my real understanding of the Boston course, it's a series of rolling hills. So I tried to hold back, I was running my splits at my tempo run paces and didn't think I was running to hard but time would tell. I was running easy but the sun was really intense and the 70 degree day was feeling real hot. Also I am use to the crowd thinning out in the first mile or so but not so at Boston. I was in the 10th corral and everyone around me had qualified with a very similar time so naturally the crowd stayed pretty packed. We ran in a pretty close pack for about 4 or 5 miles before it started to noticeably thin out. 

We continued to run and the crowds were great, there was hardly a moment anywhere on the course where there wasn't someone cheering or spectating. It was truly amazing. Everything I had heard about Boston was true!

The sun was still shining and coming down hard. There wasn't much of a breeze and every sprinkler or fire hydrant was a welcome way to cool off.

By mile 8 my legs weren't feeling great. My quads were feeling worked and not in the good way. I had taken the downhill too fast and with the heat/sun it was draining me. By the half way point I was getting into struggle-fest territory and I knew I needed to reevaluate my goals (I really wanted to earn a BQ at Boston). By this point I had also already past a few runners with "wobble legs" and a few getting assistance from medical so I knew today was not the day to be a hero. I also knew I didn't want my main memory from my first Boston being me struggling and mentally complaining the whole way.

So I decided to make sure I walked the water stops and got plenty of water, to make sure I ran up Heartbreak Hill, and to take it easy and just enjoy the run. The course had so many more rolling hills than I had expected.

My favorite moments:

  • Running by Wellesley College - some of the best spectator signs ever!
  • Running through Natik - so many people out cheering!
  • Running the Newton hills - I gave them my all and enjoyed all the spectators there cheering us on!
  • Running by Boston College - beautiful and some rowdy and fun spectators that really helped me power through 
  • Seeing my boyfriend at mile 24 for a last energy boost!

Really the whole thing was a blur of great spectators, witty signs and an energy that can't be beat by any course out there.

As I neared mile 25 and glimpsed the Citgo sign, my runner heart filled with pride. I was finishing this race and finishing a 3+ year journey, really a 7 year journey, that I've been on as a runner. I was a Boston Marathon runner.

Making the left onto Boylston is a moment I will never forget. I turned that corner and the finish line was right there. The crowds seemed 5 people deep and flags lined the course. This is literally as close as I'll ever get to an Olympic level finish and I was taking it all in. As a smile spread across my face I was just thinking I needed to keep it together and not start hyperventilating but I was on the edge for sure.

Crossing that finish line was everything. Just everything. It was the celebration of every mile, every race, and every ounce of my determination all in one. I will never forget that moment. It wasn't my best race but it was by far the most important one I've run.

After crossing the finish line my next goal was to get to Jeff - he was volunteering and handing out medals and I had been waiting for that moment for months. I was about to get my first unicorn from my runner friend and overall great human being.

Once I saw Jeff I let the emotions flow and we were both in tears, everything came to the surface as Jeff placed that beautiful unicorn around my neck. Thanks Jeff for making this moment even more special!

I then wandered through the rest of the finisher shoot and grabbed the food bag and got my gear bag. I then met up with my family where more hugs and stories were shared. It was great having them there to share in this special day!

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So now that I've gotten home and (most of) the Boston Marathon glow has subsided here are my closing thoughts:

  • Will I try to qualify again? You bet ya! I want to get back to this race so bad.
  • Was the course tough? YES! Probably one of the toughest I've run, my legs are still recovering 2 weeks later.
  • What was the most surprising thing? My reaction to the crowd support. If I had been having a good day it might have felt different but I was dragging and really needed a quiet moment to just zone out and reassess. I basically was reacting to people and reading signs for 3:47 and for this introvert I think it took it's toll. I guess I need to train for the crowds somehow next time?
  • What was the best part? Turning onto Boylston is forever burned into my brain, nothing like it.

Well I think that about wraps it up. It was hilly, it was hot, but it was amazing and everything I was promised.

Oh and before I forget here was the swag we runners got:

Cheers and sweet dreams runners - may a unicorn be in your future!