The Restless Runner is back! Why haven’t I been around? This school-year has been so tough. Maybe at some point I’ll elaborate on why. Not even having time to respond to all the emails in my inbox made it feel wrong to spend my spare time blogging. I also took most of August-October off of running more than the occasional weekend run or 3 mile de-stressor after work. I was in work survival mode.
At the end of September during the Boston registration window I was in a low being especially overwhelmed. I asked Brent whether I should go for Boston #4 and he didn’t hesitate and said “Yes! You love that race. We’re going any year we can.” I signed up because I really wanted something to look forward to. I love Boston. Not just the run, but the whole experience. It’s such a special race, and the training doesn’t stress me out. It brings me so much joy. But this past week when the weather report projected headwinds, rain, and cold I cried to Brent, “I signed up for this because I wanted to have fun! And now conditions are just awful!” Brent is amazing. He reassured me this was meant to be. He said that I was meant to run in the most challenging conditions because this year has been so tough and I was to take all my strength and all my grit that I had built over the year and put it into this race. He was right. I wouldn’t change a thing about this past weekend. It was perfect.
The night before the race Ellen and I were talking race strategy. It would have been really easy for us to forgo racing on Monday. It wasn’t a PR day, so why not just run a long run pace and save our legs another race? I’ll put it out there, I trained for a 2:55. Yes, I was disappointed that race conditions weren’t going to give me the opportunity to show my fitness, but that’s the beauty of Boston. The late start, the point-to-point course requiring to travel to the start hours before you start, the no pacers rule, the hills, and April in New England makes for real racing. Marathoning requires grit, tactics, and strategy. Marathoning is symbolic of life, and you cannot control all the elements. There are many races out there designed to give the perfect conditions so that you can have an ideal race and a PR to brag about. I haven’t run a PR since October 2016, but I know I’m a stronger runner today than I was back in 2016. Yesterday’s 2:59 means so much more to me than a 2:55 would on a 55 degree day with a tailwind pushing me towards the finish line. Ellen also embraced the suck and went for it. She earned a PR despite the tough conditions.
Monday morning when we arrived to the mud pit that is athletes village we all questioned why we run stupid marathons. All of our shoes were soaked and muddy before we even started. We couldn’t feel our fingers and toes. We were crowded under a tent, shivering from the cold, joking that it was an “honor and a privilege” to be at Boston and that we paid to do this. I tried to remind myself that so many runners would gladly take my place for a chance to run this iconic course. I reminded myself I had the opportunity to literally run in the footsteps of my heroes.
Around 9:15 we heard the announcers ask wave 1 to make their way towards the corrals. We began the mile “death march” towards the start, laughing at the fact that we were avoiding puddles like it was going to make a difference. Boston places you in corrals based on pace, so everyone in my corral qualified within 1-2 minutes of my qualifying time. I asked others their race plan, and it was pretty split. Some saying they were going to go for it, and others opting out of a hard effort. I decided to go out slightly more conservative but still ambitious, a 3 hour pace. I hoped it wouldn’t be a suicide mission.
I couldn’t feel my feet for the first few miles. It’s a strange feeling that I can’t even describe. My fingers were frozen before the race started and didn’t come back to life until my 20 minute post-race shower. It made fueling really hard, but I kept telling myself “Find a way to get your calories in. You’re going to bonk if you don’t!”
I got in a grove and didn’t check my watch much. My arm was frozen so I didn’t feel it buzz at every mile. I looked down at the halfway point and saw I was in pace to finish under three, and prayed the second half, the more challenging half, would be good to me.
I then got in a trance. I visualized being on the beach in Playa del Rey. I repeated over and over again “You are warm. You are at the beach. You are comfortable.” With every gust of wind I welcomed it and said “You are stronger than this wind.” I thought of my training BFF Ellen, and found comfort knowing she was running in the same conditions. I knew she wasn’t giving up, so I couldn’t.
Seeing Brent and Jackie at mile 6, 13, and 21 gave me something to look forward too. I am so grateful to spectators. I know how stressful it is! I switched out my gloves at 13 thanks to Lucy who gave me an extra pair. I only managed to grab one, so Brent sprinted to catch up to me to give me the other. My hands were so cold it took me a full mile or two to get them on correctly.
When I hit the hills from 17-21 I did what I always do at Boston, force myself not to look at my watch and run by effort. When I hit the top of heartbreak hill I got a rush. 5 measly miles. That was it!
When I saw the Citco sign I got emotional. It was almost over. My legs felt like they could run another five miles, but my body was so cold and ready for a hot shower. I took the iconic turn right on Hereford and left on Boylston. There is something so emotional about running down Boylston. I always think about the bombing, think about what the marathon symbolizes, think about how grateful I am to be happy and healthy as I charge towards that finish line. It was my fourth time, but it never loses its magic. I try to soak it all in. This year that was quite literal!
This race had great flow. I didn’t run nervous. I wasn’t a slave to my watch like I have been in the past. I just ran what felt like 3 hours, and knew everything would be OK.
Fellow runners, you amaze me. I didn’t even consider quitting because all of you were out there proving that together we are so strong. You inspired me and encouraged me. Thank you! Volunteers, you deserve the biggest thank you. Standing out there for hours being splashed by water as we ran through water stands. Thank you for helping us earn our medals.
What next? Who knows. Will I run Boston again? Yes. Next year? Maybe. Just don’t be surprised and expect me to get it out of my system because just like Papa said, in the sport of running, Boston is the cultural mecca.
A few photos:
I feel like there is so much more to share. Boston really is so much more than one race, but for now I leave you with this quote from Desi. I just LOVE DESI! I was a fan before she was cool. She is so damn gritty and humble. And she trains in Michigan. SO SO SO happy she won.
Until next time. Hopefully it won’t be another 10 months 🙂