It’s been said that everyone who finishes the Boston Marathon has their own great moment in sports. Here is mine.
That strawberry blonde ponytail in the picture, that’s my friend Amber and any success I had in Boston, she deserves a large portion of the credit. Her last marathon was the Olympic Trials and she gave up her elite entry at Boston to run with me. Ever generous, selfless, and inspiring-Amber is one of the best people I know. Racing confidence is something that I struggle with so going into a challenging course, chasing BIG dreams, knowing the day would be warm, and feeling a little homesick, I really leaned on her. Our plan was to run to the 20 mile mark and make a decision. We would either race to the end or call it a training run and focus on Plan B (details on that are coming soon), but there was a little magic out on the course last Monday, and a whole lot of prayers.
We loaded the buses around 6:30 and arrived at Athletes Village about an hour later. We had purchased $12 Boston rain ponchos at the expo to stay warm (garbage bags would have worked just fine and been more economical), but the morning was already heating up, so we used them as makeshift picnic blankets and spread our legs out and worked a little more on that knee to mid thigh tan. I topped off my previous three days of carb loading with a strawberry Poptart. There is something about those simple, sugary carbs that provide great energy right before a race. Sunday night, I had called my husband and the last thing I told him was that I needed some powerful inspiration in the morning. The poor guy’s response was , “Like what?” and I assured him he would know what I needed. Right before I turned the notification services off of my phone, I watched a 5 second video of my beautiful daughter that he had sent. She said, “Good luck mommy, I love you, run fast.” It was exactly what I needed to hear.
I was in Wave 1/Corral 8, we started at 10 am with the elite men. I knew the start would be slow with a sea of neon colored runners spread out for miles…26.2 to be exact. I had decided not to start my music until mile 6 which was a great decision. It gave me time to take in some of the race sights, the energy from the crowd and other runners, and get into a groove. We ranged around 7 minutes and Amber commented to not get comfortable here. This is such great wisdom to not settle into a pace that’s not your goal. My favorite spectators were two girls who kept yelling, “This ain’t no hill!” That mantra stuck with me through the Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill. I just kept repeating that over and over in my mind ever grateful for the encouragement from the crowd.
We hit the halfway mark at 1:30:39, I had hoped we would be around 1:27 so that we had a little wiggle room for the hills that were still coming. Amber kept saying, we can do it, but it’ll be close. My first water stop in the race I had tried to do that ridiculous thing where I keep running and drink and just end up getting water in my nose, so I stopped. I made a choice to come to a full stop, drink a cup and splash another cup on me. Amber kept running and I would catch up to her. I know that choice cost me time, but my last marathon was disastrous because I failed to hydrate. I was determined not to repeat that mistake again, knowing that you have to stay on top of hydration. The day was getting warmer, I felt hot, I even had to tuck my race singlet under my sports bra to get some air and cool down my core. However, this section of the race inspired me the most. I ran past a woman with running with one leg, a man that was a double amputee, Team Hoyt, a woman fighting cancer, and a man pushing his disabled wife. There is so much greatness on a marathon course. I found myself utterly inspired by the courage, love, and true grit I was lucky enough to witness.
After Heartbreak Hill, Amber turned to me and said, “What do you want to do? You have to make a choice now. Are we going to push it to the finish line?” I remember thinking let’s do it. We hit the 35K mark (almost 22 miles) at 2:31:19. I wasn’t positive that my sub 3 dream was out of reach yet, I felt a lingering glimmer of hope and a last surge of determination to give it my all. There are some moments in a marathon that feel a little desperate. At this point, I was praying for strength, begging that my legs could keep going, I think I even asked for an angel, some type of divine intervention. The answer that came to my mind was look up and look around. The crowd, the people, the runners, the city-I knew I wasn’t alone, with that certainty in my heart, those last miles flew.
The last 5 miles looked like this according to my Garmin:
When we crossed the finish I turned to Amber and said, “I’m happy!” and I really was. There is so much triumph in crossing a finish line. For a select few it means winning, sometimes we’re lucky enough for it to be a PR, but most of the time it’s a celebration of the human spirit, and isn’t that the most amazing thing of all.
Breaking a 3 hour marathon is still my own personal unicorn. I’m not ready to give up on that dream, if anything this journey taught me to have confidence in my own ability, and I feel the fire for that goal still burning bright. The marathon distance changes us from mere mortals to heroes who run with our hearts, who push beyond limits that would stop any rational person, and who pursue greatness. I am so grateful for this experience and so grateful to all of you for your support and encouragement. Happy running friends!