I have a love/hate relationship with running the Boston Marathon. I love the race, the vibes, how hard it is to gain entry and the entire race weekend. I hate that the last two times I ran it was 90 degrees and 80 degrees, making the experience a brutal one.
The year 2018 marks my 10 year running anniversary so I thought it fitting to try and run Boston, the race of races. I fought very hard last April in the New Jersey Marathon and was able to qualify.
On Saturday, Abbe and I caught a 9AM train out of NYC that would get us into Boston just after 1PM. We love the train up to Boston as it’s really quite a relaxing way to get there.
Although it was a gorgeous morning in NYC, it was freezing in Boston. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and made our way to the expo. It was a relatively painless process. At one point we were roaming around the expo and I turned to my left and Meb was standing right next to me! I yelled, “Abbe! Abbe! It’s Meb!” I mean, who doesn’t freak out when they see Meb? A minute later we were walking by two people and one of them says, “Who’s Meb?” C’mon people.
That night we met Kerryn and Chandra for drinks at Stoddard’s before heading off to a delicious dinner at Townsman.
Sunday morning Abbe and I met Jenn over in the Commons for a shakeout run. It was 32 degrees, windy, snowing, and April. My legs felt great and it’s always exciting to see all of the other runners getting in their shakeout. I put in just over 4 miles and was satisfied.
We met cousin Greg over at Barking Crab for lunch, which has become a tradition. We had a blast catching up with him and gorging ourselves on tasty crab legs. After lunch Abbe and I spent most of the afternoon over in Copley Plaza searching for running gear for me. I neglected to bring a tight shell to wear as a base layer and with conditions getting worse for Monday I wanted to be prepared. We found a great Under Armor top that would turn out to be quite helpful. We also found a Boston Marathon branded running cap. My Ironman visor had almost blown off my head a number of times during the shakeout and I didn’t want to take any chances, especially in cold, windy rain.
Pre-race dinner was held at Scampo, also a tradition. They have great food and a cool atmosphere. We were joined by Chandra and another friend who moved from NYC to Boston last year, Laura.
As we sat down for dinner tonight I befriended an older couple next to us. They asked if I was running tomorrow. “Indeed! The weather looks horrible but I am still excited to run the race.” We laughed as I asked them, “So which one of you are running? Both?” They then explained that her sister, which was the man’s wife, was at Mass General next door and had Leukemia. They were here for her, not the race. I was immediately overwhelmed, especially as it hit home pretty hard as my father lost a battle with Lymphoma in a hospital not too dissimilar. Her name was Karen and they said she was excited to watch the race from her room. I told them, and I meant it, to tell her that I would be running the marathon for her.
I turned back my dinner guests and tried my best to produce a positive non-teary smile. I had bolognese with spaghetti and it was perfect. It was really early when we left so Laura took us to this new tiki bar for a night cap. The place, Tiki Rock, was super cool.
I woke up at 2AM and didn’t fall back asleep until 5, awesome. I used the bathroom around 4 and when I looked out the window I saw conditions resembling a winter hurricane… sideways rain with wind gusts and objects bouncing down the street… perfect running weather. It was still 32 degrees and I had a small moment there laying in bed where I was thinking about bailing.
At 6AM I grabbed a coffee from the lobby. There were tons of runners in the most ridiculous outfits I have ever seen, it was great. It was a poncho party. After I geared up and said goodbye to Abbe I jumped in an Uber to go find my people.
I dropped my gear off in bag check, not something I often do but with this weather a change of clothes is medically necessary. Then, I ran over to the bus pickup where I was meeting Rowland, D, Sophie, Jenn, and Erin. I located two of the three (plus Erin’s friend Kellen) and we got onto a bus. It was cold, windy and rainy, a theme that would be consistent throughout the day.
The four of us had fun on the bus and enjoyed the temporary warmth. Erin’s mom sent her to us with a box of plastic ‘food handling’ gloves. I put a pair on under two pairs of gloves. Spoiler Alert: My hands were warm and dry the entire marathon; THANKS MRS. KELLY YOU SAVED THE DAY! Our bus got lost by the Hopkington exit which concerned none of us because… more time in a warm bus. When we did exit the bus my optimism was crushed pretty hard by the sharpness of the weather. The school looked more like a hurricane evacuation center than a marathon base camp.
Within 10 minutes they called Wave 1 to head to their corrals so I bid farewell to my friends (they were Wave 2) and made my way to the start. I made new friends with a group of Irish lads who were pretty fun. My knowledge of all things irish is pretty good these days thanks to our friends Maura and Sweendawg, so I had a lot to talk about.
I stopped at the last set of porta potties (along with like 900 others). Rowland and D found me as I was leaving and we ran to the start together. None of us were expecting great times so we just told each other to be safe and finish. I entered my corral with 5 minutes to spare. There were a lot of groups of international runners getting pumped up, chanting and jumping around so I did the same. The energy was picking up and I was now jazzed to run.
My first two miles were right around 7 flat, perfect as I didn’t want to blow my quads. The weather was slightly less rainy and I was warming up and felt happy to be running. Unlike other Boston’s I was really taking in the crowds and focusing on the experience.
At mile three or four is when the first torrential downpour started. The rain was coming at us in sheets head on, rock and roll. From that point on it was consistent storm conditions that would occasionally ease up for 5 minutes to a mere steady rain.
Miles four to ten I was feeling good and enjoying the race a lot. Every time a downpour started I laughed out loud at the insanity of it all. My pace was still pretty consistent too with 6:55-7:05 splits which I was happy about. I certainly felt heavy though with my waterlogged shoes and heavy outfit.
Speaking of which, for those interested (and for my future reference) let’s talk about what I was wearing.
In order I had on:
– Short sleeve Under Armor tech
– Long sleeve tech
– Adidas windbreaker
– Grey hoodie throwaway
– Grey sweatpants throwaway
– 2 pairs of gloves plus plastic insulation
– A running hat plus winter cap
At the start I ditched the poncho and sweatpants. At mile two I ditched the winter hat but kept the hoodie for the entire race. There were times when I unzipped it to see if I could manage but the cold would seep into my bones.
Back to the race…
For the first time I smiled and had a good time when passing the Wellesley girls. So many of them were out even though it was terrible weather.
Right past the mile 14 marker I spotted my cousin Libby and my Aunt Jen and popped over for a hug and a photo! Getting to see them had kept me going for that first half of the race. It was around this point where I noticed my left quad hurting a bit. This wasn’t too surprising as the Boston course is known for destroying quads, I just didn’t know why my right one was not sore yet. My pace would also start to slow from this moment on to a 7:30/8:00 minute pace.
At Mile 15 I saw a horrible runner crash. Up ahead I saw a guy stop right in the middle of the course. He had dropped his Gel and was attempting to pick it up. As he bend down his ass protruded and he basically hip checked another runner over top of him. The guy flew into the air and came down on the front side of his body and I think hit his face on the pavement. Medical people were close and rushed in thankfully.
Next up… the Newton Hills!
These begin with an uphill on Mile 16. There is a series of four big hills that end with Heartbreak Hill at Mile 21 and they are no joke. My legs were on fire when I hit the first one. It was here that I started thinking of Karen, who was hospitalized with leukemia at Mass General. This pain I feel is temporary, keep moving.
The wind was just so relentless. It really brought your pace down and used up more energy than could be afforded. I saw a friendly face at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill. Laura (or LVL) was cheering and yelled out to me! I dug in and made my way up the hill and accomplished my goal of not stopping or walking any part of it.
My hands were still warm!
As we descended down into Brookline I just took it step by step, mile by mile. By now the infamous Citgo sign was coming into view and I knew Abbe, Kerryn, Chandra and Jeri (a runner friend from the Dakotas who was in town to cheer) would be at Mile 25 in pink ponchos. They were so easy to spot! I ran over and high fived all of them before Abbe yelled at me, “Get moving!”
Right after that I saw my friend Jacqueline cheering which also helped pushed my destroyed legs along!
For the first time in my 3 years of running Boston I got a little teary eyed as I hit the ‘Right on Hereford’ and then the ‘Left on Boylston’ on my way to the finish. I really soaked it all in. (‘Soaked’ ha)
I finished with an 8 minute course PR of 3:10:33.
We were all shuffling like penguins thanks to Boston’s hooded space capes (which were really warm). Then, another downpour started and I laughed super hard turning to the guys to my right who in turn started cracking up. We were all in this together.
Baggage check was a disaster. It took me 30 minutes to get my clothes in a jam packed area where no one could move. Once I did acquire my gear I went to the changing tent, which was another 30 minute wait, no thanks. I walked toward the exit area and in my head I was like ‘I can survive until I get to Brandy Pete’s for the after party and change there.’ Then, right before I was to exit I saw this lobby where a handful of runners were huddled in and changing, unchecked by lobby guard! A stranger helped me change my shoes as my hands were not working just yet.
AFTER THE PARTY IT’S THE AFTERPARTY
The 15 minute walk to Brandy Pete’s was pretty hard. My body temperature was definitely falling and I needed shelter. Upon arrival I took off my cloak and hat and made friends with the bartender Rachel, ordering a Guinness. I realized that my hands were trembling and I was stuttering my words. Right as my beer hit the bar Abbe, Kerryn, Chandra and Laura showed up and I was able to fully change into dry clothes. That’s the thing that was crazy. Mentally I was cold and I didn’t realize until I was changing that I was drenched head to toe even an hour after I had stopped running.
LVL, Alex, and Chris Lopez showed up next. We were all waiting for Erin, or EK as she is known (an athlete I coach and an amazing coach herself) to show up. She arrived in good spirits within 30 minutes and we immediately chatted about the hurricane we just ran in. Next up Jenn, Lee and her Mom and Aunts and Cousin arrived. Jenn was happy to have finished her first Boston.
After about an hour I felt back to my chatty normal self. I had some warm food in me which was doing it’s magic and all my friends were bobbing around having fun. Our friend Sophie was the last to show up. She went out with her folks after the run so she was a bit delayed.
Our group finally called it at 7PM. We were headed to Woburn to hang out with Kerryn’s parents who had invited us to stay the night.
After a quick (and amazing) hot shower at Janice and Marty’s place they took us to Sichuan Garden, a local favorite. It was such a great meal post race, hot (a keyword) and spicy!
I woke up to sunshine and slow pace morning coffee and it was awesome. No running today? Fine by me.
Kerryn, Chandra, Abbe and I had a quick lunch back in the city before catching a train home. Jenn and Lee found us and we had our traditional ‘party in the cafe car’ ride home.
Big thanks to Janice and Marty for their wonderful hospitality Monday night!
Big ups to our cheer squad, who also braved some serious conditions. I’m kind of glad I was running and not cheering.
Congratulations to Desi and Yuki on their wins along with all the other Cinderella Story type finishes. It was such a wild race with incredible, unpredictable outcomes.
And of course congratulations to all my friends and athletes who finished with fantastic times. We all had our individual struggles out there and yet we all finished, which is a win in those conditions. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the rain and wind and how we didn’t all crumble and succumb to Mother Nature’s fury. I’m picturing that scene in Lord of the Rings where Gandalf is holding his staff up and yelling, “You shall not pass!”
And finally, I hope Karen in Mass General enjoyed the show.